Labour tensions amplify as Corbyn joins anti-nuke rally

Protesters hold banners up during an anti-Trident missile © David Moir
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will speak at an anti-Trident nuclear weapons demonstration on Saturday. Although senior members of the party openly support Trident renewal, Corbyn’s stance is popular among Labour’s left-leaning factions.

Corbyn will speak at a march organized by Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) alongside Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon.

The Labour party is divided over Britain’s at-sea nuclear weapons program, with the majority backing Trident renewal in line with the Conservative Party and a string of recent Labour administrations.

Deputy leader Tom Watson underlined his support for Trident on Wednesday when he told the Engineering Employers Federation (EEF) in London that the nuclear submarines were also supported by trade unions.

In a jointly-written article for the Guardian published on Thursday, Lucas, Sturgeon and Wood said Saturday’s protest will be a day to “put party allegiances aside and march together for a Britain free from nuclear weapons.

Replacing Trident is neither necessary nor sensible. The evidence is stacked against spending billions of pounds on these exceptionally dangerous weapons. They won’t make us safer,” they wrote.

The Westminster parliament will soon choose whether to join the vast majority of nuclear-free nations by moving on from Trident. It would be bold for Britain to ditch this weapons system, but it would be the right thing to do. We are uniting to march together for that very cause – we hope you’ll join us.”

Saturday’s march is expected to attract thousands of anti-nuclear protestors, with 9,000 people registered as attending on the event’s Facebook page as of Thursday morning.

Corbyn has long been opposed to renewing Trident. He called for Britain’s nuclear disarmament at a CND event to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in August last year.

Labour is deeply divided on the issue, however, with the majority of MPs, peers and supporting trade unions in favor of renewing the nuclear weapons program. Tensions in the party over the issue increased on Wednesday, when Deputy Leader Tom Watson made clear his support for Trident.

You asked me about my position on Trident. I’m in favor of a continuous at sea nuclear deterrent. My party's policy favors a continuous at sea nuclear deterrent,” Watson said at an EEF press conference.

Our trade unions, who represent the thousands of workers in the 450 companies who form the supply chain that make it, are in favor of Trident. You may have read that this view is not shared by all our MPs. But I have made it clear to David Cameron that if he honors his promise of a vote on Trident I will support it.

There are enough Labour MPs to guarantee that the vote is won. I know the PM is currently pre-occupied with the European referendum [on whether to leave the EU], but I happen to believe that the sooner this vote is tabled, the greater certainty we can give to industry, our allies and our enemies, that British Industry will deliver the Trident project in good time.”