Labour could back nuclear-free Trident submarines - Jeremy Corbyn

Posted On: 
17th January 2016

Trident submarines could patrol the seas without nuclear warheads, as Jeremy Corbyn seeks to find a compromise policy for Labour on the UK’s nuclear deterrent.

Mr Corbyn is a long-standing proponent of unilateral disarmament but Labour-supporting unions and several members of the Shadow Cabinet support the renewal of the Trident programme.

In a bid to allay the concerns of unions, Mr Corbyn said protecting affected workers’ jobs would be the “first priority” for his party, while Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said all jobs would be “guaranteed”.

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The Labour leader suggested there could be a compromise position, as he told the Andrew Marr Show of the Trident submarines: “They don’t have to have nuclear warheads on them.”

On whether the submarines could sail without warheads, he replied: “There are options there; the paper that Emily Thornberry put forward is a very interesting one, [it] deserves a very good study of it and read of it and I hope there will be a serious mature response.”    

He also restated that he would never give authorisation for nuclear weapons to be used.

“Look, if we use a nuclear weapon, anybody uses a nuclear weapon, it is catastrophic for the whole globe. Everybody knows it’s catastrophic. I don’t believe David Cameron would use it either."

UNITE

Len McCluskey, the boss of the UK’s biggest union Unite, restated his preference for Trident renewal, but downplayed the idea of a major split.

“We will defend our members against losing their jobs and their communities being destroyed,” he told 5Live’s Pienaar’s Politics.  

“Now, what Jeremy and Emily Thornberry seem to be saying is that we will have a proper review, a comprehensive review, and we’ll play our part in that and it will be interesting for us to hear their views, their options, their alternatives. So it’s a positive thing.”

Mr McDonnell said Unite’s views “will be crucial” in Labour’s policy review and made clear that dissent from the unilateralist stance will be “accommodated”.

Mr Corbyn confirmed he had spoken with the Unite boss about Trident renewal.

Mr McCluskey added that he thought it would be “sensible” for Labour MPs to be given a free vote on Trident.