Tendance Coatesy

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Clive Lewis and the Trident Speech.

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Clive Lewis speaking in Liverpool

Clive Lewis said he was clear that Labour policy was to renew Trident

Clive Lewis is the greatly respected, and liked, MP for Norwich South. Elected in 2015, his successful campaign election last year was a ray of hope in an otherwise desolate East Anglian political landscape. Clive is Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, a cause with which this Blog deeply identifies. He is Chair of the Anti-Academies Alliance, another issue which draws wide support across the Labour Party, teachers’ unions and the left, not least in another East Anglian town, Ipswich. Lewis was one of 36 Labour MPs to nominate Jeremy Corbyn for party leader in 2015. His speeches at labour movement events, such as the annual Burston Rally in Norfolk, attended by activists from all over East Anglia, have been exceptionally well-received.

To put it simply, this Blog thinks Clive Lewis is a good thing.

Why Clive Lewis was furious when a Trident pledge went missing from his speech

The shadow defence secretary is carving out his own line on security.  Says, STEPHEN BUSH in the New Statesman.

Clive Lewis’s first conference speech as shadow defence secretary has been overshadowed by a row over a last-minute change to his speech, when a section saying that he “would not seek to change” Labour’s policy on renewing Trident submarines disappeared.

Lewis took the stage expecting to make the announcement and was only notified of the change via a post-it note, having reportedly signed it of with the leader’s office in advance.

Lewis was, I’m told, “fucking furious”, and according to Kevin Schofield over at PoliticsHome, is said to have “punched a wall” in anger at the change. The finger of blame is being pointed at Jeremy Corbyn’s press chief, Seumas Milne.

 The article continues, pointing out that the GMB (Not to mention UNITE) take the view that building Trident is important for their members.

One of Corbyn’s more resolvable headaches on the NEC is the GMB, who are increasingly willing to challenge  the Labour leader, and who represent many of the people employed making the submarines themselves. An added source of tension in all this is that the GMB and Unite compete with one another for members in the nuclear industry, and that being seen to be the louder defender of their workers’ interests has proved a good recruiting agent for the GMB in recent years.

Strike a deal with the GMB over Trident, and it could make passing wider changes to the party rulebook through party conference significantly easier. (Not least because the GMB also accounts for a large chunk of the trade union delegates on the conference floor.)

So what happened? My understanding is that Milne was not freelancing but acting on clear instruction. Although Team Corbyn are well aware a nuclear deal could ease the path for the wider project, they also know that trying to get Corbyn to strike a pose he doesn’t agree with is a self-defeating task.

Bush concludes,

There are three big winners in all this. The first, of course, are Corbyn’s internal opponents, who will continue to feel the benefits of the GMB’s support. The second is Iain McNicol, formerly of the GMB. While he enjoys the protection of the GMB, there simply isn’t a majority on the NEC to be found to get rid of him. Corbyn’s inner circle have been increasingly certain they cannot remove McNicol and will insead have to go around him, but this confirms it.

But the third big winner is Lewis. In his praise for NATO – dubbing it a “socialist” organisation, a reference to the fact the Attlee government were its co-creators – and in his rebuffed attempt to park the nuclear issue, he is making himeslf the natural home for those in Labour who agree with Corbyn on the economics but fear that on security issues he is dead on arrival with the electorate.  That position probably accounts for at least 40 per cent of the party membership and around 100 MPs.

If tomorrow’s Labour party belongs to a figure who has remained in the trenches with Corbyn – which, in my view, is why Emily Thornberry remains worth a bet too – then Clive Lewis has done his chances after 2020 no small amount of good.

Politics Home states,

A senior Labour source said: “Clive punched a wall when he came off the stage because Seumas altered his speech on the autocue.

“He was fuming as he sent a post-it note on stage as he was sat there ready to speak and didn’t know what the exact change was. Apparently Clive had agreed it with Jeremy but Seumas changed it.”

The Huffington Post reports,

Former Shadow Defence Secretary Emily Thornberry and Lewis both co-chair the Trident review, which had been expected to resume its work as part of the new International Policy Commission, once fresh members and officers are appointed.

Lewis and Thornberry both abstained from the Commons vote on Trident renewal this year. Corbyn voted against.

Thornberry today told the BBC that the defence review was continuing.

And HuffPost has been told that the reason Lewis was angry was because he was already nervous about his first major conference speech, having been an MP for just over a year and in the defence job for a few months.

He did not object to any of the substance of the changes to his speech, but only to the last-minute nature of them, one source claimed.

Despite the last-minute watering down of his speech, CND was still furious that Lewis had declared party policy was to keep Trident rather than review it.

