EXCL Former head of the Navy slams Jeremy Corbyn's Nato comments

Posted On: 
19th August 2016

The former head of the Royal Navy has hit out at Jeremy Corbyn's "extraordinary" refusal to say Britain should come to the aid of a Nato ally invaded by Russia.

Former First Sea Lord and Labour peer Lord West has hit out at Jeremy Corbyn
The House

Lord West, who is also a former Labour security minister, said it showed a "complete lack of understanding" of the role played by the nuclear alliance.

Article 5 of the Nato treaty commits each member state to view an attack against one as an attack against all.

Lord West: "Brexit has made the world a more dangerous place"

Lord West: Tony Blair was 'looking for a reason' to invade Iraq

Lord West: "Corbyn's unarmed Trident plan is dangerous and nonsensical"

But at a Labour leadership hustings in Solihull last night, Mr Corbyn repeatedly refused to say he would authorise military actions in such circumstances if he was Prime Minister.

“I would want to avoid us getting involved militarily by building up the diplomatic relationships and not isolate any country in Europe," said Mr Corbyn.

“I don't wish to go to war, what I want to do is achieve a world where we don't need to go to war, where there is no need for it - that can be done.”

His leadership rival Owen Smith insisted he would send British troops into battle if a Nato ally was attacked.

Speaking to PoliticsHome, Lord West - a former First Sea Lord and commander-in-chief of the Royal Navy - said Mr Corbyn's remarks were "absolutely dreadful".

He said: "I think it's quite an extraordinary comment and shows a complete lack of understanding of what Nato is, just as he doesn't understand the concept of having a nuclear deterrent. We belong to an alliance, but he stood up and told our allies 'I'm not necessarily sure that we'll come to help you'. I find it quite extraordinary that he's saying that.

"He's stating platitudes because it gets the unthinking masses to vote for him. He should not lead the nation because it leads to war when you don't stand up to bullies.

"I have no difficulty with talking to Russia and have fought very hard to maintain communication with them because it's important, but you must also have a robust stance. As President Roosevelt said 'You need to speak softly and carry a big stick'. But clearly what Corbyn said is not standing up for Nato. We have to be clear that we will stand up for our allies.

"Nato is the most important alliance, along with our alliance with America, for the security of this nation, and I think Mr Corbyn finds both of these things difficult."

Former Labour defence minister Kevan Jones said: "This just shows how out of touch Jeremy Corbyn is with the majority of Labour voters. He is neither progressive or radical - just weak.

"It gives more ammunition to our opponents that Labour is not serious on defence and the security of the UK."


Ilford North MP Wes Streeting said the public would conclude Mr Corbyn was "unfit to hold the office of Prime Minister" if he refused to uphold the Nato of principle of mutual defence.

"It is a gross betrayal of Labour's internationalist values," he told PoliticsHome.

"The only other significant politician to be so reckless and cavalier about the future of NATO is Donald Trump. They are different sides of the same coin: thoughtless and irresponsible."

The result of the Labour leadership contest will be announced on 24 September.