Senior Labour MPs insist party will renew Trident after Jeremy Corbyn confusion
Senior Labour figures have insisted the party would renew the Trident nuclear weapons system after Jeremy Corbyn appeared to throw their position into doubt.
Mr Corbyn said yesterday that the party was “still having that discussion” about whether or not to commit to Trident in its manifesto - despite it being agreed Labour policy.
The Conservatives seized on the comment to accuse Labour of seeking to “dismantle our nuclear defences” while ex-military chiefs also piled into the opposition leader.
Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald last night insisted it was the “first duty” of government to protect the country, adding: “We will not demure from that one iota.”
Appearing on Radio Four's Week in Westminster, he said: “It is party policy to renew Trident. That is the case.
“The whole purpose of government… its first duty… is to protect the integrity of our nation.
“That’s the position. We will renew Trident. We protect our country, that’s the whole objective of a government. That is first duty and we will not demure from that one iota.”
Andrew Gwynne MP, Labour's election co-ordinator, was sent out this morning to clarify the party's Trident position.
He told ITV's Good Morning Britain that renewing the nuclear deterrent "absolutely will be in the manifesto".
"Jeremy knows that trident is Labour party policy," Mr Gwynne said.
"Jeremy has set out his views on defence and that is absolutely that we are committed to making sure that Britain is well defended."
Mr Gwynne also said he would authorise a drone strike on Isil leader Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi - something Mr Corbyn refused to do yesterday.
At last year’s Labour conference Mr Corbyn said he would set aside his personal opposition to Trident and keep in place the party policy of renewing the system.
But asked on the Andrew Marr show yesterday whether it would be in the manifesto for the 8 June election, he appeared to retreat from his previous commitment.
“We haven’t completed work on the manifesto yet, as you’d expect. We’re less than 100 hours into this election campaign,” he said.
“We’re having that discussion within the Labour party and we will produce our manifesto early in May.”
The Labour leader also refused to rule out cancelling the programme if he becomes Prime Minister, saying he would order a review that would “include all aspects of defence”.
A Labour spokesman subsequently released a statement confirming that the party remained committed to Trident renewal.
“The decision to renew Trident has been taken and Labour supports that. We also want Britain to do much more to pursue a proactive, multilateral disarmament strategy,” the spokesman said.
'CANNOT BE TRUSTED'
But former chief of defence staff Lord Richards of Herstmonceux launched a stinging attack on the Labour leader and branded him unfit for office.
He told the Daily Telegraph: “Jeremy Corbyn, unlike many of his distinguished predecessors in the Labour Party from Clement Attlee through Dennis Healey and beyond, has demonstrated why he should not be trusted with the ultimate responsibility of government – that of the nation’s defence and security.”
And Lord West of Spithead, the former first sea lord and Labour security minister, told the armed forces would question whether they had Mr Corbyn’s support.