David Cameron today refused to rule out delaying a vote on Trident renewal until after Labour’s conference in October in a bid to exploit the opposition’s split on the issue.
During this afternoon’s Prime Minster’s Questions, Mr Cameron mocked Shadow Defence Secretary Emily Thornberry for suggesting the UK’s nuclear deterrent was as outdated as Spitfires.
To much laughter from his own benches, the Prime Minster read out a tweet from a Labour MP which said she needed to rest in a “darkened room” after Ms Thornberry's presentation on Trident on Monday evening.
Tory MP Dr Julian Lewis tried to raise the issue above party politics, and called on Mr Cameron to push forward with a vote as soon as possible.
Dr Lewis, who is chairman of the influential Defence Select Committee, said: "Given the fun that the Prime Minister had a moment ago at the Labour Party’s expense over a Trident successor, it must be tempting for him to put off the vote until Labour’s conference in October.
“May I urge him to do the statesman-like thing and hold that vote as soon as possible because everybody is ready for it and everybody is expecting it.”
The Prime Minister replied: “What we should do is have the vote when we need to have the vote and that is exactly what we will do, but no one should be in any doubt that this Government is going to press ahead with all the decisions that are necessary to replace in full our Trident submarines.”
Monday’s meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party saw Ms Thornberry, who was appointed Shadow Defence Secretary in last month’s reshuffle, heckled during her presentation on Trident.
Ms Thornberry suggested high-tech drones could track submarines in future, and Trident could become outdated just as the Second World War-era Spitfire planes did.
Former Defence Minister Kevan Jones declared at one point during the heated gathering “you’re an embarrassment”, and left the meeting saying she was “waffly and incoherent…cringeworthy”.
In PMQs this afternoon, Mr Cameron said: “It takes quite a talent from a Shadow Defence Secretary to insult Spitfire pilots and our brave submariners all in one go.
“Another week another completely ludicrous Labour position on defence. I think the last word should go to the Honourable Member for Bridgend [Madeline Moon], and thank you Twitter for this one, who, as she came out of the PLP meeting tweeted this: ‘Oh dear, oh dear, oh my god, oh dear, oh dear, need to go to rest in a darkened room.’
“I expect she’ll find the rest of her party will be there with her.”
Oh dear oh dear omg oh dear oh dear need to go rest in a darkened room
— Madeleine Moon (@MadeleineMoon) February 8, 2016
After Mr Cameron had made the remarks, Ms Moon took to Twitter to say: "Heard I was mentioned in PMQs. Nothing to do with me- I'm still in my darkened room..."
Heard I was mentioned in PMQs. Nothing to do with me- I'm still in my darkened room...
— Madeleine Moon (@MadeleineMoon) February 10, 2016
Emily Thornberry talks to Lucy Powell during PMQs
While Mr Cameron was having fun at her expense, Ms Thornberry, who was sitting on Labour’s frontbench, struck up what seemed to be an intense conversation with Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell.
After Mr Cameron had concluded his remarks, Ms Thornberry offered chewing gum to those sitting around her, but her colleagues declined to take any.