Sunday 30 April 2017

Corbyn hits out at army chief for 'breaching' ­neutrality

Jeremy Corbyn: 'I don't think it is appropriate for serving officers to make political points or engage in political debate'
Jeremy Corbyn: 'I don't think it is appropriate for serving officers to make political points or engage in political debate'

Christopher Hope

Jeremy Corbyn was last night engaged in a war of words with Britain's top military officer as he called for the Chief of the Defence Staff to be investigated for calling into question his ability to lead the country.

General Nicholas Houghton said he would "worry" if the British Labour leader became prime minister because of his stance on the Trident nuclear defence system, just hours before Mr Corbyn joined the queen to lay a poppy wreath at the Cenotaph to celebrate Remembrance Sunday.

In response, Mr Corbyn accused General Houghton of political bias and said that he would write a formal letter of complaint to Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, asking him to look at whether the tradition of military neutrality had been compromised.

Maria Eagle, Labour's shadow defence secretary, added to Mr Corbyn's problems by saying that she could "understand" the concerns raised by General Houghton.

Mr Corbyn, an outspoken pacifist, was also criticised for failing to bow deeply enough when laying the wreath and for including a message that paid tribute to the victims of all wars, rather than just Britain's war dead. He wrote: "In memory of the fallen in all wars. Let us resolve to create a world of peace."

General Houghton had been asked about Mr Corbyn's admission that he would never fire nuclear weapons to protect Britain because he was "opposed to the use of nuclear weapons".

General Houghton said: "Well it would worry me if that thought was translated into power as it were ... but the reason I say this, and it is not based on a personal thing at all, it is purely based on the credibility of deterrence."

Mr Corbyn responded: "It is a matter of serious concern that the Chief of the Defence Staff has today intervened directly in issues of political dispute. It is essential in a democracy that the military remains political neutral at all times.

"I don't think it is appropriate for serving officers to make political points or engage in political debate."

Irish Independent

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