Some friendly advice to Corbyn on Trident

January 16, 2016 at 11:37 pm (labour party, posted by JD, Trident)

 Steve Bell 12.01.16 Steve Bell, Guardian, 12.01.16

This was first published in the Morning Star, but despite that it makes sense:

Corbyn’s best chance to rid Britain of nuclear weapons is to bide his time

By Charley Allan

MY EARLIEST political memory is marching with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) to a US military base in Suffolk in the early 1980s. I was 10 years old, and I remember just how tired and grumpy it made me.

But I also remember my parents explaining why it really was important for us to march for miles along a dual carriageway in the middle of nowhere. I remember how horrified I was to learn that there were bombs which could wipe out whole cities, millions of people — even humanity itself.

I couldn’t believe that anyone, let alone our country’s leaders, would actually go to the time and trouble of making these weapons of mass destruction. I still can’t.

What I’m trying to say is that I’ve grown up in the shadow of potential nuclear holocaust. I’m part of the Threads generation, the When The Wind Blows generation. It scared the bejeezus out of me then and it still does today.

So I’m excited that, for the first time in my life, there’s a good chance I’ll live to see these monstrosities banished from this country under a future Jeremy Corbyn premiership. I’m excited that the anti-nuke argument is being clearly articulated from the top of the Labour Party.

But I’m worried that, by rushing to change the party’s official position on Trident, Jez is walking into a Tory trap of epic proportions.

Now, I’m no professional political strategist. And it’s more than likely I can’t see plenty of the “big picture” and get a little too caught up in the mainstream media’s daily diet of socialist soap-opera shenanigans from Planet Corbyn.

But if it’s really true he wants to whip the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) against the “main gate” vote later this year, then I fear Labour is on its own path to mutually assured destruction.

First, any attempt to change policy before September’s conference will be immensely damaging.

Although there clearly need to be new decision-making structures such as party-wide referenda and other democratic tools that online offers us, these can’t be made up on the fly. They need to be introduced and debated through the usual channels, and ultimately agreed on by conference. This is far too important to screw up.

And without these new structures, there’s no credible way to reverse the party position in time.

True, the NEC could technically announce a new policy, backed up by the conclusion of the controversial defence review currently under way. But this would use up massive political capital — not to mention the fall-out from major unions sceptical of promises to retrain and retain thousands of jobs in the sector.

Second, it won’t work. The PLP, hardly the progressive tip of Labour’s spear, will use this as another opportunity to punish Jez for winning the leadership, even if he does miraculously manage to change party policy. MPs will say: “We were elected on a pro-Trident platform, and that’s the way we will vote.”

And unfortunately it’s a strong argument — even stronger than that for bombing Syria, which many MPs voted for even though it was clearly contrary to conference’s will.

And third, there’s no point. The main-gate deal, which commits the government to spending billions of pounds on a new generation of nukes, will go ahead whether Labour MPs are whipped or not. Cameron still has a slim majority, and even if a few of his MPs vote against him the handful of Corbyn’s MPs who’ll undoubtedly rebel will surely compensate.

So why choose this hill to die on? Instead, allow a free vote, let the government waste yet more of our money, and wait till victory in 2020 to scrap the lot. This gives us years to change party policy, instead of just months, and avoids a catastrophic war with both the PLP and the big unions.

Nothing’s going to change before then, anyway. If we ever want to get rid of our WMDs, we need someone like JC in Number 10, so all our efforts need to go into that.

But Trident could be to Labour what Europe is to the Tories — a single issue that tears it apart. Cameron knows this, which is why he wants the vote sooner rather than later.

So please, Jeremy, if you’re listening — think again. Let’s instead kick off a new nationwide debate on the merits of wasting billions of pounds on something we’ll hopefully never use, something that makes us less safe and further erodes our moral standing in the world.

Let’s reach beyond the middle-aged, middle-class members who already agree with you and win this argument once and for all, so the 10-year-olds of tomorrow will never have to worry about waiting for annihilation to the sound of a three-minute warning.


