So the big question on every anti-nuclear campaigner’s lips is ‘who are these advisers’? The ones that The Telegraph claims want Jeremy Corbyn to put scrapping Trident on the ‘back burner’.
The newspaper reports that his inner circle is planning his first 100 days in office and they want to avoid issues that will be divisive within the Labour Party. He is urged, it is reported, to prioritise issues that can ‘unify’ the party, such as ‘blocking welfare cuts, protecting workers’ rights and fighting austerity.’ Problem issues, like Trident, should be shunted off to the side. Of course I’m not privy to any such discussion so I don’t know whether this is true or not. Let’s hope it’s just right-wing spin.
But it is crucial that Trident remains a central plank of Jeremy’s campaign. It alarms me that Owen Jones’ two recent articles on what Jeremy Corbyn should do, if elected, make virtually no reference to Trident, just a passing mention in one, in a paragraph about Scotland. I’m not suggesting that Owen Jones has advised Jeremy to sideline Trident or indeed that he is amongst Jeremy’s advisers, but the failure of a key Labour left figure – who has a very good record on opposing Trident himself – to factor Trident into a Corbyn leadership programme is of grave concern.
I have two basic points to make about this issue:
- Trident cannot be put on the ‘back burner’ because a decision on whether or not Trident is to be replaced is expected in Parliament in early 2016. Labour will have to vote on it, and Labour needs a policy which represents the majority view of the population – which happens to be the view of Jeremy Corbyn: Trident should not be replaced. This is not something that can be deferred. This is without doubt a question for the first 100 days and it should not be fudged because a relatively small number of powerful Labour figures are attached to a Cold War system of weapons of mass destruction.
- If Jeremy’s advisers are trying to sanitise Jeremy, push him into the middle ground and drop policies that will challenge the Labour establishment, then they are doing him a grave disservice. Nothing is to be gained from ‘triangulating’ with the right. Maybe they want to keep Andy Burnham on side, but dropping a fundamental issue because he threatens to leave a shadow cabinet over it is just plain ludicrous. If anyone thinks that the party establishment will be satisfied with a few policy concessions – like Trident for example – then they are seriously mistaken. They will come back and back for more, and eventually nothing will be left but a few gestures to those at the bottom of the pile.
Now is the time to stick to principles. People are supporting Jeremy because of what he stands for. De-gut his policies and the support will fall away. His are not fringe positions, marginal in society. They are popular. They are what is necessary – and they are what can be achieved.
(I am pleased to report that since I posted this blog, Owen Jones has contacted me to reiterate his position on Trident – he is wholly and passionately committed to scrapping Trident. We both agree that Jeremy will never abandon this position. The point of my blog is to tell anyone who might be suggesting it – DON’T!)