Boris Johnson has thanked British troops for their “sacrifice and effort” in a Christmas message to the armed forces – while the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the pandemic has shown “the very best of Britain”.
The prime minister addressed soldiers in a video call to troops in Mali, Estonia, Somalia and Afghanistan, as well those deployed in the UK.
Mr Johnson said: “I want to salute all of you, our fantastic armed services, all our men and women in uniform, for everything that you do.
“You represent in my view the very best of our country, our number one export, the thing people really want to see around the world.”
He added: “It’s not just abroad that this has been an amazing year for the armed services. So many of you have been responsible for doing extraordinary things here at home, thousands of you helping to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
“Building the Nightingales, delivering PPE, testing people, and now leading the way and helping the country to get vaccinated.
“Thank you for your sacrifice and your effort. You’re bringing hope and encouragement to the entire country. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.”
Sir Keir used his Christmas message to say the COVID-19 vaccine offers a “light at the end of the tunnel” but acknowledged the difficulties many families face with “an empty space around the Christmas table” this year.
He also said NHS staff and carers “will have to step up again, one more time, this Christmas” and urged people to capture the spirit shown during the crisis to “rebuild a better future for our country”.
Sir Keir said: “I want to wish you all a very merry Christmas. It’s a time to celebrate and come together with our family and friends.
“It’s a time for Christians in Britain and across the world to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. The values of Christianity, of generosity, of kindness and hope, have shone through this year.
“In every village, every town and every city, we have seen the very best of Britain – the key workers who have been our country’s rock, the servicemen and servicewomen who have stepped up, and the incredible scientists who have discovered a vaccine.”
He added: “I know for many of our key workers they will have to step up again, one more time, this Christmas, as will our armed forces, who have deployed here and across the overseas”
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