Corbyn’s nuclear option

The row over Labour’s position on Britain’s nuclear deterrent rolls on, with Jeremy Corbyn floating a new proposal for disarmament during an appearance on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday. Corbyn’s idea would see Trident submarines still built, but not equipped with warheads as at present. The proposal has been greeted with incredulity by defence experts and the press, but is a transparent attempt to win over the trade unions representing the workers who build the vessels in question.

Unfortunately for Mr Corbyn, his new scheme is unlikely to calm passions among Labour MPs or workers in the defence industries. While Unite chief Len McCluskey has signalled his openness to the idea, members of his union in the shipyards that produce the submarines are now openly talking of quitting if it fails to defend their interests. This may encourage another of the big unions with a stake in Trident, the GMB, to up its opposition to disarmament in the hope of picking up these disaffected workers.

For the Conservative high command, seeing both Labour and the union movement tear themselves apart at a time when contentious domestic legislation is due for passage must seem like a dream come true. And Mr Corbyn offered David Cameron and his colleagues further ammunition with his Sunday talk show appearance, flirting with the idea of repealing Thatcher-era trade union laws and a dialogue with ISIS. With Corbyn still strong among rank-and-file Labour members, the Conservative campaign to tie Labour MPs to their leader looks like becoming something of a turkey shoot. 

Photograph: JohnED76


Larry Smith

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search