Nuclear testing at the Bikini Atoll. (Photo:Getty)
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Exclusive: 75% of Labour PPCs oppose Trident renewal

75 per cent of Labour's parliamentary candidates oppose renewing Britain's nuclear deterrent - including some in the party's safest seats.

75 per cent of Labour's prospective parliamentary candidates are against renewing Britain's nuclear defence system, Trident, the New Statesman can reveal. A representative survey for CND, seen by the NS, shows that Labour's parliamentary candidates - from traditionally safe seats to unwinnable Conservative strongholds through to some of the most vulnerable of Labour's target seats - are overwhelmingly against maintaining the nuclear deterrent when it comes up for renewal. 

The survey includes both longstanding members of Parliament and new candidates. Significantly, the new intake of MPs is much less pro-nuclear than the one that it replaces. Meg Munn, the hawkish Labour MP for the safe seat of Sheffield Heeley, will be replaced by Lou Haigh, who believes "investment in nuclear is immoral in and of itself". In Leeds East, George Mudie, who voted in favour of maintaining Trident in 2007, is replaced by Richard Burgon, who says:

Nuclear weapons pose a threat to the whole of humanity. For the sake of the whole of humanity and for the sake of generations still to come, we need to achieve a world free from nuclear weapons. I oppose the replacement of Trident and support a global ban on nuclear weapons. Opposing the replacement of Trident is not only right as part of a practical strategy to create a safer world – it will also save the UK Government £100 billion, which should be spent on hospitals, schools and job creation.

Outside those seats that Labour already holds, opposition to the deterrent is stronger among the target 106 than the overall pool, at 80 per cent. The Labour PPCs in Labour's target seats who are against the deterrent include Alex Sobel, a longstanding ally of Ed Miliband, who says:

I believe in a Nuclear Free World and believe we should put our weapons up for decommissioning at an international convention, encouraging others to do the same. I do not believe it is enough for the UK to disarm alone and we should use our position and Labour’s willingness to disarm to encourage others to do so. The next Labour government will conduct a Strategic Defence and Security Review, and this should consider the possibilities and implications of scrapping and not replacing Trident. I believe that to be the minimum position. If elected as MP for Leeds NW, I would certainly be arguing for Trident decommissioning in that post-election review. When the next Labour government attends the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York, it will be supporting a nuclear weapons convention or ban, similar to those for chemical or biological weapons? That is exactly my own position.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the nature of her opponent, Purna Sen, Labour's candidate in Caroline Lucas' seat of Brighton Pavilion, is also opposed to maintaining the nuclear deterrent. She says:

My father joined the Aldermaston marches in the early 1960s and he introduced me to CND as a child. I grew up understanding the danger of nuclear weapons. The end of the cold war and the nature of modern conflicts confirm both their danger and irrelevance. Activists and brave governments have moved us away from other weapons of mass destruction. We now need a brave and forward looking government that will act to deliver a world free of nuclear weapons. I will continue to oppose these weapons as an MP, including Trident.

Even if Labour were to make only small gains, the unilateralist cause will be much stronger than in this parliament, even allowing for the likely defeat of longstanding anti-nuclear MPs in Scottish seats, such as Katy Clark and Ian Davidson. Nancy Platts, the PPC for Brighton Kemptown, regarded as low-hanging fruit by party insiders, and Catherine West, the PPC for Hornsey and Wood Green, which the party expects to win even if it loses the national contest by a heavy margin, both say they will vote against renewing the deterrent. Ms West says:

We live in an increasingly complex world where, now, more than ever, peaceful solutions to conflict are urgently needed. We can no longer spend the large amounts of public money on expensive weaponry. Some progress has been made in recent years to dissuade world powers from resorting to the production of nuclear weapons. We have an opportunity now to highlight the progress that has been made towards negotiation and the use of politics and diplomacy in resolving conflict. However, I believe we need to achieve nuclear disarmament once and for all. I support a global ban on such weapons as part of our commitment to nuclear disarmament, as was successful with other weapons of mass destruction such as chemical and biological weapons. I will oppose the replacement of Trident if elected as an MP.

Labour's support for maintaining a nuclear deterrent that is constantly at sea - in other words, a submarine system similar to Trident rather than pared-down version - was passed by the party's National Policy Forum without opposition and will remain in the manifesto. Passing the commitment through the House of Commons after the next election may prove a somewhat trickier ask. 


Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman and the PSA's Journalist of the Year. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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Jeremy Corbyn supporters should stop excusing Labour’s anti-immigration drift

The Labour leader is a passionate defender of migrants’ rights – Brexit shouldn’t distract the new left movement from that.

Something strange is happening on the British left – a kind of deliberate collective amnesia. During the EU referendum, the overwhelming majority of the left backed Remain.

Contrary to a common myth, both Jeremy Corbyn and the movement behind him put their weight into a campaign that argued forcefully for internationalism, migrants’ rights and regulatory protections.

And yet now, as Labour’s policy on Brexit hardens, swathes of the left appear to be embracing Lexit, and a set of arguments which they would have laughed off stage barely a year ago.

The example of free movement is glaring and obvious, but worth rehashing. When Labour went into the 2017 general election promising to end free movement with the EU, it did so with a wider election campaign whose tone was more pro-migrant than any before it.

Nonetheless, the policy itself, along with restricting migrants’ access to public funds, stood in a long tradition of Labour triangulating to the right on immigration for electorally calculated reasons. When Ed Miliband promised “tough controls on immigration”, the left rightly attacked him.  

The result of this contradiction is that those on the left who want to agree unequivocally with the leadership must find left-wing reasons for doing so. And so, activists who have spent years declaring their solidarity with migrants and calling for a borderless world can now be found contemplating ways for the biggest expansion of border controls in recent British history – which is what the end of free movement would mean – to seem progressive, or like an opportunity.

The idea that giving ground to migrant-bashing narratives or being harsher on Poles might make life easier for non-EU migrants was rightly dismissed by most left-wing activists during the referendum.

Now, some are going quiet or altering course.

On the Single Market, too, neo-Lexit is making a comeback. Having argued passionately in favour of membership, both the Labour leadership and a wider layer of its supporters now argue – to some extent or another – that only by leaving the Single Market could Labour implement a manifesto.

This is simply wrong: there is very little in Labour’s manifesto that does not have an already-existing precedent in continental Europe. In fact, the levers of the EU are a key tool for clamping down on the power of big capital.

In recent speeches, Corbyn has spoken about the Posted Workers’ Directive – but this accounts for about 0.17 per cent of the workforce, and is about to be radically reformed by the European Parliament.

The dangers of this position are serious. If Labour’s leadership takes the path of least resistance on immigration policy and international integration, and its support base rationalises these compromises uncritically, then the logic of the Brexit vote – its borders, its affirmation of anti-migrant narratives, its rising nationalist sentiment – will be mainlined into Labour Party policy.

Socialism in One Country and a return to the nation state cannot work for the left, but they are being championed by the neo-Lexiteers. In one widely shared blogpost on Novara Media, one commentator even goes as far as alluding to Britain’s Road to Socialism – the official programme of the orthodox Communist Party.

The muted and supportive reaction of Labour’s left to the leadership’s compromises on migration and Brexit owes much to the inept positioning of the Labour right. Centrists may gain personal profile and factional capital when the weaponising the issue, but the consequences have been dire.

Around 80 per cent of Labour members still want a second referendum, and making himself the “stop Brexit” candidate could in a parallel universe have been Owen Smith’s path to victory in the second leadership election.

But it meant that in the summer of 2016, when the mass base of Corbynism hardened its factional resolve, it did so under siege not just from rebelling MPs, but from the “Remoaners” as well.

At every juncture, the strategy of the centrist Labour and media establishment has made Brexit more likely. Every time a veteran of the New Labour era – many of whom have appalling records on, for instance, migrants’ rights – tells Labour members to fight Brexit, party members run a mile.

If Tony Blair’s messiah complex was accurate, he would have saved us all a long time ago – by shutting up and going away. The atmosphere of subterfuge and siege from MPs and the liberal press has, by necessity, created a culture of loyalty and intellectual conformity on the left.

But with its position in the party unassailable, and a radical Labour government within touching distance of Downing Street, the last thing the Labour leadership now needs is a wave of Corbynite loyalty-hipsters hailing its every word.

As the history of every attempt to form a radical government shows, what we desperately need is a movement with its own internal democratic life, and an activist army that can push its leaders as well as deliver leaflets for them.

Lexit is no more possible now than it was during the EU referendum, and the support base of the Labour left and the wider party is overwhelmingly in favour of free movement and EU membership.

Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott are passionate, principled advocates for migrants’ rights and internationalism. By showing leadership, Labour can once again change what is electorally possible.