Socialist Worker

GMB council of war helps Labour right rally against Jeremy Corbyn over Trident

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2492

The GMB gathering in Newcastle

The GMB gathering in Newcastle (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Over 50 GMB union delegates from the defence industry gathered in Newcastle yesterday, Thursday, to discuss Trident renewal.

It will form the basis of the union’s response to the Labour Party’s defence review.Delegates, drawn from sites which are closely associated with Trident, were unanimously in favour of its renewal.  

The Labour right and union leadership also used it as a council of war against Jeremy Corbyn ahead of a mass demonstration against Trident tomorrow.

Gary Smith, GMB Scotland Secretary, said, "Instead of honouring you as hard-working, committed trade unionists there are people, many of whom are at the heart of the Labour and trade union movement, who, quite simply, want you to lose your jobs.

“They want to cancel the renewal of Trident, whatever the consequences. They want you to forget about the decent jobs you have with good prospects, secure terms and conditions of employment. For these armchair generals playing their student politics as they sip lattes in Holyrood and Islington, none of this matters.

“Well, we’re going to give these professional posers the fight of their lives.”


John Woodcock MP said, “I’m not going to let the unilateralists have a clear run if Jeremy Corbyn is determined to revisit Trident renewal.”

Woodcock chairs Labour’s backbench defence committee, which the Parliamentary Labour Party is using to undermine Corbyn’s leadership. He said, “We’re having weekly briefings—all of them have been well attended.We’ve had top notch speakers such as a former First Sea Lord.”

He made clear that he has no faith in Labour’s shadow defence minister Emily Thornberry or the party’s defence review.

Speaking about nuclear weapons, Kevan Jones MP said, “I want to expose the myth that this is a Tory policy. We have to remember that it was the 1945 Labour government that first developed it.

“They were difficult times of austerity, but the decision was taken in an uncertain world.”

Jones resigned as shadow armed forces minister when Thornberry was appointed in January.

The GMB leadership argued for Trident renewal in order to keep manufacturing jobs. Sir Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary, argued, “Whether or not Britain should be a nuclear country or not is not the argument.”

The right inflates Trident jobs statistics to boost the argument for renewal. For instance, of the 6,500 jobs at Faslane naval base in Scotland only 520 “directly rely on the Trident programme”.


There’s no reason for the base to close and decommissioning would create large numbers of jobs. Those highly skilled defence workers could be put to work on socially useful projects, such as infrastructure or renewable energy building projects.

As defence worker Ollie Jones told Socialist Worker last week, “There’s nothing to stop us making wind turbines. They call us defence workers, but I don’t buy that. We’re skilled workers—we just happen to work in defence because that’s the biggest employer.”

Meanwhile a GMB survey at the start of this month identified that the first 52 councils to set budgets this year would axe 25,165 jobs. Of those, 22,128 would be in Labour local authorities.

The GMB leadership should be fighting those Labour councils axing jobs, not Corbyn over Trident.

But the likes of Jones and Woodcock aren’t interested in that. Their speeches descended into Cold War scaremongering rhetoric about the threat posed by Russian aggression.

While the union leaders attack Tory austerity, many believe Labour can’t win unless it adapts to some right wing ideas.

There is a battle going on inside Labour and making concessions to the right won’t work—it’s important that Corbyn has agreed to speak at the demonstration tomorrow.

The battle over Trident will be won outside Labour. It means building a mass movement against imperialist war and weapons of mass destruction as part of the fight for different sort of society altogether.

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