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Young Labour activists clash with party over Keir Starmer ‘backing Nato aggression’ in Ukraine

David Lammy rebukes youth wing for criticism of party’s ‘macho posturing trying to outdo the Tories’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 23 February 2022 14:12 GMT
David Lammy rebukes Young Labour for anti-Nato stance over Ukraine

Young Labour activists have been rebuked by their party after attacking Keir Starmer for “backing Nato aggression” over the Ukraine crisis.

The Labour leader has been condemned for “celebrating” closer cooperation by the 30-country strong alliance while “attacking Stop The War and other pro-peace activists”.

“Nato’s acts of aggression both historical and present are a threat to all of our safety,” the party’s youth wing has claimed, in a series of tweets.

“Stoking up tension, macho posturing & trying to ‘outdo’ the Tories on hawkish foreign policy will only lead to further devastation, loss of life and displacement of people across the world.”

Young Labour – which all members under 26 join automatically – goes on to “offer solidarity with those organising against this, including members of Stop the War”.

But David Lammy, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, condemned the “lazy knee-jerk” anti-Americanism of the group, as Russia threatens a wider invasion of Ukraine.

He pointed to the “historical connection” between Labour and the military alliance, saying: “We were instrumental in setting up Nato.

“I think this lazy knee-jerk reaction that everything that comes from America is bad and somehow Russia is the underdog – we reject it.”

Mr Lammy, speaking on BBC Radio 4, laughed at the suggestion that “someone who is just out of university speaks on behalf of the Labour party”.

“They don’t speak on behalf the party – I speak on behalf of the party in relation to foreign policy.”

The Young Labour tweets also read: “Labour has too often been on the wrong side of international issues.

“Young Labour calls on the leadership to stop backing Nato aggression, call wholeheartedly for peace, commit to constructive engagement with activists and deliver international policy around peace and cooperation.”

A group of 13 Labour MPs has signed a Stop The War statement condemning “the British government’s aggressive posturing” over the Ukraine crisis.

They include former leader Jeremy Corbyn and his former frontbenchers Diane Abbott, John McDonnell, Richard Burgon and Ian Lavery.

The Stop the War Coalition, launched to oppose US military action in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, says it stands against what it describes as Britain’s “disastrous addiction to war”.

Earlier this month, Sir Keir attacked his predecessor as leader, insisting “nobody wants war” and dismissing the idea that the group contains “benign voices for peace”.

“At first glance, some on the left may be sympathetic to those siren voices who condemn Nato,” he wrote.

“But to condemn Nato is to condemn the guarantee of democracy and security it brings, and which our allies in eastern and central Europe are relying on, as the sabre-rattling from Moscow grows ever louder.”

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