Labour figures reveal rifts with Jeremy Corbyn

Lord Falconer says there has been an earthquake in Labour. Picture: PA
Lord Falconer says there has been an earthquake in Labour. Picture: PA
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The scale of the divisions at the top of the Labour Party were laid bare yesterday as shadow cabinet ministers put themselves on a collision course with the new leader on a series of crucial issues.

Jeremy Corbyn, an anti-war campaigner, opposes the replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system, has questioned the role of the Nato and is expected to oppose military intervention in Syria.

But senior party figures have set out policy red lines that put them at odds with Ed Miliband’s successor.

Shadow justice secretary Lord Falconer, a close friend of Tony Blair who served in the former prime minister’s government, told BBC One’s Sunday Politics: “What’s happened is an earthquake in the Labour Party.”

Lord Falconer set out his disagreements with Mr Corbyn’s views on a wide range of policy areas, including defence, foreign affairs, welfare, education and the economy.

“He said during the course of the leadership election that, for example, he might think about withdrawing from Nato. That would obviously be something I could not agree with,” he said.

Lord Falconer said he was in favour of renewing Trident but said it was for the party to debate the issue.

The peer also set his face against suggestions by Mr Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell that the policy that gave the Bank of England independence may be reversed.

“I’m in favour of keeping the Bank of England independent,” the peer said as he also set out his opposition to any plans for nationalising the banks.

He also dismissed the leader’s suggestions that the gas and electricity national grids should be nationalised. Asked if the shadow cabinet faced some robust discussions, he replied: “Yes, I think you are right.”

Mr McDonnell’s calls for Mr Blair to be tried for war crimes over Iraq are also “complete nonsense”, he told the programme.

Senior Labour figures have privately pledged support for airstrikes in Syria, with half of Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet reported to be ready to back intervention. Shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn also set out his support for Trident and Nato. Mr Benn said the military alliance was the “cornerstone of our security” and insisted he did not see Britain withdrawing.

Labour former home secretary Charles Clarke suggested the party was preparing to fight the next election without Mr Corbyn.

He told Sky News: “I think it is a question of whether he will get so far as the 2020 general election but I think the party will be very keen to give him a chance and be working, of course, on its own proposals to try and ensure that we can contest the Tories effectively at the next election.

“But, at the end of the day, it is very much in Jeremy Corbyn’s own hands as to how long he lasts.”