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Labour Party group's event encourages armed forces to 'break the rules'

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Labour Party group's event encourages armed forces to 'break the rules'

The speaker at an event run by Labour Friends of the Forces urged UK armed forces to "break the rules" to wage war more effectively.

The speech by former naval officer Peter Roberts was described as “insightful” by Labour's Shadow Minister for the Armed Forces, Stephen Morgan MP.

Asked to give examples of which rules they should break, Roberts suggested that UK forces should be able to fight in the Arctic to challenge Russian power in Syria, and use cyber-warfare to turn off lights for civilians in Pyonyang if war were to break out with North Korea.

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), Britain's leading pacifist organisation, urged Keir Starmer and other Labour MPs to make clear their views on armed forces “breaking the rules”.

The meeting was held on Zoom at 6.30 yesterday evening (Tuesday 24 November). Stephen Morgan MP opened the event by praising Boris Johnson's recent increase of £16.5bn in military spending.

Labour Friends of the Forces was endorsed by Keir Starmer in June this year.

The co-chair of Labour Friends of the Forces, Sarah Church, repeatedly expressed her agreement with Roberts as she facilitated the question-and-answer session.

Peter Roberts is Director of Military Sciences at RUSI, an arms industry-funded military thinktank.

Roberts said that he was “not talking about breaking laws” but repeatedly used the phrase “breaking the rules”. Asked to give examples, he suggested that if there was an attack by Kim Jong-Un, breaking the rules could mean choosing “to attack him in cyber and turn the lights off in downtown Pyonyang”. He added that US forces were often impressed by UK forces because of “our ability to bend the rules”.

Asked about the need for foreign policy not to appear aggressive, he said, “I'm pretty content with aggression”.

Roberts concluded by saying, “The Labour Party is the natural friend of the armed forces. I'm really looking forward to the re-emergence of the Labour Party with this mandate.”

Labour's leaders have vital questions to answer," said Symon Hill, Campaigns Manager of the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), who attended the online event. "Will they make clear that they do not support someone who calls for cyber-attacks on civilians through mass deprivation of electricity? Or for UK forces to use war in Syria as an excuse to fight war in the Arctic? Will Keir Starmer reconsider his praise for Labour Friends of the Forces given that they invited a speaker with such views, which were endorsed by the group's co-chair?"

Symon Hill continued, "Peter Roberts is right about one thing: obeying rules doesn't make war ethical. The best response to this is to challenge war and militarism, not to back greater aggression. The rules that we want to see armed forces personnel breaking are the rules that require them to obey orders to wage war. We are glad that there are other people in the Labour Party, and other parties, who want to resist war rather than promote it.”