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Labour urged to clarify policies on peace following Corbyn's speech

Royal Navy vessels

Labour urged to clarify policies on peace following Corbyn's speech

The Labour Party have been urged to urged to clarify their policies after Jeremy Corbyn appeared to contradict his Shadow Defence Secretary.

After Corbyn's speech to his party conference today, the Peace Pledge Union (which includes supporters of several parties and none) welcomed the Labour leader's condemnation of “reckless military interventions” and his commitment to replacing them with efforts to address “the root causes of the threats that we all face”.

But the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), a pacifist network, pointed out that Corbyn's comments are in tension with views voiced recently by some of Labour's shadow ministers.

Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith has repeatedly backed calls for higher military spending. Meanwhile, the Shadow Minister for the Armed Forces, Wayne David, has expressed support for the DSEI arms fair in London, which had earlier been condemned by the Labour Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

While Corbyn has said several times that he is not a pacifist, and indeed he isn't, the PPU is happy to campaign alongside non-pacifists who share concerns on specific aspects of militarism. However, they urged Corbyn and his colleagues to clarify Labour's position on several issues – including military spending and arms fairs – following his conference speech today.

The PPU expressed agreement with Corbyn in his criticism of the UK's “military and political establishment” for engaging military interventions that are “spreading conflicts rather than settling them”. They also welcomed Corbyn's condemnation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's statement that British troops could be sent to aid the Saudi regime against Iran, “in an apparent bid to appease Donald Trump”.

But only two days ago (Sunday 22 September), Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith told a conference fringe meeting on “defence” issues that she regarded the US under Trump as an ally of the UK, alongside NATO as a whole.

After the meeting, her colleague Wayne David was challenged about the DSEI arms fair by a Labour Party member who is also a PPU activist. Wayne David told the member that he supported the continuation of DSEI and that a Labour government would not close it down. David had tweeted about his presence at DSEI during the event.

Symon Hill, Campaigns Manager of the Peace Pledge Union, said:

“The Peace Pledge Union includes supporters of several parties and none. We are ready to work with politicians from various parties who share our concerns on particular issues. We were therefore very pleased to hear Jeremy Corbyn's concern for peace in his conference speech, particularly his criticism of military interventions and his call to address root causes of global threats, including climate change. In practice this would mean diverting money from military spending towards tackling root causes. Jeremy's comments therefore sit uneasily with Nia Griffith's repeated support for higher military spending, Wayne David's endorsement of the DSEI arms fair and Labour's policy of continued NATO membership.

“The Labour Party urgently need to clarity their position on these issues. We urge all opposition parties to challenge the government's militaristic policies, at a time when the UK government maintains the seventh highest military expenditure in the world.”