Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn used his first conference speech – a nationally televised event Tuesday – to try to soften his image as a radical left-winger who will dash the party’s electoral hopes by bringing back discredited policies from the past.
“We share Labour’s aim of ensuring the benefits of growth are spread more evenly across the United Kingdom, but we don’t recognise Mr Corbyn’s characterisation of the economy”, said John Cridland, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry.
Asked whether he stood by his statement that he would not use nuclear weapons as PM, he replied: “Would anybody press the nuclear button?”
Britain has been a nuclear power since the 1950s, and respective governments both under Labour and Conservative have consistently supported the country’s “weapons of mass destruction” program.
Shadow Defence Secretary Maria Eagle criticised party leader Jeremy Corbyn for saying he would instruct defence chiefs never to use the UK’s Trident missiles.
He said: “There are five declared nuclear weapon states in the world”.
Describing Mr Corbyn’s stance, she said: “What we can certainly say about Jeremy is he’s very, very focused on democracy…” Eagle told reporters she was “surprised he answered the question in the way that he did”, adding it undermined Labour’s policy process.
Now Corbyn has ignited more controversy by speaking out on the future of the UK’s nuclear weapons program.
He said Labour is working to “develop our campaign up to the election next year” but is also listening to the views of Scottish members “because the mood in the Labour Party is one of openness, it’s one of democracy, participation, as well as strengthening things”.
“I don’t think there’s anything particularly bad about that…”
“I am not imposing leadership lines”, Corbyn will say in a speech at Labour’s annual conference in the southern English city of Brighton, according to extracts released in advance. “I am opposed to the use of nuclear weapons”.
“There are three others that have nuclear weapons”.
Mr Corbyn told the conference: “I do not believe in personal abuse of any sort”.
Prime Minister David Cameron, visiting Jamaica, seized on Corbyn’s words. I want to see a nuclear-free world.
He added any detrimental impact on the nation’s overall defence services could also have a knock-on effect in Portsmouth, leaving the city in a “bad situation”.
Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham said it would be “difficult” for him to remain in the shadow cabinet if the party decides to back the scrapping of Trident.
The new leader has already claimed Labour’s demise in Scotland was caused in part by its involvement in the cross-party Better Together campaign, as well as its failure to offer an alternative to austerity.
Ms Dugdale said: “In Scotland, we have a Government that is presiding over falling standards in our schools and hospitals”.