MPs yesterday voted to renew Trident. This vote was not only used by the Tories and the Blairites to prove their reliability as representatives of the ruling class, but also as an opportunity to strike a blow against Jeremy Corbyn. But rather than discrediting Corbyn, these political attacks have only served to make him stronger and highlight the deep divisions that exist within the Labour Party.
After more than five hours of debate, MPs yesterday voted by 472 to 117 to renew Britain’s nuclear submarine programme, Trident. This vote was not only used by the Tories and the Blairites to prove their reliability as representatives of the ruling class, but also as an opportunity to strike a blow against Jeremy Corbyn, the left-wing leader of the Labour Party. But rather than discrediting Corbyn, these political attacks have only served to make him stronger and highlight the deep divisions that exist within the Labour Party.
For Theresa May, the new Tory leader and Prime Minister, the Trident vote provided an issue that her previously feuding party could unite around. Having been at each other’s throats over the question of Europe, the Tories closed ranks to vote in favour of Weapons of Mass Destruction. The image May attempted to present, therefore, was of a unified Conservative government, with a divided Labour Party on the opposition benches.
At the same time, the latest occupant of 10 Downing Street sent a clear message to the British Establishment that she would be a strong, reliable, and ruthless defender of their system and their interests, stating categorically that she would be willing to push the button and authorise a deadly nuclear strike if necessary.
Across the aisle, Labour’s right-wing MPs fell over themselves in their efforts to prove that they too could be reliable statesmen. Whilst condemning Corbyn for his “juvenile” opposition to nuclear weapons and calls for disarmament, the Blairites proudly announced their support for Trident in speeches that were near identical to those of their Tory “rivals”. In doing so, these venerable ladies and gentlemen confirmed to Labour’s rank-and-file what they already knew: that these careerist creatures are cut from the same capitalist cloth as the Tories.
Included in those who voted in favour of Trident were Angela Eagle and Owen Smith, the two potential challengers to Jeremy Corbyn in the latest leadership election. This support for nuclear weapons is a damning indictment against the supposed “left-wing” credentials of both candidates. Smith, in particular, has trying to paint himself as a soft-left alternative to Corbyn who can “unite the party”. He says he is in favour of public investment, promising to “tackle inequality” and spend £200bn on schools, hospitals, and transport. And yet, when faced with the concrete option of saving over £30bn by abolishing Trident, Smith votes in favour of the pointless waste of money that is Britain’s nuclear weapons system!
A number of these right-wingers tried to criticise the Labour leader for arguing against “official party policy”. But such rhetorical tactics are pure hypocrisy, coming from these unprincipled politicians. For starters, the question of Trident’s renewal was not discussed at the last Labour conference, and no official vote has been taken since last year’s leadership election and the subsequent mass influx of new members into the party.
Most importantly, these Blairite MPs conveniently fail to mention that it is they who have trampled all over the democratic will of Labour members, firstly by supporting the bombing in Syria last December; and secondly by attempting to launch a failed coup against the democratically elected leader.
Key coup plotters such as Tom Watson, the deputy leader, have cynically attempted to use the question of Trident to drive a wedge between Jeremy Corbyn and the mass of trade unionists who support him. “You have Len McCluskey [general secretary of Unite the Union] strongly supporting Jeremy Corbyn, who will be voting against the Trident programme tonight, which will put many defence workers in Unite out of their jobs if he gets his way,” Watson stated. “If I was a defence worker in Unite and I was reading social media that Unite were about to give Jeremy Corbyn a quarter of a million pounds of my subscriptions, I would be furious.”
Such shenanigans will not wash with rank-and-file Labour members and trade unionists, who can quite clearly see through the transparent manoeuvres of the Blairite back-stabbers. Indeed, as with all of the other recent vicious attacks against Corbyn over the past few weeks, such petulant behaviour by Watson et al. has only served to highlight the massive gulf that exists between the left-wing, anti-austerity, anti-war position of the Labour leader and the out-of-touch majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
Indeed, as new polling figures from YouGov show, the treacherous actions of the PLP right-wing have in fact increased Corbyn’s support amongst members. In a survey of Labour members who have joined the party before 2016, YouGov have found that the proportion who consider that Corbyn is doing well as leader has risen in the three weeks since their last poll. At the same time, the percentage of those who want Corbyn to stay on as leader as increased, as has the number saying they would vote for Corbyn in a new upcoming leadership election.
Furthermore, in news that will come as a sore disappointment to the Blairites, the survey’s figures show that Corbyn would win a clear majority in a leadership contest against either of the proposed challengers, the right-winger Angela Eagle or the so-called “unity” candidate of Owen Smith. In a three-way race, Corbyn would win 54% of first preferences, with Eagle second on 21% and Smith trailing on 15%. In a head-to-head contest, Corbyn would smash both Eagle and Smith, winning 58-34 and 56-34 respectively.
With Labour’s website crashing under the weight of thousands of new registered supporters who are going to extraordinary lengths to pay the £25 required to vote for Corbyn in the latest leadership election, and with thousands more from the trade unions expected to back the Labour leader once again, it is clear that the Blairites will really have to pull a rabbit out of the hat if they are to defeat Corbyn. Despite trying every dirty trick in the book, they have found themselves impotent in the face of a floodtide of Corbyn supporters and an unstoppable grassroots rebellion.
Defend Corbyn! Fight for Socialism!
The Trident vote has once again highlighted the clear antagonisms that exist within the Labour Party; a divide between two mutually incompatible set of class interests. On the one side, we have regularly seen a bulk of Blairite MPs who have supported austerity, war, and nuclear weapons in Parliament. 184 abstained on Tory welfare cuts last summer; 66 voted in favour of bombing in Syria; and now 140 have voted for Weapons of Mass Destruction. And this is not to mention the 172 who voted no confidence in Corbyn.
On the other side are hundreds of thousands of Labour members, a vast number of them newly involved in politics, who support Corbyn and his anti-austerity, anti-war, anti-Trident programme. It has become evident that these two tendencies cannot be unified, for they represent fundamentally different class interests.
The Blairites will never accept Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, and are already preparing the ground for a split following his seemingly inevitable leadership victory. They will not leave quietly, however, but will do their utmost to destroy and wreck the party on their way out.
It is time for all those who support Corbyn and who want to unite to fight the Tories to call for the deselection of these Blairite saboteurs. We want Labour MPs who are willing to stand up for the interests of ordinary working people. Rather than voting for spending billions on nuclear weapons, we should have workers’ MPs on a worker’s wage, who will vote for bold socialist policies – to expropriate the rich and plan the economy on the basis of society’s needs, not the profits of tiny elite.
- Say no to Trident! No to austerity!
- Vote for Corbyn!
- Fight for socialism!