  1. Jim Denham said,

  2. Johnny Lewis said,

    The author’s right that prioritising the debate within the party (and the unions) over the medium term is more important then whipping the trident vote in the short term. I think Corbyn now realises this, and removing the divisive Livingstone from the defence review may be a sign of this. The timing of Labours defence review is after the likely vote on Trident in the commons, and in nay case the policy shouldn’t be changed before party conference in September. Corbyn will have to offer a free vote.

    Difference with the Syria vote is Emily Thornbury will sum up for labour with her anti trident position. Meanwhile let the members in the CLPs put pressure on the MPs and give time for lefties to develop the (difficult) arguments in Unite, GMB and raise it in the media. Then when Labour does adopt an anti trident position the ground work has been done.

    The Labour leadership needs to focus on positive proposals on economics, the welfare state and workers rights.Sanders in the US election has the right approach: a few striking policies constantly hammered home. Its a but tedious for journalists and activists but it eventually gets through.

    Trident / security is a tory “Dead Cat”. This is a concept Lynton Crosby uses. If the opposition is turning the debate on to a terrain you dont like. Bang a dead cat/controversial but non decisive issue on the the table and the debate will turn to that. An example the Trade Union Bill include the unworkable social media and police registration clauses only to drop them to stop debate on the main measures on union funding for Labour, balloting, picketing and strikes.

  3. Steven Johnston said,

    Yes, let’s cut the state budget by £100 billion! LOL! I’m surprised Osborne hasn’t thought about cutting Trident. But seriously, I can never work out the Stars’ position on nuclear weapons, is it bad when the West have them, but good when China, USSR, N. Korea have them?
    I can’t see any point in not having them, when others do, I mean it’s more important to get rid of the need for having them then actually scrapping them.

    • Charley Allan (@charleyallan) said,

      All WMDs are bad, but we can only hold our own government to account. And the West’s hypocrisy on the use of violence (or threat of violence) is breathtaking.

      There is no “need” for us to have Trident. It’s already obsolete.

  4. mark taha said,

    Not 100% sure about Trident. Read Peter Hitchens in Mail on Sunday today-and Enoch Powell saw independent nuclear deterrent as a myth.Could hardly call them Loony Leftwingers or pacifists!

  5. Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    Couldn’t agree more.

    As an old fashioned Labour leftist the Corbyn faction’s new found love for dodgy online plebscites appalls me.

    Labour is pro-Trident now and will remain so until Conference changes that policy.

    A free vote in Parliament is only sane option.

  6. Political Tourist said,

    Corbyn in Clydebank talking to trade unionists that didn’t vote Labour.
    And the AWL that wants Trident to remain at Falsane

    • Steven Johnston said,

      They will probably talk rubbish about putting the £100 billion into the welfare state instead! Won’t create anymore jobs though as there will be job losses from scrapping trident.

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      Best place for it and Scottish jobs.

    • Johnny Lewis said,

      “And the AWL that wants Trident to remain at Falsane” … eh? You really are a liar, aren’t you PT? Either that or seriously deluded.

  7. Charley Allan (@charleyallan) said,

    You changed the headline! Perhaps “comradely advice” would be better…

    And the Morning Star makes more sense than the rest of the press!

    • Jim Denham said,

      Hi Charley: I tried to contact you (via twitter, which I’m not familiar with) before publishing. Sorry if you’re not happy with my headline. I suppose I could change it, even now … but would there be any point?

      I thought it was a very sensible piece that deserved wider readership. You’ll always be welcome to write articles here, comrade!

      Btw: if you wish to speak to me personally, my no is 07517 941 264

      I thank you for taking the trouble to get in touch.

      • Charley Allan (@charleyallan) said,

        Hi Jim, no it’s fine, I’m just kidding around. Thanks for your kind words – just please try not to bash the Star, it plays an important role and we need unity among the left now more than ever…

      • Jim Denham said,

        Thanks, Charley

  8. Jim Denham said,

    Bloody hell: I think I agree with that Stalinist moron Nooman on this:

  9. Andrew Coates said,

    I think that given recent divisions emerging from the stand of UNITE and the GMB, not to mention (I agree with Jim on this) the sensible analysis of Newman which also raises complexities, that an on-line Labour vote is just not going to happen.

