Jeremy Corbyn said he wanted Labour to have an open debate about the big issues and he’s certainly got that. Yesterday, 70 per cent of the Scottish Labour conference voted for a motion opposing the renewal of the Trident independent nuclear deterrent — putting the party’s policy north of the border at odds with Labour as a whole. Although there was a motion tabled at Labour’s Brighton conference to debate Trident, it never reached the floor and the policy backing nuclear weapons remained intact. Plus, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale is in favour of Trident, while Corbyn is thought to be against.
Such votes have happened in the past at Scottish Labour conferences and have usually been ignored. But Labour is currently conducting a review of its defence policy and the vote in Scotland will definitely be taken into consideration by Team Corbyn. Diane Abbott, the shadow international development secretary and a close ally of Corbyn, tells Coffee House she believes ordinary Labour members have similar views to the Scottish Labour party and the whole party will eventually unite around opposition nuclear weapons:
‘I welcome the fact that the Scottish Party has voted not to renew Trident. The UK Labour Party is currently reviewing policy on this matter. I believe that the views of rank and file members, in the rest of the UK, will be found to reflect the views of Scottish colleagues. If the UK Labour party has a review and then a debate, I would assume that people would unite around the policy which is democratically arrived at.’
While Corbynites may rejoice that the party north of the border is tilting leftwards, moderates in the party continue to despair (yet again) at how quickly Labour is marching leftwards, while others see an opportunity. Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, for example:
Welcome to former Labour supporters who don't want their taxes raised, their country's defences weakened or their MSPs campaigning for indy.
— Ruth Davidson MSP (@RuthDavidsonMSP) November 1, 2015
In her own way, Davidson has outlined the line the Conservatives will undoubtedly use again against Labour after this vote. In the initial onslaught against the new Labour leader, Conservative HQ said Corbyn was a threat to Britain’s national and economic security. With the Trident vote and ongoing defence review, they have a new opportunity to reinforce this message.