By Nick Clark
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Labour MPs’ votes for Trident let the Tories off the hook

This article is over 7 years, 11 months old
Issue 2513
Protesting against Trident renewal on Monday of this week in London
Protesting against Trident renewal on Monday of this week in London (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Labour MPs lined up with the Tories to attack their own leader in parliament on Monday. It showed the lengths to which they will go to oust left wing leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The attacks came in a parliamentary debate on Trident nuclear weapons ahead of a vote on whether to renew the submarines that carry the missiles.

Corbyn, who has always campaigned against nuclear weapons, opposed renewal. But instead of opposing the Tories, several Labour MPs interrupted Corbyn.

Labour MP Angela Smith demanded to know why Corbyn wouldn’t give “a defence of the government’s motion”.

And Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock even intervened during Theresa May’s speech to say, “It remains steadfastly Labour Party policy” to vote with the Tories on Trident.

Only 47 Labour MPs voted against Trident—while 140 voted in favour. More Scottish National Party MPs voted against Trident than Labour ones.

Some 41 Labour MPs abstained following a call from Labour’s shadow foreign and defence secretaries Emily Thornberry and Clive Lewis.

The pair—who are supporters of Corbyn—had said MPs should treat the vote “with the contempt it deserved” by not taking part.

They argued that the debate was a deliberate attempt to divide Labour. In practice this meant failing to oppose the Tories.

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson called on Labour MPs to vote for Trident.

He also attacked Len McCluskey and Tim Roache, leaders of the Unite and GMB unions which organise workers in the nuclear industry, for supporting Corbyn.


In a sharp escalation of his previous comments, Watson said he believed Unite members would be “furious” about the union’s support for Corbyn.

MP Jamie Reed said he would support Trident, “even if there was a mood sweeping our country” against nuclear weapons. He said scrapping Trident would risk Britain’s “strategic relationship” with the US.

The arguments exposed the lies that supporting Trident was about “security” or being electable. Instead it was about, “our relationship with our Nato allies,” as Labour MP Toby Perkins said.

Labour MPs would rather line up with the Tories than question Britain’s relationship with the US.

Reed also attacked Corbyn’s “contempt” for Labour members. Yet a YouGov poll released the same night as the Trident vote showed Corbyn’s support among Labour members is increasing.

It found that Corbyn’s net approval rating has risen from three to 14 since open attempts to remove him began.

Over 50 percent of Labour members polled said they would vote for Corbyn in the leadership election.

It is Labour MPs who have contempt for their members, not Corbyn. He is likely to win Labour’s leadership election with a huge mandate—again.

But his MPs’ open assault on him in parliament shows they will never accept him as leader.

MPs united on desire to beat Corbyn—but divided on how to do it

Jeremy Corbyn’s enemies in the Labour Party were struggling to unite with each other as Socialist Worker went to press.

Angela Eagle and Owen Smith came forward as candidates to force Corbyn out.

Smith officially launched his campaign last Sunday and pitched his campaign to the left of Eagle’s.

He pledged to rewrite the iconic Clause 4 of the party’s constitution to “put tackling inequality at the heart of everything we do”.

Smith was said to have the support of at least 90 Labour MPs—and possibly more than Eagle. His support shows how Labour MPs have had to accommodate to the party’s shift to the left.

But Smith is no left winger. He has presented himself as the “unity candidate” who can get rid of Corbyn for the right.

The deadline for challengers’ nominations was set for Wednesday of this week. There is pressure on the candidate with the fewest nominations to pull out.

Corbyn will almost certainly beat either of them.

MPs are united on getting rid of Corbyn. One former shadow cabinet minister is reported to have said, “We need a battering ram to get rid of Jeremy.

“Who the battering ram is doesn’t matter as much as getting rid of him.” But MPs are divided on how best to do that.

Unions should take on the right wing in Labour

GMB union leader Tim Roache made a thinly-disguised attack on Corbyn on Monday for his opposition to Trident nuclear weapons.

Roache said, “It’s not acceptable to play politics with our members’ livelihoods.”

Yet other union leaders have spoken out in Corbyn’s defence.

Dave Ward of the CWU union sent a letter to branches last week condemning the “outrageous actions” of Labour MPs trying to force Corbyn out.

It came after the Bristol and District branch of the CWU said their local Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire wasn’t welcome in their offices.

Debbonaire, who opposes Corbyn, had used their office as a base for her campaign during last year’s general election.

Corbyn still has the support of most trade unions. But Roache’s words show their support is not guaranteed.

Union activists should follow Bristol CWU’s lead and demand their union withdraws support for Labour MPs attacking Corbyn.

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