Grant Shapps has told delegates at the Conservative Party conference how he took a decision with his wife to welcome a Ukrainian family into their own home because they were “partly moved to act because our own ancestors fled to this country to escape the pogroms of eastern Europe.”
In his first major speech as defence secretary Shapps, the most senior Jewish politician in government, told the conference in Manchester that regarding the government’s support for the fight against the Russian president’s actions; “We must not let up now … We must remain steadfast.”
Shapps referred to the generosity of the UK public in welcoming Ukrainian families under the Home For Ukraine scheme “including for a year, into my own home.”
“What really moved us most was the palpable sense of generosity from the British public,” Shapps said, of his and his wife Belinda’s reaction from UK citizens to the war.
“Complete strangers were provided with clothes, school books, ” he noted, adding we should never overlook the generosity of the public here.
Later in his speech on Sunday, made in the main conference hall, Shapps launched a highly partisan attack on Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.
He claimed Starmer’s party “could not be trusted” on defence issues, and then insisted the current Labour leader “personally campaigned for Jeremy Corbyn” a man he said “called for NATO to be disbanded.”
Shapps also announced two new military deployments, one to Poland to protect Warsaw from Russian interference, as well as a peacekeeping mission to Kosovo.
Elsewhere in the speech, Shapps said that Putin cannot win the war – but can’t find a way to exit the war either.
To applause, Shapps said the people of Ukraine would not let that happen” and he insisted “the United Kingdom stepped up” when needed.
He also used the speech to confirm defence spending has exceeded £50bn a year for the first time ever and pledged to increase it even further when conditions allow.
Shapps also announced contracts worth £4bn pounds on new nuclear attack submarines which he said will support thousands of jobs.
First elected as the MP for Welwyn Hatfield in 2005, Shapps first ministerial role came five years later, when David Cameron was prime minister, when he was made minister for housing and local government, and succession of top roles have followed ever since, including a six day stint as crisis ridden ex-PM Liz Truss’s final home secretary.
He was Rishi Sunak’s secretary of state for energy security until defence secretary Ben Wallace announced his resignation as defence secretary.
In an interview with Jewish News earlier this year Shapps told how his time in the Jewish youth movement BBYO “massively influenced” his career path in Westminster.
He also confirmed he and his wife, who hails from the Prestwich community, had invited a Ukrainian grandmother, her mother, and her seven year-old son from Kyiv, along with their dog, into their home.
Elsewhere on the first day of the Tory conference foreign secretary James Cleverly also delivered a speech designed to boost the morale of the party faithfulHe said that in his role he had “seen first hand” Britain’s standing in the world and that the UK has thrived despite “incredibly strong economic headwinds”.
Cleverly also attacked Labour calling them “spineless ditherers”, and like Shapps, expressed strong support for Sunak.
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