CND’s Kate Hudson accused him of a “U-turn”: “Lewis has clearly signalled that the Labour leadership will not seek to change Labour policy and appears to have abandoned its defence review conducted extensively over the past year.

“The majority of Labour members oppose Trident replacement, so where is the democracy in that?”

Green party leader and MP Caroline Lucas added: “It’s deeply disappointing to see the Labour party failing to oppose Trident replacement.”

But moderates welcomed the shift, with Labour MP John Woodcock saying: “The Trident vote is now behind us, the manufacturing work is going ahead and the matter is settled.

It is no secret that when the name, Seumas Milne, comes up this Blog’s hackles are raised. From Milne’s support for the right-wing Islamist  Tunisian  Ennahda party, his vilification of Charlie Hebdo, right back to his favourable judgements on the former Soviet Union, Milne has expressed views with which we profoundly disagree.

This incident, as Steve Bush indicates,  has more immediate causes.

GMB On Trident Renewal Vote July the 18th 2016.

GMB Calls On Politicians To ‘Stop Playing Fast And Loose’ And Get On With Trident Renewal Government needs to push ahead with approval of the Trident successor programme to give stability and security to workers and industry says GMB.

 UNITE’s policy on the issue of Trident,

Unite Executive Council statement on Trident 17 July 2016.

We welcome the Labour party Defence Review as a vital and serious contribution to UK defence strategy and, in particular, the renewed focus Jeremy Corbyn has placed on defence diversification, in the context of the priority he rightly places on world disarmament.  Whatever decision is taken on Trident, defence diversification must be an urgent priority for the next Labour government and Unite will campaign to ensure that it is.  Nevertheless, it is a fact that defence diversification is not going to be taken seriously by the present government, and we cannot ask our members in the affected industries to buy a pig in a poke.  The possibility of new jobs of similar quality tomorrow will not support workers and their families and communities today.


Unite recognises the strength of arguments against Trident from a financial point of view, and from the perspective of an assessment of the actual contemporary threats to British security, such as terrorism. We also of course accept the compelling moral argument against the use of nuclear weapons which needs little elaboration as well as the UK’s commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  But neither is there a moral case for a trade union accepting the obliteration of thousands of its members’ jobs and the communities in which they live being turned into ghost towns.  The consequences would reverberate throughout the manufacturing sector across the country.

Unite remains opposed in principle to the possession or deployment of nuclear weapons (including Trident) but our first duty remains to our members. Therefore until there is a government in office ready, willing and able to give cast-iron guarantees on the security of the skilled work and all the employment involved, our priority must be to defend and secure our members’ employment.

 Clive Lewis has friendly relations  with UNITE.

On Lewis’ abstention on the Commons Trident Vote Socialist Worker said at the time,.

Some 41 Labour MPs abstained following a call from Labour’s shadow foreign and defence secretaries Emily Thornberry and Clive Lewis.

The pair—who are supporters of Corbyn—had said MPs should treat the vote “with the contempt it deserved” by not taking part.

They argued that the debate was a deliberate attempt to divide Labour. In practice this meant failing to oppose the Tories.

Some are already following this remark to its conclusion:

Written by Andrew Coates

September 27, 2016 at 11:50 am

3 Responses

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  1. Whatever one might think about Clive Lewis’s proposed speech on Trident, the behaviour of Milne is simply inexcusable. Why does Corbyn employ this public school Stalinist disgrace? he should be sacked immediately. The only drawback would be that we’d have to put up with a resumption of his ignorant drivel in the Graun.

    Jim Denham

    September 28, 2016 at 1:44 pm

  2. In a perfect world (well, in a perfect UK), not renewing Trident makes perfect sense. The problem is, the electorate aren’t rational on this issue, and it’s the sort of thing that can be used against the party. It’s also party policy, as decided at conference, to support renewal.

    With that in mind, it’s really not a battle worth fighting. I regret to say it, but Lewis’s approach is entirely correct.

    In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the man put a foot wrong, which is a spectacular achievement seeing as how the left of the party are scrutinised. He also gave a very good speech at the JLM meeting at conference.

    Would it be too much to hope for both sides of the party divide to dial things back a bit, so Corbyn can effect a transfer of power to Lewis by 2018?

    Or at the very least, would it be too much to hope for Milne to suddenly have a spiritual crisis and run away to be a Stylite in the Gobi desert?


    September 28, 2016 at 2:24 pm

  3. NATO=a socialist organization? I’ll have to keep that one handy for the next ‘anti-imperialist’ I run into.😀


    September 29, 2016 at 7:55 pm

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