Jeremy Corbyn’s secret blueprint to seize control of Labour’s policy-making machine to fast-track a change in the party’s position on Trident has been revealed in leaked documents drawn up by his allies in the trade unions.
Leading members of the Shadow Cabinet have been made aware of a paper which would strip them of the power to set policy between conferences. Instead, Labour’s National Executive Committee would explicitly be given the role of deciding policy.
One minister who has seen a copy of the proposal said that Mr Corbyn’s advisers were coordinating the move which would change the NEC’s “aims and objectives” to give it explicit power to set policy. The document is likely to be put before the NEC at its meeting this month.
Speaking to The Independent on Sunday, the shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said he had not seen the document but confirmed the NEC would decide “fairly quickly” on a process to change Labour’s position on Trident – and revealed it would happen “before the summer”.
He revealed that the review of the party’s nuclear policy, which is being conducted by former London Mayor Ken Livingstone and the new shadow Defence Secretary Emily Thornberry – would come up with a range of options, including unilateral disarmament, rather than recommending just one policy. One option, that is to be considered, is for Britain to become a “virtual nuclear state” like Japan and Iran – free of nuclear weapons but with the possibility of re-arming in a short period of time.
The options will then be put to Labour members, before the NEC decides the “process” for making a final decision. Mr Corbyn’s office want this all to be completed before the Government calls a Commons vote – which could come as early as March or April.
The revelation comes despite a warning from the Labour MP Dan Jarvis, who is tipped as a future leadership contender, that he may not stand at the next election if Mr Corbyn changes the party’s stance on Trident.
A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said the proposal to give sweeping new powers to the NEC would be “considered” once it was formally submitted. He added: “The NEC is having a consultation about its policy and role. Members of the NEC, including the unions, are submitting documents which will be brought together and considered.”
But a shadow cabinet minister who has seen the proposals said: “The leader’s office appears to have decided that the best way of changing the constitution of the party is to change the ‘aims and objectives’ of the NEC. They are putting a paper to the NEC with some changes to the ‘aims’ document.”
The proposed change says the NEC should be given all power over policy. “That is clearly with Trident in mind,” the shadow minister said. “It’s quite a clever way to get what they want. That’s to go back to the 1970s’ control over policy - it’s outrageous. It’s back to the future.”
The shadow minister added: “It’s being coordinated by the leader’s office. John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn say it’s the NEC which decides policy.
“I expect it will be put forward in January. Why would they be doing this otherwise?”
The draft document states that frontbenchers should be able to respond to the Government in the Commons – in effect making policy at short notice – but only if they have run it past the NEC and the leader’s office first.
Mr McDonnell, the shadow Chancellor, said: “The National Executive Committee will determine the mechanism for consulting the party members [and] then the mechanism for the final decision.
“The NEC, at the end of the day… is the final determinant of policy.”
Asked if a change of policy would happen before party conference in September – when policy changes are formally voted on – Mr McDonnell said: “It’s up to the NEC. The problem we’ve got is that the Government may bring forward a decision-making timetable which warrants a faster decision-making process by the party, so it will be up to the NEC to decide that.
