Jeremy Corbyn has said that he and deputy leader Tom Watson are looking into “digital ways of involving people” in the debate over Trident, suggesting that there could be a “vote of individual members” on the decision.
However, outgoing GMB general secretary Sir Paul Kenny warned that the trade union would not “go quietly into the night”, and would fight for Labour to keep a policy supporting Trident renewal.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Corbyn confirmed that the Defence policy review, which will look at the Trident policy, will be carried out “jointly by the National Executive and the Shadow Cabinet.” He added that while he was looking at new ways of engaging people to have a broad input into the review, “it’s not for me to decide how the voting is done within the party, that’s for the National Executive to do.”
He said of the review:
“Party members, trade unions, affiliates and all the many, many peace organisations, think tanks and everybody else can put forward a point of view.
“I want members to have a big say in it. Whether that’s a vote of individual members or a vote of conference, that’ll be decided. I haven’t made up my mind yet.”
He added that “there also has to be a policy of what we do to ensure a protection of skills and jobs throughout British industry that are somehow reliant on the whole Trident nuclear programme.” But he made clear that he was still firmly opposed to any renewal.
“If we want to live in a nuclear-free world, we have to recognise that we have to make a contribution to it,” he said. “Renewing Trident, in my view, goes against the fundamental spirit of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which requires the five nuclear weapons states not to renew their weapons systems.”
On the potential of an online vote, he said:
“Tom Watson and I are looking at digital ways of involving people, looking at lots of ways of modernising our politics, modernise our democracy, bring people in. Everybody’s got ideas, let’s hear them.”
The GMB’s Paul Kenny appeared on World At One several hours later to defend his trade union’s policy of supporting renewal, and made clear that change in Labour policy must be done through the existing rules:
“Of course people are entitled to want to change policy. Why not? That is how it evolves. But there is a process and there are rules. And if anybody thinks that unions like the GMB are going to go quietly into the night while tens of thousands of our members’ jobs are literally Swaneed away by rhetoric, then they’ve got another shock coming.”