Trident: Labour shadow ministers could quit if Jeremy Corbyn succeeds in shifting position on nuclear weapons

Owen Smith, Lord Falconer and Lucy Powell resfuse to confirm whether they would remain in posts if party’s policy changes

Oliver Wright
Political Editor
Sunday 10 January 2016 20:36
Lord Falconer refused to confirm whether he would remain in his post if Labour’s policy shifted
Lord Falconer refused to confirm whether he would remain in his post if Labour’s policy shifted

Three members of Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet have refused to rule out resigning if the party changes its policy on retaining Britain’s nuclear weapon capability.

Last week the Labour leader replaced the shadow Defence Secretary, Maria Eagle, with Emily Thornberry, one of the few senior figures in the party who supports his call for Britain to disarm unilaterally.

Mr Corbyn intends to use a party review of its policy on nuclear weapons to push for change in position ahead of a vote on renewing Trident that is expected to take place in the House of Commons this year.

The Trident supporters – Owen Smith, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Lord Falconer, the shadow Justice Secretary, and Lucy Powell, the shadow Education Secretary – refused to confirm whether they would remain in their posts if the party’s policy shifted.

“That would be difficult for me,” Mr Smith told BBC 5 Live. “I think the key thing that I would do is stick in, in the run-up to that decision, and make the case.

“We have got to have, I think, a very adult argument in the Labour Party about this – not in public I hope, not in the way in which we have occasionally argued publicly recently – but it is an enormously serious, technical, strategic question for Britain as to what the nature of our nuclear weapons are and whether we have a nuclear deterrent.

I would be very surprised if we get to a position where the Labour Party policy is one of unilateral disarmament

&#13; <p>Lucy Powell, the shadow Education Secretary</p>&#13;

“My view is that unfortunately we do need one.”

Lucy Powell

Meanwhile, Lord Falconer was asked a similar question on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

“Let’s see what happens in relation to that but I am clear that I support Trident remaining,” he said.

“What I’m doing is doing my best to make Labour effective and the broader the church that we are, the more we reach out to the public and reaching out to the public is what we’ve got to be doing.”

Meanwhile, Ms Powell refused to say in an interview with Andrew Neil whether she would remain in post should Labour support unilateralism.

But she expressed hope that the review would not result in Labour pledging to abandon nuclear weapons entirely.

“I would be very surprised if after all of the discussion that we will go through over many, many months with the National Policy Forum, with the Shadow Cabinet, the Parliamentary Labour Party and all aspects of the party, I would be very surprised if we get to a position where the Labour Party policy is one of unilateral disarmament,” she said.

Mr Corbyn was reported to be planning to shift policy-making power from the Shadow Cabinet to Labour’s National Executive Committee, where he commands greater support, in order to push through his reform agenda.

However, several big unions, including the GMB and Unite, are broadly supportive of Trident because they have members who rely on the industry for jobs. Whether they could be persuaded to change their position remains to be seen and any final decision would have to be agreed at the Labour conference, which remains the party’s ultimate decision-making body.

In his interview on The Andrew Marr Show, Lord Falconer was highly critical of Mr Corbyn’s decision to sack the Labour shadow Europe minister Pat McFadden for perceived disloyalty. “The decision as to who is in and who is out of the shadow frontbench team is entirely a matter for the leader,” Lord Falconer said.

“My own view about Pat McFadden is he was an absolutely excellent European minister. I’ve known Pat over a very long period of time and he is an absolutely exceptional public servant. I certainly wouldn’t have fired him.”

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