These are wild times in the Labour party, as an appetite for self-destruction grips the party leadership. Central to the ‘new politics’ approach of the party leadership is a deliberate abandonment of basic political professionalism. Positions don’t have to make sense, policies don’t need to be thought through, the political concerns of the public can be dismissed and the media should be hated at all times and ignored wherever possible.
This new approach represents an orgiastic embrace of the chaos theory: anything goes and no one is to blame. To understand this approach is to understand the Labour leadership and it is through this peculiar prism that the internal Labour debate about Trident should be seen.
Trident renewal is Labour party policy; it is the settled will of the country, and every decision relating to it will have been taken by 2020. Renewal is morally right, strategically justified and overwhelmingly in the national interest.
Creating our independent nuclear deterrent and our civil nuclear industry should be a source of immense pride for Labour. We should take great pride in being the standard bearers for one of Attlee’s most important legacies.
The truth is that this review wasn’t needed: it’s a device with which to exercise political control and which, right now, is splitting the party. Moreover, it’s the juvenile transparency of this approach that is causing so much anger within the PLP. In the absence of any credible case for abandoning Trident, those who oppose Trident renewal categorise pro-Trident Labour MPs as ‘right wing’.
There’s nothing right wing about acknowledging the achievements of the post-war Labour government; nothing right wing about supporting the tens of thousands of skilled workers that enable us to maintain our deterrent; nothing right wing about taking pride in those communities who undertake these important national missions; nothing right wing about seeking to rid the world of nuclear weapons through a multilateral approach. On the contrary, these are Labour values that chime with Labour voters and supporters across the country. There’s nothing pro-Labour about any policy that doesn’t recognise all of this.
More importantly, there’s nothing pro-Labour about deliberately choosing to split the party on an issue that the Leadership knows cannot be influenced from a position of Opposition and about which every decision will have been made before 2020.
Worst of all, the leadership has made an informed choice and that choice is to pursue electoral defeat. The leadership knows that an anti-Trident policy will lead to rejection at the ballot box. It knows that this is a litmus test of credibility. The leadership knows that an anti-Trident position means taking a pass on power; it’s an open-armed, wide-eyed, deliberate embrace of the wilderness.
This is a chaotic, dishonest, shambolic process. For the sake of the Labour leadership, for the sake of the party, for the sake of the 9.3 million people who voted Labour at the last election, and for the sake of the country, it should be abandoned without delay.
I will never vote for unilateral nuclear disarmament and I will go into the 2020 general election as a pro-Trident Labour candidate.
Jamie Reed is Labour MP for Copeland in Cumbria.