BARROW and Furness MP John Woodcock has today defended his refusal to back Jeremy Corbyn’s no confidence motion in the government saying: “I will do whatever it takes to stop that man closing this town down.”
In a controversial speech that attracted both praise and anger in the House of Commons last night, the independent MP claimed a Jeremy Corbyn government could never be trusted to finish the Dreadnought programme which is sustaining thousands of jobs in Barrow shipyard.
Before abstaining in the no confidence motion called by the Labour leader that would have forced a general election, John said:
“I have spent many years as an opposition MP working to keep the Labour party’s policy sensible on the face of it. However, do my colleagues really think that, with the spending crisis that any future Labour government will inherit, we would spend many billions of pounds to maintain a submarine system that the leader of the opposition will have rendered useless on day one by saying that he would never use it? That is not a serious proposition.”
He added: “Barrow-in-Furness is a shipyard town, it is woven into our history. More than 9,000 people in my constituency are directly employed by it and many more depend upon it. The leader of the opposition represents a chance that they cannot afford to take.”
John was heckled by some of the Labour MPs sitting around him when he said Mr Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell were “not fit to hold high office” and so he could not support their no confidence motion called after Theresa May’s proposed EU withdrawal agreement was emphatically rejected by the House of Commons on Tuesday.
But closing the debate, environment secretary Michael Gove said: “Perhaps the bravest and finest speech that came from the opposition benches was given by the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness. It takes courage—and he has it, having been elected on a Labour mandate in a working class constituency – to say that the leader of the party that he joined as a boy is not fit to be prime minister. He speaks for his constituents, and he speaks for the country.”
Speaking after the motion was defeated by 325 votes to 306, John said: “It is dire that our broken political system is not offering the public a decent alternative to the failing Conservative government because of the way Jeremy Corbyn has captured the once decent, patriotic Labour Party. Britain deserves better than this but in the meantime I will do whatever it takes to stop that man closing this town down through his lifelong opposition to the Trident programme on which it depends – no matter how much stick I get.
“No matter what the latest Labour Party policy document may say, Jeremy Corbyn has already said that he would never countenance threatening to use the nuclear deterrent as prime minister – that instantly renders it totally useless as a deterrent. The people of Barrow and Furness are not daft, they know that a cash-strapped Corbyn government isn’t going to spend billions finishing off a programme that its CND loving leader has turned into a sunken white elephant.”