  10. Steven Johnston said,

    The debate is kind of pointless until he is actually elected with a massive majority AND he can count on his MPs to back in him to scrap Trident. Until then it’s pie in the sky.

  11. Rilke said,

    Under the terms of our agreement and pact, Trident missiles cannot be scrapped for another 12 years. That is written in to our Nato membership. Labour people who say it can, are either mistaken or liars. If we rescind from NATO or renegotiate our membership) then maybe. What can be scrapped are the carry vessels and the form the missiles are deployed – the submarines. We can scrap the submarine carry vessels but the missiles, in some form, will remain. Fact.
    If the real argument is to rescind from NATO then it should be stated clearly.I would support this. As it is, the get rid of Trident debate is bogus. Unless of course, we want to act as Salmond and the SNP and say that some other poor saps can be nuclear targets while we get the benefits. In other words, I am a clean soul and so do not carry a cosh, but my bodyguard/partner does and so he gets the blame and the heat while I get the feeling of both safety and smug self-righteousness.

  12. Lamia said,

    I agree. Corbyn and co should just go quiet for a bit on Trident, the Falklands etcetera, and the public will simply forget all about it, meaning that Jezzer can get rid of them at his leisure once he’s in Downing Street. Good luck with that.

    The hard and far left are a wonderful example of rather dim people convinced that they are in fact strategic geniuses far more cunning and clever than the ignorant sheeple – who look at them with a mixture of bored amusement and contempt, and who will simply not vote for them.

    Yesterday, some of Seumas Milne’s fellow Putinites made bomb hoax calls that affected thousands of school children in the Midlands. Jezzer and co have made themselves hostages to fortune by their juvenile regressive leftist sympathies with anyone who hates the West. Do you really think this has not been noted by the public?

    Do you realise the damage that Corbyn has already done to Labour’s prospects at the next election simply by his choice of dodgy friends and advisers and his idiotic disastrously-timed policy suggestions (e.g. making a statement against renewing Trident – on the very same day that NK asnnounces it has tested an H-bomb)?

    No, you don’t. The people are just sheeple and Seumas and co have it all under control. Keep telling yourselves that.

    This is like accompanying someone on a five-mile long march to throw themselves off a cliff, with you all the while pleading with them not to do it. Eventually you realise they are not going to listen, and anyway you have a casserole in the oven. The sheer stamina of the Corbynites is the most praiseworthy (only praiseworthy) thing about them. How they manage week in, week out, to keep digging themselves into holes is quite extraordinary.

    Keep marching, comrades. Onwards to oblivion.

    • Lamia said,

      That’s it, keep marching, and keep those fingers in your ears.

  13. Antonio said,

    Interesting that this supposedly “socialist” blog allows comments from right wing Tories like lamia (not to mention racist crackpots like Glasgow and Johnson) but deletes comments critical of them. Very telling.

    • Steven Johnston said,

      It’s actually Johnston and I hope that comments are not deleted on my behalf.

    • Lamia said,

      I didn’t ask for your intellectually inadequate ‘comment’ to be deleted, Antonio, and would have been happy for it to remain – it showed you up as incapable of responding to actual points (yes, points even if you don’t agree with them) about the subject with anything but weak name-calling (if you are just going to insult, then at least do it with a little style and imagination).

      I believe that Corbyn and his hard-left and far supporters are making Labour unelectable for the foreseeable future. Funnily enough, I don’t like that prospect, and it does not make me a Tory to point it out. At some point, reality is going to force the Corbynites to take on board that there is far more to antipathy towards him and his politics than Tory and media ‘smearing’.

      That reality is currently likely to take the form of a bad Labour defeat at the next General Election. If you want to shrug that off and stick to pointlessly insulting those whose comments on the subject you don’t like, that’s up to you. I expect that George Osborne and co will be very happy indeed with such a complacent and self-defeating attitude.

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