Labour’s official policy of supporting the renewal of Trident could be challenged in future, Jeremy Corbyn said as he vowed to push for a “nuclear free world”.
Shadow defence secretary Clive Lewis has said he would not attempt to change the policy “as things stand”, but Mr Corbyn said he could not predict whether there would be an attempt to alter the pro-renewal stance.
The Labour leader, a long-standing campaigner for unilateral nuclear disarmament, restated his opposition to the official party policy.
Mr Corbyn, who had previously said he would not press the nuclear button if he was prime minister, was again challenged about whether he would fire the weapon if he was in power.
“I never want to use a nuclear weapon,” he told the BBC.
Divisions over Trident have again been exposed at the Labour conference, with Mr Lewis reportedly punching a wall in frustration after a section of his speech in which he committed to maintaining the current pro-renewal policy was deleted on the orders of Mr Corbyn’s main aide Seumas Milne.
In an attempt to clarify his position, Mr Lewis told the Guardian: “I won’t be coming back to conference between now and the next election to try to undo the policy we have on Trident as things stand.”
But during a round of broadcast interviews Mr Corbyn repeatedly stressed that a review of Labour’s position on defence issues, including Trident, was still ongoing and it remained open to the party’s conference to change the policy.
He told ITV News: “The policy the party has from previous conference decisions does support the renewal of Trident. As you know, I never agreed with that decision.
“That’s the existing party policy. I cannot predict what will happen in the future, who will decide what they want to bring forward to conference.”
Asked by the BBC if he accepted the current policy, he would only say: “Of course I know what the party policy is, and of course I understand the decision that was taken. Does it mean there are people in the party who have a moral objection to nuclear weapons? Yes there are.”
Mr Corbyn played down the situation around Mr Lewis’s conference speech, in which he was only informed of the last-minute changes as he waited on stage before addressing activists.
The Labour leader told Five News he had a “man-hug and a cup of tea” with Norwich South MP Mr Lewis after his speech.
He said: “There was an agreement reached on the wording to be used and that’s what was in the speech. We are under a lot of pressure of time, lots of things to do.
“I had a good chat with Clive afterwards and we had a man-hug and a cup of tea and he invited me to Norwich and I’m going.”