Corbyn’s reshuffle was an agonising thing to watch, although part of the reason for that appears to have been his own willingness to listen to alternative points of view. I’d have thought that a virtue, and entirely in line with his stated wish for a different type of politics (albeit badly undermined by some of the briefings which members of his core team seem to have been giving), but from the reaction of some members of his own party, they’d prefer the ruthless lack of consultation to which they’d become accustomed.
I, for one, welcome the fact that the Shadow Defence Secretary has been replaced by one more in line with Corbyn’s own view on the renewal of Trident. It’s a step forward, although given that many Labour MPs remain wholly committed to spending more resources on weapons of mass destruction it’s a step along a path rather than the end of the journey. It holds out some hope, though, that we might see senior opposition spokespersons arguing, for the first time since the 1980s, against the possession of nuclear weapons.
One particularly disappointing reaction was that of the trade unions. One officer of the GMB was quoted as saying “We are absolutely clear and unequivocal that we will be supporting Trident replacement and any suggestion that there is alternative employment for people in that sector is utter nonsense and everyone is going to have to wake up to that fact”. I understand, of course, that it is the job of trade unions to protect the interests of their members, but keeping people in jobs is not a rational argument for building and maintaining weapons of mass destruction which no sane person could or would ever use.
It’s even sillier than arguing for a new nuclear power station on the same grounds – at least Wylfa B will produce some useful electricity. It is an argument, in essence, for carrying out a pointless activity simply to keep people working. I can think of a lot more useless activities which would be less potentially damaging than building and maintaining nuclear weapons if that’s really the way we want to run our economy.But what it really underlines is a willingness to accept what is rather than argue for what should be. And that’s what disappoints me most. The father of one of those recognised by the GMB as a co-founder of the union coined the phrase “workers of the world unite”. I somehow don’t think that either he, or his daughter, would have added “to build weapons which we can use to kill workers of other countries”.