Jeremy Corbyn has promised to protect Britain from global threats after facing criticism for refusing to say during a televised election debate whether he would launch a retaliatory nuclear strike.
The Labour leader suggested he would sign off on more ships for the navy and extra surveillance aircraft for the air force alongside pledges to boost funding and numbers in the police and armed services.
Corbyn faced hard questions over his view of nuclear weapons during Friday’s BBC Question Time leaders special.
He has faced repeated questions over his personal commitment to renewing the Trident nuclear deterrent, which the Labour party supports.
After hosting a roundtable discussion with pensioners in Lincoln on Saturday, Corbyn was asked whether he could keep the British people safe as prime minister.
The Labour leader replied: “We will protect the people of this country from any threat that they face anywhere in the world.
“We will invest properly in our police service, we will invest properly in our armed services – the numbers in the armed services have gone down, the navy are crying out for more ships, the air force are crying out for more surveillance aircraft. We would fund them properly to achieve all of that.”
He said a Labour government would also deal with the threat of cyber-attacks, citing the example of the NHS ransomware attack two weeks ago, and the “appalling” threat of terrorism.
“What happened in Manchester was dreadful beyond belief,” he said, referring to the arena suicide bombing that killed 22 people. “The way you deal with that is putting more police on the streets: we will put 10,000 more police on the streets, the Conservatives are taking 20,000 off the streets. We will fund the security services to monitor people and protect them, but also our strategy is to bring communities together.”
Corbyn repeated his vow to pursue a foreign policy aimed at addressing the issue of “ungoverned spaces” in war-torn countries such as Libya where extremism could flourish.
During Friday’s TV event, Corbyn faced repeated questions about his view of Trident. In one reply, the Labour leader said: “I would view the idea of having to use a nuclear weapon as something that was resulting in a failure in the whole world’s diplomatic system.”
As some sections of the audience shouted, Corbyn then said: “If we did use it, millions are going to die. You have to think these things through. I will decide on the circumstances at the time.”
One of the audience members who questioned him on Trident, 25-year-old Conservative supporter Adam Murgatroyd, said he found Corbyn’s answers “disconcerting”.
“His answer sort of lived up to expectations, he just refused to answer the question whether he would or not press the button,” he told the Press Association.
“It was exactly what I thought it would be but it’s disconcerting that we could potentially in six days’ time have a prime minister who wouldn’t be prepared to protect British lives over someone else’s life.”
The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, told PA “I thought it was really spine-chilling to hear Jeremy Corbyn announce that all Labour’s support for our nuclear deterrent, all Labour’s support for our armed forces, was completely meaningless because when it came to the business of defending this country he wouldn’t do it.”