Military supremo under fire over Corbyn Trident clash


Defence Secretary Michael Fallon is facing calls to rein in the head of the Armed Forces after he warned Jeremy Corbyn's policy on Trident would undermine the credibility of Britain's nuclear deterrent.

The Labour leader said the comments by General Sir Nicholas Houghton, the Chief of the Defence Staff, were an unacceptable breach of the principle that the military did not interfere in politics.

He said that he would be writing to Mr Fallon calling on him to intervene to ensure "the neutrality of the Armed Forces is upheld".

There was no immediate response from the Ministry of Defence, with officials indicating that they would wait to receive Mr Corbyn's formal complaint before commenting.

Earlier, Labour's shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle said she saw nothing wrong with Gen Houghton's comments and echoed his concerns about Mr Corbyn's position on Trident.

But there was backing for the Labour leader from the Conservative chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Crispin Blunt, who said the general's comments had overstepped the mark.

"As an ex-soldier and a Conservative politician I am rather loath to take the side of a left-wing leader of the Labour Party against the Chief of the Defence Staff, but I rather fear he has a point," he told Sky News.

"I think the Chief of the Defence Staff perhaps strayed into political territory.

The row erupted on Remembrance Sunday just hours after Mr Corbyn and Gen Houghton laid wreathes in memory of Britain's war dead at the Cenotaph in Whitehall.

In a BBC interview, Gen Houghton expressed concern that Mr Corbyn had declared there were no circumstances in which he would press the nuclear button should he become prime minister.

"It would worry me if that thought was translated into power," he told The Andrew Marr Show.

"The reason I say this - and it's not based on a personal thing at all - is purely based upon the credibility of deterrence. The whole thing of deterrence rests upon the credibility of its use.

"When people say they're never going to use the deterrent, I say you use the deterrent every second of every minute of every day - the purpose of the deterrent is you don't have to use it because you effectively deter."

In a strongly-worded statement, Mr Corbyn said it was a "matter of serious concern" that the Chief of the Defence Staff had intervened directly in "issues of political dispute".

"It is essential in a democracy that the military remains political neutral at all times," he said.

"By publicly taking sides in current political arguments, Sir Nicholas Houghton has clearly breached that constitutional principle."

It is not the first time Mr Corbyn has clashed with the military since becoming Labour leader.

Following his election in September, an unnamed serving general was quoted by The Sunday Times as warning there could be a "mutiny" if he became prime minister.