Boris warns voters not to put Corbyn in charge when Britain must lead world in ‘uncertain and unstable times’
Boris Johnson, pictured above after the Sarah Sands VIP leaving reception at the Ned, said Brexit Britain must lead an uncertain world
Boris Johnson entered the election fray last night with a warning that Jeremy Corbyn is too weak on defence to protect Britain in a new ‘age of uncertainty’.
The Foreign Secretary ripped apart Mr Corbyn’s record on security issues, highlighting his lukewarm support for Nato, his opposition to Trident, and his refusal to countenance ever using Britain’s nuclear deterrent.
He suggested Mr Corbyn was more interested in ‘virtue-signalling’ than standing up for Britain’s interests. And he dropped a heavy hint that the Tories will commit to the Nato target of spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence in their election manifesto.
Mr Johnson also backed Theresa May to get a good Brexit deal and ‘usher in a new era of free trade deals’, but he warned ‘some plaster may fall off the ceiling’ along the way. His intervention came after Mrs May brushed aside objections from Cabinet rivals about handing the Foreign Secretary a leading role in the election campaign.
Speaking at Mansion House in London, Mr Johnson set out the security threats facing the world, including the war in Syria, North Korea’s growing nuclear capacity, Russian aggression and Islamist terrorism.
He said Britain was facing a new ‘age of uncertainty’, adding: ‘In recent years we have seen an increase in the global tally of deaths from wars. We and our allies face threats from countries with a nuclear weapons capacity, and from those trying to acquire that capacity.
‘For the first time for many years, some countries are trying to change European borders, not by agreement, but by force. And, as we have seen across Europe in recent months, we face a continued battle against terrorism and the hateful ideology of Islamic extremism.
‘These are uncertain and unstable times. Britain needs to help manage them in a serious and clear-sighted way.’
The Foreign Secretary said decades of relative peace in the West had led some to become ‘perhaps too optimistic in thinking that our ideas would always prevail – that has not always been justified’.
Tory strategists want to make Mr Corbyn’s longstanding weakness on defence a key election issue. The veteran Left-winger has called in the past for Nato to be ‘closed down’, has voiced sympathy for terrorist groups and has even suggested Britain should scrap its Armed Forces.
Johnson leaves the Foreign Office this morning. He has backed Prime Minister Theresa May to get the best Brexit result
He remains opposed to the Trident nuclear deterrent and has said he would never push the button, rendering it worthless even if Labour moderates force him to retain it as party policy.
Mr Johnson said it was clear Mr Corbyn did not have the leadership to ‘navigate this age of uncertainty’. By contrast, he highlighted Mrs May’s decision to make Trident renewal ‘a priority’ after taking office last year, and her full-throated support for Nato, saying it was why she had raised the importance of the ‘profound security and defence alliance’ during her first talks with Donald Trump in the White House.
Highlighting Mr Corbyn’s refusal to consider using the nuclear deterrent, he added: ‘There can be no more important task for a Government than to keep people safe – and we must be prepared to do everything necessary to do so.’
In the Commons earlier, Mrs May also rounded on Mr Corbyn’s record on defence, pointing out that his policy chief Andrew Fisher, who is writing Labour’s manifesto, had voiced support for disbanding MI5 and disarming the police.
She told MPs that Mr Corbyn was ‘not up to the job’.
Mr Johnson said that in the world’s trouble spots Britain must continue to take a leading role.
‘As we look forward, now is not the time to step back, but to step up,’ he said.
Turning to Brexit, Mr Johnson said: ‘Though I have no doubt that the negotiations will be tough and some plaster may fall off the ceiling, I am also sure that Theresa May can pull it off, and usher in a new era of free trade deals.
‘Indeed we intend to be the foremost campaigner for global free trade, so all our companies and all Britain’s people can benefit.’
- Former Wirral West MP Esther McVey was selected last night as the Tory candidate for Tatton, the Cheshire seat vacated by George Osborne.