British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak issued a stark warning about a potential “axis of authoritarian states” during a speech on Monday, as he campaigns to retain power ahead of a national election that could see the Conservatives ousted after 14 years. In his address, Sunak criticized Labour leader Keir Starmer, accusing him of lacking plans to counter security threats posed by Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea.

Sunak pledged to increase military spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2030, asserting that this would better prepare his party to handle these threats. He cited the war in Ukraine, attacks by Iranian proxies in the Red Sea, and Chinese cyberattacks targeting members of Parliament as key security concerns.

“Over the next few years, almost every aspect of our lives, from our democracy to our economy, will be impacted,” Sunak said. “Our response to these changes will determine Britain’s future success.”

His speech at Policy Exchange, a conservative think tank, came shortly after his party’s losses in local elections and ahead of a general election where Labour is expected to gain control of Parliament. Starmer responded by highlighting his commitment to national security, citing his experience as former head prosecutor for England and Wales. He criticized the Conservative government’s track record, accusing it of depleting the armed forces and wasting money on procurement.

Sunak has until December 17 to call an election, which would take place 25 working days later. He has indicated it will be in the second half of the year but has not specified a date. Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey urged Sunak to “give the people a general election,” calling the Conservative government “out of touch and out of time.”

Sunak accused Labour of trying to win by “scaremongering about pensions” and making people feel disheartened about the country. He acknowledged public uncertainty, attributing some of it to global events like the COVID-19 pandemic, but expressed optimism about Britain’s future, citing advancements in artificial intelligence as a source of potential progress.

“Technologies like AI will transform the 21st century as the steam engine and electricity did for the 19th,” Sunak concluded.

Source: AP