Jeremy Corbyn risks deepening Labour party splits with new role at Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

Labour leader is due to address the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament at its conference in London today but he will be speaking behind closed doors

Matt Dathan
Online political reporter
Saturday 17 October 2015 10:45
Jeremy Corbyn is determined for Labour to adopt his lifelong commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament as official party policy
Jeremy Corbyn is determined for Labour to adopt his lifelong commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament as official party policy

Jeremy Corbyn has reaffirmed his determination for the Labour party to adopt his long-standing commitment to scrapping Trident by becoming vice-president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).

The move risks splitting his shadow cabinet, many of whom support renewing Britain’s nuclear deterrent.

Ministers are expected to call a vote on whether to renew its fleet of four Trident ballistic missile submarines next summer, before they expire in 2020.

Mr Corbyn has ordered a review of Labour’s policy on the issue, headed up by his shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle.

He is due to speak at the CND conference in London today but the session he is speaking will be held behind closed doors. It is set to be the biggest CND conference in years, its organisors say, and its membership has experienced a significant boost in membership following Mr Corbyn's election as Labour leader.

His new role at CND is a less demanding role than vice-chairman, which he has stepped down from due to his “increased workload”.

But remaining in a significant position in the organisation is likely to increase tensions in his party, which committed to renewing Trident under Ed Miliband at the general election.

Last month he said he would never press the nuclear button as Prime Minister, sparking a public row within his shadow cabinet.

Ms Eagle said it called into question his ability to be PM if he was unprepared to press the nuclear button and said it undermined the party’s attempts to “get a policy process going”.

He caused even more uproar with colleagues by saying nuclear weapons "did not do the United States any good on 9/11" when justifying why he would never be prepared to authorise the use of Trident himself.

Asked why he had taken a more junior role at CND, Mr Corbyn’s spokesman said: "He didn't want to resign from CND, so he decided to accept a vice president role.”

Mr Corbyn has been a member of CND since joining as a teenager in 1966 and has never wavered in his commitment to scrapping Trident.

But his staunch opposition to renewing Trident risks undermining his promise of overseeing a new consensual style of leadership.

He used his first Labour party conference speech in Brighton last month to tell delegates that his landslide election victory in the leadership contest gave him a mandate to push through his anti-Trident policy as the party’s official stance. The CND says 200 members are signing up to the organisation every month, compared to a rate of 30 per month in June, and says it has attracted 100 new members in the last month alone.

CND’s general secretary Kate Hudson said: "This is a fitting tribute to a very principled man with a lifelong commitment to CND and the cause of nuclear disarmament.

"Working together, with enormous support from across society, we will prevail against Trident and secure a crucial step towards global disarmament."

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