Labour’s foreign secretary struggled to answer questions about Jeremy Corbyn’s preparedness to use military action or nuclear weapons today in the face of questions about the opposition leader’s history of pacifism.
Emily Thornberry faced a barrage of questions in several interviews this morning about whether Corbyn would use nuclear weapons or indeed any military force to protect the UK.
The Labour leader has a history of opposing UK military action and was one of the founders of the Stop the War Coalition, which protested against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Corbyn was formerly an active member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, has labelled Nato as a “danger to world peace” and in 2015 said he would never use nuclear weapons if elected prime minister.
Thornberry was asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme whether she could recall a time when Corbyn had ever agreed with any of Britain’s post World War II military endeavours.
“No, not off the top of my head,” she said.
She also said didn’t know if the Labour leader would ever use nuclear weapons.
She told ITV: “No one in the end knows whether they would use it, how they would use it, because it has such extraordinary force and millions of people can be killed.”
However, she still insisted that Corbyn would be willing to use military force if need be.
“Jeremy is not a pacifist, we are not pacifists,” she said.
“I think that people from the military listening to the radio this morning, and their family and supporters, would want the same as we do.
“If, and when, we use military action, we use military action in order to ensure we can stop genocides or unfair actions happening.”
Thornberry’s interviews were branded as “car crashes” as people on Twitter mocked the shadow foreign secretary for being unable to defend her party leader’s defence record.
One person commented: “Emily Thornberry’s sigh when asked when Jeremy Corbyn had backed British troops was quite the moment.”
However, some defended Islington South and Finsbury MP on social media.
One person commented: “The idea that we might have a political leader who is reluctant to go to war or use nuclear weapons is a bad thing beggars belief.”
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Defence minister Johnny Mercer said Labour had to clarify its position on whether it supports a nuclear deterrent.
“The fact that the shadow foreign secretary is openly speculating that her leader could be overruled by a committee on a matter as fundamental as using our nuclear deterrent shows just how weak Jeremy Corbyn really is,” he said.
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