EXCL Labour row over Trident as CND says party could still shelve backing for nuclear deterrent
Anti-nuclear campaigners have taken aim at Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith after she declared that Labour’s backing for Trident was “settled policy”.
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament hit out after Ms Griffith said a “defence diversification” review aimed at finding alternative jobs for people in the defence industry would not lead to Labour ditching its support for the multi-billion pound nuclear deterrent.
Ms Griffith told PoliticsHome’s sister title the House: "It is absolutely part of our policy to keep the deterrent. And that is our settled policy. And that was in our manifesto last year, which was agreed by everybody."
But the CND, which counts Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn among its most prominent supporters, said: “If you had a vote of members today you would get a change in policy.”
CND spokesperson Ian Chamberlain said the defence diversification review - led by longstanding Trident opponent and Shadow Peace Minister Fabian Hamilton - was now a “key plank” of efforts to convince Labour-backing unions to drop their support for the scheme.
“Just last week, we saw the North West Labour Party Conference pass a motion on defence diversification and we’re expecting similar moves elsewhere,” he told PoliticsHome.
The CND spokesperson added: “Lots of people are suddenly very interested in organising meetings and campaigning for change on policies like Trident.
“Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has enabled that and whilst we’re disappointed that there hasn’t been quicker change in policy, I think we’re playing a slightly longer game now and seeing what’s going on on the ground.”
But a Labour insider hit back at the CND, saying the group had “lost the argument in the party and the country”.
The campaign group argued that few Labour MPs were still “ideologically committed” to renewing the scheme, and predicted that Trident would remain a “live issue” on the Labour benches if the party takes power.
Mr Chamberlain said: “If there is a Labour government after the next general election it would still make sense from a financial point of view to cancel it - and you would also have to win the argument that it was right to release billions of pounds for replacing the warheads...
“It’s those kind of debates that are going to come up which I think a Labour government would find quite challenging, unless it did change its policy on Trident.”
But the party source said: “Constituency Labour Parties and Labour members are far more concerned about challenging the Tories on issues like health, housing and education, instead of rerunning a debate that was settled some years ago.”
The debate over Labour’s continued backing for the major defence programme was reopened in recent weeks when the Scottish National Party said it would be willing to support a Jeremy Corbyn-led government in exchange for scrapping Trident.
But that offer was flatly rejected by Ms Griffith - sparking the ire of SNP defence spokesperson Stewart McDonald, whose party has long opposed the renewal of the weapons system based at Scotland’s Faslane bay.
Ms Griffith told The House: "Quite frankly the SNP should focus a bit more on the shambles that they have made of running the Scottish government, rather than any imaginary coalition deal that is just not going to happen.”
That triggered a furious response from Mr McDonald, who on Friday accused the Labour frontbencher of “bluster”, and said he often saw her “nodding in agreement with what we have to say”.
In a string of tweets, he added: “Newsflash: this isn’t how real people behave."
MPs last voted to replace the four Trident nuclear submarines in 2016, with the House of Commons siding 472-117 in favour of renewal at an estimated cost of £31bn.