In a series of car-crash interviews, the shadow foreign secretary suggested a committee would decide how to respond to an impending nuclear threat. She admitted Labour would spend billions on renewing the Trident weapons system, despite Mr Corbyn already admitting he would never use it. Asked how the Labour leader would respond if a rogue state carried out a nuclear strike on the north of England and a second attack was planned for the south, she shrugged her shoulders and replied: “who knows”.
Miss Thornberry told Good Morning Britain: “It’s very difficult to imagine how the dynamics would work before a decision was made one way or another, whether it would be one person’s decision, whether it would be a group of people’s decision.”
In an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme, Miss Thornberry was asked if she could name a time when Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had ever backed the use of British forces overseas and replied: “No, not off the top of my head”.
Miss Thornberry dismissed Tory plans to end witch hunt claims against Army veterans, insisting changes to human rights laws were unnecessary.
She added: “In the end, it will be for the prosecuting authorities to decide when they prosecute and when they don’t prosecute, and of course they shouldn’t allow for vexatious or unfair actions.”
Mr Corbyn has previously insisted he would not push the nuclear button under any circumstances but the party is committed to renewing Trident, which is expected to cost around £31 billion.
Admiral Lord West, a former head of the Royal Navy who served as security minister under Gordon Brown, said Mr Corbyn has already undermined the deterrent by saying he would never use it.
“I have real problems, I’m afraid, with Mr Corbyn. I think his ill-chosen words immediately actually weaken the deterrent,” he told Sky News.
“When someone says ‘I’ll never press the button’ he doesn’t understand deterrence. That worries me.”
Defence minister Johnny Mercer said: “If Jeremy Corbyn is unable to make crucial decisions to keep our country safe, he is not fit to be Prime Minister. The fact that the Shadow Foreign Secretary is openly speculating that her leader could be overruled by a committee on a matter as fundamental as using our nuclear deterrent shows just how weak Jeremy Corbyn really is. Even his closest colleagues don’t trust him.
“It is important that Labour urgently clarifies their position on whether or not they would actually be prepared to use our nuclear deterrent if needed. They should start by telling us who exactly will sit on this committee that would consider whether or not to authorise a nuclear strike or not in the face of a foreign threat?”
Mr Corbyn said a Labour government would ensure British troops were never again deployed in “unnecessary or unjust” military conflict.
In a video to mark Armistice Day, he said: “We must make sure that we never again send our soldiers into unnecessary or unjust wars.”