Labour says its support for nuclear weapons is ‘non-negotiable’

Membership of Nato is also ‘unshakeable’, shadow defence secretary John Healey to say

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Friday 26 February 2021 08:18 GMT
Trident is a divisive political issue
Trident is a divisive political issue (Getty Images)

Labour's support for Britain having nuclear weapons is "non-negotiable", the shadow defence secretary has said.

In a speech at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank on Friday John Healey will also say the party's commitment to NATO is "unshakeable".

The speech does not represent a policy change for Labour, which was committed to renewing Trident and staying in Nato throughout the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

But it does represent a difference in rhetoric and emphasis. Mr Corbyn is a lifelong proponent of nuclear disarmament, and consistently made a distinction between his personal view and the policy of the party.

He had also previously been critical of Nato, though as leader he said the alliance should refocus on reducing tensions around the world.

Mr Healey, which will say the UK should instead focus on multilateral nuclear disarmament, is also expected to use the speech to criticise ministers' defence cuts, which he says will make the job of the government's defence needs review harder.

He will say that "at a time of geopolitical uncertainty and technological change" ministers must not "smother strategic decision-making in clouds of rhetoric and hubris".

The shadow defence secretary will add: "We cannot any longer go fudging and fumbling our way into the future, with major procurement projects at the mercy of the illusion that 'something will turn up' to pay for them."

The renewal of the arsenal is a divisive issue. An ORB poll from 2016 found that around half (51 per cent) of the UK public favour renewal versus a similar level of support for scrapping the system entirely or retaining submarines without nuclear warheads (49 per cent).

In Scotland, however, where the arsenal is based and Labour wants to win back support, nuclear weapons are more unpopular. A Survation poll commissioned in 2016 found that 56 per cent of Scots do not want to renew Trident, the position held by the governing SNP. 42 per cent of Scots want to keep the weapons.

But the speech comes in the context of Labour trying to appeal to more conservative voters, and to show them that it is “patriotic”.

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