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Former spy boss criticises 'disreputable' Tory suggestion that Putin and Xi would welcome Starmer as Prime Minister

19 June 2024, 19:44 | Updated: 19 June 2024, 19:47

Sir David Ormand has criticised the Conservatives for suggesting Keir Starmer is a security risk
Sir David Ormand has criticised the Conservatives for suggesting Keir Starmer is a security risk. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Kit Heren

A former head of GCHQ has criticised a Conservative advert suggesting that Putin and Xi would be glad if Keir Starmer became Prime Minister as "disreputable".

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Sir David Ormand, who ran the signals intelligence service from 1996-97, told LBC's Andrew Marr that the Conservative attack "brings into discredit political discourse".

The advert, published on the Conservatives' social media, shows Sir Keir on one side with Chinese leader Xi, Russia's Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, on the other. The caption reads: "They're watching."

Labour has insisted that it is committed to Britain's nuclear deterrent and role in NATO, and has vowed to "set out the path to spending 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence".

Sir David, who worked with Tony Blair, said that he would not have trusted Sir Keir's predecessor Jeremy Corbyn, or Michael Foot, who led Labour in the 1980s.

Read more: 'I didn't think we would win': Keir Starmer skewered by LBC listener over supporting Jeremy Corbyn

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"I’m a professional - I’ve worked in defence, security, intelligence all my working career," he said. "I’ve worked for Labour governments and some Labour leaders I would not have trusted necessarily with our security,

"Michael Foot was a unilateral disarmer, Jeremy Corbyn I think would not have supported our NATO role."

He said that Sir Keir's Shadow Cabinet's commitments "make me think that they can be relied on."

Sir David said that the insinuation that Sir Keir was unpatriotic was unfair "in the same way that as those who attack the patriotism of Michael Foot were misguided.

"He was a patriot, he just happened to hold certain views on nuclear disarmament which I think would not have suited the moment had he ever led a government.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer. Picture: Alamy

"But no, attacking the man in that way is, I think, disreputable. And It brings into discredit political discourse - and goodness me there are enough serious security issues out there in the world to have proper debates and elicit proper opinions from those who want to be our leaders."

Sir Keir and his Shadow Cabinet have sought repeatedly to distance themselves from Jeremy Corbyn, although Sir Keir served under Mr Corbyn.

Speaking on LBC on Thursday, the Labour leader refused to say if he would have served under Mr Corbyn in his Cabinet, maintaining instead that he didn't believe he would win.

Starmer sidesteps questions on his support for Corbyn eight times

Sir David also called for the government to work more closely with European allies on defence, and the security situation in Ukraine.

He told Andrew: "We have to get a better relationship with our European partners on defence and security.

"There’s been a gap ever since Brexit for example on counter-terrorism".

He added that "sharing information on suspects, police force to police force" has been hindered by the UK not being in Europol.

"We’ve got to get that sorted," Sir David said. "We’ve got to have serious, grown up discussions with our European partners about the security situation in Ukraine and how that is going to be sustained over quite a long war."

Asked if he would prefer us to join Europol, he said: "Yes, that would require of course accepting various jurisdictions of the European Court of Justic and all the things that were anathema to the ardent Brexiteers.

"But as a practical person I would have said the closer we can get to working hand in hand with major European partners the better."

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