Emily Thornberry has claimed accusations Jeremy Corbyn was opposed to nuclear power is “fake news” - despite the Labour leader having previously been opposed to nuclear power.
Labour lost the Copeland by-election on Thursday to the Tories. It is the first time a governing party has taken a seat from the opposition for decade.
The seat is home to the Sellafield nuclear power station and the security of jobs in the sector was a key battleground in the by-election.
The Conservatives seized on quotes from Corbyn in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, when he said: “I say no nuclear power, decommission the stations we’ve got”.
And in his 2015 leadership policy document, Corbyn said:
“I am opposed to fracking and to new nuclear on the basis of the dangers posed to our ecosystems.
“New nuclear power will mean the continued production of dangerous nuclear waste and an increased risk from radioactive accident and nuclear proliferation.”
But speaking to Sky News today in the wake of the Copeland defeat, Thornberry denied Corbyn had been opposed to nuclear power.
“Word had got out that Jeremy wasn’t in favour of nuclear power. That isn’t true. That’s what you call fake news,” she said.
The shadow foreign secretary said voters in Copeland were worried about two things “one was the future of the hospital and the second was the future of nuclear power in the area” as “all the jobs depend on it”.
In January, Corbyn did drop his previous opposition to nuclear power and said the existing power plants would remain “for a long time”.
Ken Livingstone, a close ally of Corbyn, today said the Labour leader’s “attitude on nuclear power” was “always going to be a vulnerability” in Copeland.