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Two shadow cabinet members hint they would quit over Trident policy change

Published 10/01/2016

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Two members of Labour's shadow cabinet have hinted they will quit if the party changes its policy to scrapping Trident.

Owen Smith, the shadow work and pensions secretary, and Lord Falconer, the shadow justice secretary, have both faced questions on whether they would walk away from the front bench over the issue.

The renewal of the UK's nuclear deterrent is looming as the next major point of contention for the party after Jeremy Corbyn shifted pro-Trident Maria Eagle from shadow defence secretary and replaced her with Emily Thornberry, who supports his call for Britain to disarm unilaterally.

Mr Smith was asked on Pienaar's Politics on BBC Radio 5 Live if a shift to a position of unilateral disarmament would prompt his resignation.

He said: "Well that would be difficult for me but I think the key thing that I would do is stick in, in the run-up to that decision, and make the case.

"We have got to have, I think, a very adult argument in the Labour Party about this - not in public I hope, not in the way in which we have occasionally argued publicly recently - but it is an enormously serious, technical, strategic question for Britain as to what the nature of our nuclear weapons are and whether we have a nuclear deterrent.

"My view is that unfortunately we do need one."

Meanwhile, Lord Falconer was asked a similar question on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

He said: "Let's see what happens in relation to that but I am clear that I support Trident remaining."

Meanwhile, shadow education secretary Lucy Powell, has also faced a grilling on Trident.

Asked on the BBC's Sunday Politics programme about the prospect of Labour opposing Trident renewal, the MP said: "I am not a unilateralist, I think that we should maintain an independent ongoing nuclear deterrent.

"But I am prepared to have a discussion about the capabilities we might need."

Ms Powell said she would be "very surprised" if Labour ended up opposing Trident despite Mr Corbyn's views.

"Let's see how this process goes forward," she said.

"In my experience of these things it never actually turns out to be as binary as everybody wants it to be.

"You come to compromise, your position changes and then you get a position that everyone can get behind."

When asked directly if she would resign if the party did officially back scrapping Trident she said: "I would be very surprised if we get to a position where the Labour Party policy is one of unilateral disarmament.

"We will see when we get there, because I don't think we will get there."

Elsewhere, on BBC Scotland's Sunday Politics Scotland programme, shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray called on Labour's shadow cabinet to unite the party.

His comments came after three MPs who resigned from the Labour front bench were dismissed by the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, as coming from a "narrow right-wing clique" based around the organisation Progress.

The MPs quit in protest over Jeremy Corbyn's reshuffle.

Mr Murray, a member of Progress, said: "I think some people in the shadow cabinet, including the Shadow Chancellor, should really ramp down the rhetoric a little bit.

"We are all one part of the Labour Party, we are all fighting to oppose the Conservative government at Westminster, and we are all fighting to win elections in Scotland in May. We are all part of the same team.

"I think that some of the words that he perhaps chose in that particular interview were unnecessary, indeed he should be trying to unite the party instead of ramping up rhetoric against parts of the party who are very loyal servants to the Labour Party, their constituents, and indeed great opponents of this austerity government."

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