UK news in pictures
UK news in pictures
1/30 17 August 2016
Children enjoy the cold water of a fountain in London during a hot and sunny day as temperatures rose up to 25 Celsius (77F)
2/30 16 August 2016
3/30 15 August 2016
A supporter of Jeremy Corbyn holds up a placard at a Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) rally in north London, organised by 'Jeremy for Labour', a group supporting Corbyn's re-election as Party leader
4/30 15 August 2016
ritish opposition Labour Party leadership contender Owen Smith delivers a speech on the National Health Service at The University of Salford in Salford, north west England, on August 15, 2016. The result of the contest between encumbent leader Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith for leadership of the Labour Party is set to be announced at a special conference on September 24
5/30 14 August 2016
Historical reenactors take part in the 'Lytham 1940s Wartime Festival' in Lytham St Annes. The two-day festival features displays, exhibitions, musical entertainment and live-action reenactment of life during the Second World War
6/30 13 August 2016
People throw brightly coloured powder at the Holi Festival of Colours at Wembley Park in London
7/30 12 August 2016
People relax on boats on the Serpentine lake in London. Temperatures in London have reached 27 degrees centigrade with pleasant weather also expected over the weekend
8/30 11 August 2016
Munduruku tribesman General Chief Arnaldo Kaba Munduruku (C), from the Tapajos Basin in the Amazon rainforest, is joined by Greenpeace activists, some of whom are dressed in monkey costumes, as he speaks to the media outside the Siemens' UK headquarters in Camberley. Greenpeace activists join two members of the Amazonian Munduruku tribe at German engineering company Siemens' UK headquarters to protest the building of mega dams in the Brazilian Amazon and to demand a meeting with senior management at the company
9/30 10 August 2016
Baby gorilla Afia interacts with her keeper Joanne Rudd on 'Gorilla Island' at Bristol Zoo. The hand reared Western lowland gorilla who was born at the zoo by emergency C-section on February 12 is taken out onto the island daily to help build her confidence and awareness of what will eventually become her new home. Although Afia's mother Kera, still isn't aware that Afia is hers it is hoped that the young gorilla who is enjoying a varied diet of sweet potato, leafy lettuce and pellets, will continue to get to know her family under the watchful eyes of her dedicated keepers
10/30 9 August 2016
A surfer catches a wave as the sun sets at Fistral Beach in Newquay in Cornwall. The Cornish seaside town will play host to the annual Boardmasters festival. Since 1981, the Boardmasters surfing competition has been held in Newquay and is now part of a larger five-day surf, skate and music festival becoming an integral part of the continually popular British surf scene growing from humble beginnings, to one of the biggest events on the British surfing calendar
11/30 24 July 2016
Newly appointed as manager of the England football team, Sam Allardyce poses for a photograph with an England scarf
Martin Rickett/PA Wire
12/30 23 July 2016
British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond (R), and British Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport and Minister for Aviation, Lord Tariq Ahmad (L), listen to London City Airport CEO Declan Collier, as they pass a British Airways aircraft during a tour of the airport in east London on July 27, 2016. The British government hailed a £344 million investment to expand London City Airport on Wednesday as evidence Britain was "open for business" despite its Brexit vote
STEFAN ROUSSEAU/AFP/Getty Images
13/30 22 July 2016
Labour leadership candidate Owen Smith speaks at a rally in London
14/30 21 July 2016
Police close a road close to RAF Marham in Norfolk, after a serviceman was threatened with a knife near to the base
Chris Radburn/PA Wire
15/30 20 July 2016
Tour de France winner Chris Froome celebrates on the podium after the twenty-first and last stage of the Tour de France cycling race in Paris, France
AP Photo/Christophe Ena
16/30 19 July 2016
Merlin Entertainment’s Talking Donkeys are put through their paces in preparation for three days of children’s donkey rides, celebrating the start of the summer holidays in London
17/30 18 July 2016
David Barber, The Queen's Swan Marker, holds a cygnet, or young swan, during Swan Upping, the annual census of the swan population on the River Thames, in a week long exercise where unmarked mute swans are now counted - rather than eaten - in a tradition exercised by the British Crown for nearly 900 years, at Sunbury
18/30 18 July 2016
A 'Vote LEAVE' battle bus is re-branded outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster by the environmental campaign group Greenpeace. The bus which was used during the European Union referendum campaign and had the statement "We send the EU £350 million a week let's fund our NHS instead" along the side was covered with thousands of questions for the new Prime Minister Theresa May and her government about what a 'Brexit' might mean for the environment
19/30 17 July 2016
