Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who isa close allyof Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, made an extraordinary claim on Thursday afternoon — he said that he was going to review Labour’s policy of backing Britain’s membership of NATO.
Speaking to the BBC’s Daily Politics programme, Livingstone said that as the man in charge of Labour’s defence review, he was going to look at whether Britain should withdraw from a military alliance that has pretty much defined Britain’s military presence in the world for the past 60 years.
Within an hour of his TV appearance, Labour’s press office put out a statement contradicting what Livingstone had said.
You can watch the clip from the Daily Politics below.
Here’s the transcript.
That’s one of the things we will look at. Many people want to do that. I don’t think it’s a particularly big issue because in the Cold War it was, it isn’t now … We are looking at the entire defence review. My main view on this is it doesn’t really matter whether you are in NATO or not terribly much because the Cold War is over. If we are to stay in NATO, the question is what is its role going to be? Invading more countries in the Middle East? I’m not in favour of that.
And here’s the statement from Labour.
The terms of the defence review are still to be agreed but will not look at our membership of NATO. Labour MPs are unhappy that Livingstone is heading the defence review because, along with Corbyn, he is a long-time anti-nuclear activist.
A large number of Labour MPs are unhappy that Livingstone is in charge of the defence review because he is, along with Corbyn, a staunch anti-nuclear activist. The Labour party as an institution has long-supported Britain being a nuclear power and many of the unions who finance Labour represent workers whose jobs depend on the nuclear defence industry.
The fact that Livingstone thought he could just go ahead and review Labour’s policy of remaining a member of the world’s biggest military alliance will make concerned Labour MPs even more unhappy. Just take a look at this retweet from Labour MP and former Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw.
And this retweet from Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick.
Regardless of whether Livingstone is fit to lead the review, the fact he managed to get it so wrong on live television, the day after another close Corbyn ally Diane Abbott managed to set off a mini-civil war with her own TV appearance, will be a major concern for Labour.
The party is failing at basic media management and if they can’t get a grip of that it will have no chance of cutting through the media bias against Corbyn.
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