The Labour Party in Brighton: Party to ignore anti-Trident vote: Defence debate told motion out of step with policy, writes Donald Macintyre

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The Independent Online
JOHN SMITH left Brighton yesterday predicting a Labour general election victory after his win over union opponents on internal party democracy and undeterred by a unilateralist conference vote in favour of scrapping Trident.

The conference approved by a majority of five to four a resolution from the furniture trades union, FTAT, against a recommendation by the national executive. But party officials insisted last night that it would not shape party policy in the run-up to the next election.

They pointed to the fact that the conference had already approved a multilateralist resolution from the steel union, ISTC, and that the majority was less than the two-thirds that would require it to be taken into account when drawing up the manifesto.

The conference also voted in favour of defence expenditure being reduced to the European average - the fifth successive year such a cut has been demanded - plus a package to convert military research and industry to civil purposes.

Yesterday's debate produced its traditional passion for cuts and disarmament, which Labour's opponents frequently use to attack the party. Tony Benn told delegates: 'We need a massive transfer of resources from military waste to the means of life.'

David Coates, of the FTAT, said that money saved by scrapping the programme could fund public services: 'How can we expect the Third World to forswear nuclear weapons when they see the First World armed to the teeth?'

But the conference chairman, Tony Clarke, pleaded with delegates to oppose the Trident motion, which he said was out of step with Labour's approach to


Malcom Rifkind, the Secretary of State for Defence, said that the defence decisions meant not only scrapping the nuclear deterrent but also reducing defence expenditure 'by the equivalent of the whole of the Royal Navy's budget'. He said they betrayed 'the true face of the Labour Party', and added that 'these votes show why they (Labour) remain unfit to govern'.