Isabel Hardman

Emily Thornberry confronted by Labour MPs over Trident

Emily Thornberry confronted by Labour MPs over Trident
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Emily Thornberry, the new Shadow Defence Secretary, held a meeting with her fellow Labour MPs this evening. It either went 'swimmingly' or was 'worse than I thought', depending on which MPs you listen to. Based on the accounts of the meeting from MPs who've spoken to Coffee House this evening, it was less the Ian Thorpe sort of swimming, and more Eric the Eel.

Naturally, those opposed to a change in Labour policy are not happy, and were unlikely to come out of tonight's meeting of the parliamentary Labour Party feeling very happy unless Thornberry had announced that Jeremy Corbyn has learned to stop worrying and love the nuclear deterrent. But many were particularly annoyed by Thornberry's suggestion that the Successor class of submarines were as outmoded as patrolling the skies with Spitfires. The meeting grew so heated at points that Thornberry told MPs to stop shouting her down. She also implored her colleagues 'not to take an entrenched position'. But former frontbenchers such as Caroline Flint accused the leadership of just that, saying that Corbyn had already made up his mind.

Some MPs were supportive: Dawn Butler asked the Shadow Defence Secretary how members could get involved with the policy review, while Richard Burden told the meeting that multilateralism and unilateralism are not a binary issue (though you either have nuclear weapons on your nuclear deterrent or you don't have them, in which case it's not a nuclear deterrent, which is the sort of thing most people would define as binary). And Thornberry did concede in response to a question from Liz Kendall that she will take account of the backbench defence committee's evidence sessions on Trident.

Tomorrow Thornberry must brief the Shadow Cabinet meeting. And that's not going to be easy, either, given a number of shadow Secretaries of State are committed to Trident renewal and are deeply worried about the policy review taking place.

P.S. Richard Burden wanted to clarify that he was not saying that Trident is a binary issue: