Last month I posted a blog entry on the military threats being made by an anonymous British Army general who claimed that a Jeremy Corbyn Government could face “mutiny” from the Army if he scrapped Britain’s nuclear weapons. Today the story is back in the news after General Sir Nicholas Houghton expressed his concerns over Corbyn’s statement that he would never launch nuclear weapons if he was Prime Minister.
It is not known if Sir Nicholas is the same general as last month, but his political comment has outraged the Labour leader who has written to the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon asking him to “take action” against him for his unacceptable political comment.
Sir Nicholas (above), who was giving a Remembrance Day interview yesterday, told The Andrew Marr Show that he worried “if that thought was translated into power – because nuclear weapons would cease to be a deterrent if enemies knew our prime minister would never use them.”
Mr Corbyn responded by saying he was “seriously concerned” by the remarks. He continued: “It is essential in a democracy that the military remains politically neutral at all times.
“By publicly taking sides in current political arguments, Sir Nicholas has clearly breached that constitutional principle.”
Disunity in the Labour Shadow Cabinet continues as the shadow defence secretary, Angela Eagle, defended Sir Nicholas. She said that: “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him expressing himself in those terms … He has to answer questions from journalists when he’s asked and I’m completely comfortable with that.
I find Ms Eagle’s statement questionable. She has threatened to resign if scrapping Trident becomes Labour policy and her suggestion that Sir Nicholas had to answer the question is preposterous. Sir Nicholas knew that making a political statement is unacceptable for a top soldier and could simply have said “No comment,” or explained that he was unable to answer that question. Furthermore, he didn’t need to grant the BBC an interview. Did he do so knowing that he would be asked about Corbyn and Trident? Did he seek the interview so he could make his political comment?
Why is Ms Eagle even shadow defence secretary in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet if she doesn’t agree with his desire to scrap Trident? She must have known his beliefs and desires relating to nuclear weapons before she accepted the job. She made it clear that she was not a “unilateral disaramer.”. She said that she didn’t believe that works and that “I’d find it difficult if the policy changed, but we’re not there yet.”
I believe that some members of the Shadow Cabinet have taken their positions in it so that they can bide their time. They may wish to influence Corbyn away from the extremities of his left-wing ideas, but they may believe that Jeremy Corbyn’s time as Labour leader is likely to be relatively short. If that is the case – and it is a very real prospect – they hope that when Corbyn is pushed out and replaced by a more conventional laeader they will gain some benefit from having been on the shadow frontbench. They may even believe that they will be in a position to challenge for the leadership.
This may backfire. Many other Labour MPs, including those who opposed Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Party leadership, have withdrawn from the Labour frontbench. They too are biding their time and planning how they can bring themselves and their Party back to the cente-left where they believe it should be. Those MPs who have taken seats in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet may find it plays against them if Corbyn falls. Those who stayed above Corbyn’s left-wing agenda will claim they were not responsible for Labour’s plunge to the left and will condemn those who gave Corbyn and his leftward drive credibility by joining his shadow cabinet.
This is all disturbing for the future of Labour. I support many of Corbyn’s ideas, including scrapping Trident. However. I realise that Labour will find it very difficult to win the 2020 General Election if Jeremy Corbyn is still leader. It seems inevitable that there will be a challenge to his leadership, and probably sooner than later. As we have seen with other leadership challenges – in all parties – the quicker these happen, the longer the new leader has to establish himself before a General Election. My biggest concern if Corbyn is deposed is that he will simply be replaced by a centre-leftist MP who will return the party to the Tory-lite policies that lost it the last election and were the catalyst to the victory of Jeremy Corbyn. They will focus on opposing Corbyn’s extreme policies and ignore the reasons that tens of thousands of Labour Party members and supporters chose to give him the leadership.
Yesterday saw Remembrance Day services across the country. I attended the one at Liverpool’s cenotaph. The national commemorations, however, always centre on the service at the Cenotaph in London. Attended by the Queen and other members of the family, along with leading politicians including Jeremy Corbyn representing the Labour Party (above).
After crticism of his lack of respect at a ceremony last month, he seemed relaxed at yesterdays commemoration. He was smartly and appropriately dressed. He wore a poppy, sang the National Anthem, and laid a wreath with a short bow. He expressed his gratitude to those who had died for Britain, paying special mention to those who died fighting fascism in World War Two. He also expressed sadness for all lives lost in war.
Sadly, some people took to social media to express disquiet that his bow at the cenotaph wasn’t deep enough. Unbelievable. Corbyn himself dismissed the comments and said he felt “sorry” for those who felt it necessary to go on social media and make such ridiculous comments.