US director Steven Spielberg poses as he arrives to attend the UK premiere of the film "The BFG" in Leicester Square
20/30 16 July 2016
A Raticate, a character from Pokemon Go, a mobile game that has become a global phenomenon, in front of the gates of Downing Street in London
21/30 16 July 2016
London landmark, The London Eye is illuminated in blue, white and red lights, resembling the colours of the French flag, as Britons express their solidarity following the deadly attack in the southern French city of Nice A gunman smashed a truck into a crowd of revellers celebrating Bastille Day in the French Riviera city of Nice, killing at least 84 people in what President Francois Hollande on Friday called a "terrorist" attack. / AFP / CHRIS J RATCLIFFE (Photo credit should read CHRIS J RATCLIFFE/AFP/Getty Images)
22/30 15 July 2016
Armed police outside the French Embassy in London, following the death of at least 84 people, including several children, after a terrorist drove a truck through crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice
23/30 14 July 2016
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson addresses staff inside the Foreign Office in London
24/30 13 July 2016
New British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks to the media outside her official residence 10 Downing Street in London
25/30 13 July 2016
David Cameron makes a speech outside 10 Downing Street in London, before leaving for Buckingham Palace for an audience with Queen Elizabeth II to formally resign as Prime Minister
26/30 12 July 2016
Former Queen guitarist and campaigner Brian May poses with people dressed as Badgers during a photocall in London. The event was organised to 'urge' the government to abandon their planned Badger Cull which is to be rolled out in the Autumn
27/30 11 July 2016
Britain's new Conservative Party leader Theresa May speaks to members of the media at The St Stephen's entrance to the Palace of Westminster in London. Theresa May will become the prime minister who leads Britain's into Brexit talks after her only rival in the race to succeed David Cameron pulled out unexpectedly. May was left as the only contender standing after the withdrawal from the leadership race of Andrea Leadsom, who faced criticism for suggesting she was more qualified to be premier because she had children
28/30 11 July 2016
Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is seen on the concourse at Waterloo Station in London. Ghostbusters take over Waterloo Station as Stay Puft Marshmallow Man smashes through the concourse during the morning rush-hour
Getty Images for Sony Pictures
29/30 10 July 2016
Demonstrators from the Black Lives Matter movement march through central London, during a demonstration against the killing of black men by police in the US
30/30 10 July 2016
Members of the British Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, perform ahead of the British Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone motor racing circuit in Silverstone
“[The Government] is likely to do it before the summer, so it looks like the NEC will have to take that into account. They will have to timetable their process based on what is expected from Government.”
He confirmed there would be “a range of options” for Britain’s future nuclear system. “The NEC review will set out the options. Then there will be a consultation on that. The NEC will then determine the process by which the decision will be taken – that will be solely down to it. The NEC meets at the end of January. They are going to have to come up with a timetable quickly.”
Mr McDonnell said his position was “very straightforward... scrap the thing.”
A close ally of Mr Corbyn confirmed that the NEC could make changes so that decision-making would become more straightforward. The ally said: “If the NEC wants it and the party leader wants it, who is going to stop them? It’s a matter of political will.
“What it could do is change the way it operates to allow it to use its powers more efficiently and effectively.” The source added: “This is not a repeat of the unilateralist debate of the 1980s – it is whether the Government’s proposals are value for money.”
One friend of Mr Corbyn, who strongly supports the renewal of Trident, said there was no doubt Mr Corbyn would do all he could to change Labour’s policy. He said: “Jeremy would not be able to forgive himself if he passed up an opportunity to get Labour to vote against Trident.”
Who’s who on Labour’s NEC
* Jeremy Corbyn, Leader
* Tom Watson, Deputy Leader
* Diana Holland, Treasurer
* Three MPs nominated by the Shadow Cabinet: Angela Eagle, Jon Ashworth and Rebecca Long-Bailey.
* Glenis Willmott, leader of Labour MEPs
* Bex Bailey, Young Labour
* Twelve trade union representatives, one of whom, Paddy Lillis of Usdaw, is NEC chair
* Six Constituency Labour Party representatives, including Ken Livingstone
* Two Socialist Society representatives
* Two Labour Councillors
* Three Backbench MPs or MEPs elected by all Labour MPs and MEPs: Dennis Skinner, Steve Rotheram (Corbyn’s Parliamentary Private Secretary) and Margaret Beckett
Corbyn has 11 firm supporters, but with some swing voters is close to a majority for opposing Trident.Reuse content