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Labour's 'Position' on Trident Is Indefensible

18/07/2016 14:25 | Updated 18 July 2016
Dan Kitwood via Getty Images

Everyone knows that the Labour Party is divided, but for them to be approaching tonight's Trident vote with three distinct positions is really quite astonishing.

Perhaps the most confused of the three Labour positions tonight is the 'abstainers' - fronted by the usually formidable Shadow Minsters Clive Lewis and Emily Thornberry. They claim that 'nothing whatsoever will happen as a result' of this vote, but that's only the case if the Government win. It's simply unimaginable that the Government could continue pouring billions into this project if Parliament voted it down, yet the Labour Shadow Ministers in charge of the Defence and Foreign Office briefs have already capitulated. I don't dismiss Lewis and Thornberry's case about the schedule of this vote playing into the Tories' hands, but one of the unfortunate parts of being in opposition is that you don't get to dictate the timings of your battles. When they talk of 'cheaper' options for maintaining our nukes they make clear that the Labour party is willing, in one way or another, to maintain Britain's status as a nation with weapons of mass destruction - that's a travesty.

The second group within the Parliamentary Labour Party - and possibly the largest in size- are those who want us to keep these weapons. At least this group make their position clear, but they are utterly wrong. Not only does renewing Trident send a dangerous signal to the rest of the world that security means owning weapons of mass destruction, but the presence of these missiles in our country presents a direct threat from sabotage or human error. Nuclear Weapons are also a colossal waste of money. While our local public services are under severe strain, troops are underequipped and our NHS is in crisis - do Labour MPs really want to be pouring billions into this cold war relic?

The final Labour position is held by Jeremy Corbyn and some of his closest allies who say they'll vote against Trident, and offer a free vote to the rest of the party on the issue. While I support Corbyn in his opposition to new nuclear weapons it is deeply disappointing that the rest of the party aren't being asked to follow him through the 'no' lobby. John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, claims that such a position is being taken because this vote is a 'matter of conscience'. I'm willing to accept that argument, but only if such a view extends to other votes on defence spending, cuts to public services and civil liberties legislation - surely they are 'matters of conscience' too.

What's desperately needed from Labour is real leadership. Instead of complaining about the parliamentary procedure, or keeping quiet, those of us who believe in a nuclear weapons-free Britain should be making our case heard - within our parties and to the wider world. Just last week we learnt that the families of British Service personnel are living without basic facilities like hot water and heating. Such suffering - which is occurring just as we prepare to commit billions of pounds to a weapons system that can never be used - is symbolic of a deeply skewed politics.

Ultimately we'll only build a nuclear weapons-free world if we're willing to make a stand and lead the way.

I'm proud to be walking through the voting lobby tonight together with my predecessor as Chair of Parliamentary CND, Jeremy Corbyn - something we've done many times before. I just hope that in the coming hours he makes a passionate and evidence-based case for scrapping Trident, and asks his Shadow Cabinet and MPs to vote to rid Britain of nuclear weapons.

Caroline Lucas is the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion

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