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Labour today sought to play down suggestions from its own leader that renewing the UK’s nuclear weapon defences would not be in the election manifesto.
Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Corbyn – a lifelong campaigner against nuclear weapons – claimed the party was having a “discussion” about whether renewing Trident should be in Labour’s election manifesto.
Within hours, Labour’s press office issued a statement saying the party still supported renewing the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent – a decision made at Labour conference in 2015 when Corbyn was leader.
But Corbyn suggested the decision had not yet been taken, and when asked by Marr this morning if a commitment to Trident would be in Labour’s manifesto, he said: “We haven’t completed work on the manifesto yet, as you’d expect. We’re less than 100 hours into this election campaign.
He added: “We’re having that discussion within the Labour party and we will produce our manifesto early in May.”
Within hours, a spokesperson for Labour tried to be much more definitive said: “The decision to renew Trident has been taken and Labour supports that.
“We also want Britain to do much more to pursue a proactive, multilateral disarmament strategy.”
A senior Labour source told Huff Post UK the manifesto would “reflect” the party’s current position on Trident.
Last July, MPs voted in favour of renewing the submarine-based weapons system, with 140 Labour MPs backing the motion, while just 47 – including Corbyn – voted against.
At Labour’s annual conference in Liverpool last September, then-Shadow Defence Secretary Clive Lewis reportedly punched a wall after a speech he was due to give in support of Trident renewal was changed on the auto-cue by Corbyn’s chief spin doctor Seumas Milne.
Lewis had been due to say he “would not seek to change” his party’s policy of backing renewal of the UK’s Trident submarines, but the line was scrapped meaning he only said it was “clear that our party has a policy for Trident renewal”.
Corbyn’s antipathy towards nuclear weapons and nuclear power is believed to be one of the key reasons for the party’s defeat in the previously safe seat of Copeland, Cumbria, in a by-election in February – where one of the biggest employers in the region is the Sellafield nuclear decommissioning plant.