The attacks by Houthi rebels on commercial ships in the Red Sea threaten one of the world’s most important trade routes and put the lives of British civilians and military personnel in danger. They must stop, and it is right that Britain plays its part, alongside our allies, in deterring these attacks.
That is why Labour backs the action of recent days to protect shipping and reinforce maritime security in the Red Sea. The first duty of any government is to keep our country and its citizens safe, and protecting trade, security and lives are paramount to our national interest. Twenty per cent of all container shipping passes through this route. In accordance with the legal advice, these strikes were limited and targeted, and we would expect every precaution to have been taken to protect civilian lives. I pay tribute to our forces in the region, who have yet again shown the highest professionalism and bravery.
Taking military action is the most serious and grave decision facing any government. That is why we must retain the flexibility to react with the necessary speed to threats, while also submitting to scrutiny. The prime minister must make a full statement to the House of Commons on Monday, to reassure the public as well as explain how we will protect British interests and guard against the threat of escalation.
Ultimately, we need political processes toward sustainable peace and regional security. Alongside essential military action, the UK must continue to pursue a diplomatic track – at the UN and through our discussions with regional players – that reduces the risk of a dangerous further escalation of the conflict. The Iranian regime continues to play a destabilising role in the region, as a sponsor of terror.
Under my leadership, the Labour Party has never wavered from its commitment to Britain’s defence and leading on the international stage.
Next week we will play our part in necessary and important scrutiny. But those who seek to damage Britain, to attack its interests and to threaten its people should be in no doubt as to the seriousness of our country’s resolve in response to their aggression.
Keir Starmer is the leader of the Labour Party