Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, has been facing opposition from both within and outside his party regarding his stance on various political matters, one of which is the renewal of Trident. Corbyn is adamantly anti-nuclear weapons, declaring that he would never use them. Many view his uncompromising view and willingness to state it as political suicide.
Following Corbyn’s interview on the Today programme, many members of Labour’s shadow cabinet undermined Corbyn’s authority as leader, with Andy Burnham, Maria Eagle, Hilary Benn, Angela Eagle and Lord Falconer all insisting that their leader had been wrong to rule out the use of the deterrent. Many argue that it is a fundamental requirement for national security to retain nuclear weapons, and that without Trident the UK would be at risk. This is also the position held by trade unions, fearful of the loss of jobs if the system was scrapped.
Nonetheless, in my opinion one simply cannot conclude that Corbyn is ‘unelectable’ based on the premise that there is not a consensus within the Labour party. Corbyn has been put in a compromising situation – for most of his political career he has been campaigning for the removal of nuclear weapons, and to back down now would be interpreted by many as cowardly, however by maintaining his stance, he is encountering opposition within his party.
Moreover, Corbyn’s stance on Trident is in actual fact logical and reasonable – Trident would not have survived Blair’s government’s first defence review if not for the ban by the defence secretary at the time, George Robertson, on discussing it. Tony Blair was lobbied by the procurement industry, and he has openly admitted that ‘the expense is huge, and the utility in a post cold war world is less in terms of deterrence and non existent in terms of military use’. Moreover, the use of the missiles without American permission is unfeasible, therefore one can conclude that it is effectively useless, not to mention the fact that there is no visible nuclear threat to the UK from anywhere in the world.
However in an uncertain world, with potential threats from old-enemies and new ones, it is suggested Britain needs to maintain a deterrence, even if it is not willing to use it. The Labour Party position has always been to disarm multilaterally, believing unilateral disarmament would weaken Britain and open it up to challenge.
The debate continues, however what is clear is Corbyn can expect a rebellion within his own party when the matter comes for Parliamentary debate.
Ling Ling Douglas