LONDON (AA) – Divisions in Britain’s opposition party were laid bare during a symbolic parliamentary vote on plans to abolish the country’s nuclear defences.
Fourteen Labour Party lawmakers defied their leader Jeremy Corbyn by voting against the motion, tabled by the Scottish National Party (SNP), to scrap the Trident missile system.
Corbyn had instructed his party to abstain from the vote while the Labour Party reviews its defense policy.
The motion was easily defeated with votes from the governing Conservative Party, which supports renewing Britain’s nuclear deterrent, but they were joined by a number of Labour rebels including Liz Kendall, one of Corbyn’s rivals for party leadership this summer.
Some 330 MPs opposed the motion in all, with 64 mostly SNP lawmakers supporting it.
The Labour Party has been divided over renewing Trident since Corbyn pledged never to launch the weapons.
When asked in September whether he would use the U.K.’s Trident missile system if he became prime minister, he said: “No. 187 countries don’t feel the need to have a nuclear weapon to protect their security, why should those five [declared nuclear powers] need it themselves?”
But the comments exposed a rift among the party’s senior leaders, with Corbyn’s own defense spokeswoman Maria Eagle saying she was “surprised” by his comments because they appeared to prejudge Labour’s defense review.
The SNP said Labour’s divisions were a sign of the party’s “moral bankruptcy”.
The party’s defense spokesman Brendan O’Hara said: “Labour’s solitary Scottish MP Ian Murray abstained – despite voicing his opposition to Trident renewal. His leader Jeremy Corbyn also abstained – although he previously supported an identical SNP motion in January this year. This is just the latest evidence that Jeremy Corbyn isn’t changing Labour – Labour is changing him.”
The final decision to renew Britain’s nuclear weapons system will be taken in early 2016.