Labour considers ‘Japanese option’ for Trident nukes

© Andy Buchanan
Labour defense reviewers will consider using the ‘Japanese option’ of submarines without nukes aboard to head off union job fears, according to party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Anti-nuclear stalwart and Labour leader Corbyn told the BBC that there might be a third option between full unilateral disarmament and capitulating to the party’s hawks.

He said the current Labour defense review, which is due to report by spring, would examine the Japanese option of using submarines without nukes permanently aboard.

Pressed by BBC presenter Andrew Marr on Sunday, Corbyn said: “They don’t have to have nuclear warheads on them.

It is thought that the Japanese option might head off resistance by unions which represent Britain’s arms industry workers by allowing submarines to continue being built.

New shadow Defense Secretary Emily Thornberry, another long-time opponent of nuclear weapons, further explained the idea to Marr later on Sunday.

The way that it works is that the Japanese have got a capability to build a nuclear bomb...[but] you can then put them on to, or you can use them, in various delivery forms. So that’s a possibility. That is an option.

While the boss of the Unite union, Len McCluskey, has noted the debate on Japanese-style defense strategy, the most outspoken voices have come from industry.

We are certainly getting a lot of grumbling from the shop floor and questions about Unite’s policy,” Ian Bestwick, chief convener of Rolls-Royce submarines, told the Financial Times.

He warned the shift could see workers abandoning Unite to organize elsewhere.

We would expect people to drop out or go to another pro-Trident union,” he said.

John Woodcock, MP for Barrow and Furness, where the submarine industry is centered, has also been scathing of the plan to change the nuclear submarine tactic.

Having a deterrent that has no capacity to deter is like having an army with broken rifles and no ammunition,” he told the Guardian.

Corbyn’s arguments, however, have swayed other MPs. On Saturday, Home Affairs Committee chair Keith Vaz told RT’s Afshin Rattansi that the Labour leader has persuaded him on Trident.

I support Jeremy Corbyn’s line on this,” he said. “I think he has persuaded me that, he has made it very clear when he is prime minister that he is not going to be able to use these weapons, so what is the point in having them?

The Telegraph suggested later Monday that the other major trade union with workers in the defense industry said it was unlikely to endorse Corbyn’s idea.

The paper reported that senior sources in the GMB union thought the suggestion was "incoherent" and "not credible.