Following the Labour Party Conference and elections for party Leadership and Shadow Cabinet posts, Labour is now beginning the process of reshaping itself and reviewing its policies ready to fight the next general election. How far will this review see a re-evaluation of the dedicated support shown by the party over the past two decades for retaining and replacing UK's nuclear weapons?
Appointments to the Shadow Cabinet do not auger well for a more progressive approach on nuclear weapons. The new shadow defence secretary, Jim Murphy, is seen as being to the right of the party, and voted in favour of replacing Trident in the Parliamentary vote in 2007. Kevan Jones, also on the defence team, is a former junior Minister at the Ministry of Defence and is pro-Trident, as is Russell Brown, a former Parliamentary Private Secretary at the MoD. The final two faces fronting up for Labour on defence are both new to Parliament – Michael Dugher and Gemma Doyle – but Gemma Doyle represents West Dumbarton, close to the Faslane nuclear submarine base, and acts as a strong advocate for the base and its interests.
The strongly pro-Trident team covering the Ministry of Defence is complemented by an almost equally hawkish team for the Foreign Office. Yvette Cooper and her deputies, John Spellar and Wayne David, all voted to replace Trident in 2007 and Stephen Twigg and Emma Reynolds have to date shown no interest in challenging the status quo within the Labour Party on nuclear weapons.
And what of Labour's new leader, Ed Miliband? Although branded by the tabloids as 'Red Ed', Miliband has yet to commit himself on the issue of nuclear weapons. During his election campaign he spoke of taking a 'multilateralist approach' to disarmament and said that he felt there was a case for replacing Trident, but maintained a position of ambiguity. Miliband's talk of 'values not alliances' may provide a lever to open up debate in this area over the months ahead but the outlook at the moment seems to be that Labour's policies on nuclear weapons at the next election will not differ dramatically from the Coalition government's, and that the party's decisions on defence will be driven principally by financial constraints rather than a progressive foreign policy.