Labour party 'threat to national security' after shadow cabinet reshuffle, says Fallon

The defence secretary, Michael Fallon, has accused the Labour party of being a threat to national security in light of the appointment of unilateralist MP Emily Thornberry as shadow defence secretary.

Fallon made the comments following the announcement that Corbyn’s shadow cabinet reshuffle would see Maria Eagle, who supports the current Labour policy to renew Britain’snuclear weapons programme, moved from the defence brief to culture and replaced with Thornberry.

The Labour leader, a lifelong unilateralist, is keen to change his party’s position on Trident renewal before the issue is debated in parliament this spring.

“This reshuffle shows that a divided Labour party is a threat to national security,” said Fallon in a statement. “The Labour party has a leader who would abolish the armed forces and withdraw from Nato, a shadow chancellor who wanted to disband MI5, and now a shadow defence secretary who would scrap our nuclear deterrent.

“North Korea’s deeply disturbing claim to have exploded its first hydrogen bomb underlines the importance of taking our national security seriously, not handing it to a Labour party that would unilaterally disarm Britain.”

David Cameron also used prime minister’s questions to mock the appointment, making reference to Thornberry’s acceptance of a donation from the law firm Leigh Day, which brought false claims of torture and murder against British soldiers fighting in Iraq.

“I do think it is instructive that we have lost a shadow secretary of state for defence who believed in strong defence; who believed in our nuclear deterrent,” said Cameron. “And instead we’ve got someone apparently who takes funds from Leigh Day.”

Thornberry, a former barrister who specialised in human rights law, has been the MP for Islington South and Finsbury, the neighbouring constituency to Corbyn’s, since 2005. She is still best known for being forced to resign from Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet during the 2014 byelection in Rochester and Strood, when she was accused of snobbery after tweeting a photograph of a house adorned with St George’s cross flags with a white van parked outside.

Corbyn welcomed her back on to the frontbench as shadow minister of state for employment when he was elected leader in September.

Powered by article was written by Frances Perraudin, for The Guardian on Wednesday 6th January 2016 19.10 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010