THOUSANDS of Barrow shipyard jobs will be safe under an incoming Labour government the party has confirmed.
Local party activists have welcomed a “non-negotiable” commitment from shadow defence secretary John Healey who said on Friday that a future Labour administration will maintain the £31bn Dreadnought nuclear deterrent submarine programme being designed and constructed at the Barrow shipyard.
During the December general election campaign of 2019, local party campaigners were constantly challenged on the doorstep by traditional “red” voters who retreated from pledging their usual support because of worries about what might happen to the shipyard under a Jeremy Corbyn government.
Mr Corbyn was perceived to be anti-nuclear, and therefore a threat to 9,000 posts at the yard – and many thousands more in the supply chain.
Those concerns undermined Labour’s core vote and played a key role in propelling Conservative candidate Simon Fell into Westminster – the first Tory MP to represent the area since 1992.
Early on the Friday morning of December 13, 2019, it became clear that Labour’s northern “red wall” had crumbled – and the Barrow and Furness seat was among many casualties.
Of the two main parties a total of 23,876 voters plumped for Mr Fell while18,087 voted for Labour candidate Chris Altree.
Mr Altree, who has since been voted chair of the local Labour party, welcomed the “cast-iron” nuclear commitment from Labour.
He said: “During every general election campaign in living memory the Conservatives have trotted out the same old myth that Barrow shipyard jobs might be at risk under a Labour government.
“It has proved to be an effective campaigning tool for them and it certainly caused us problems on the doorstep last time around.
“But that scaremongering tactic has been neutralised once and for all.
“I welcome John Healey’s cast-iron commitment to maintaining a nuclear deterrent.
“Can anyone believe they will deliver on any promises they have made relating to our community? Only Labour truly puts the future of Furness first.”
In his speech to the Royal United Services Institute think-tank Mr Healey emphasised a deliberate shift in tone from the Jeremy Corbyn era.
He acknowledged the perception by some within Labour that Corbyn’s public doubts over nuclear weapons and NATO helped damage the party’s reputation with certain voters.
Mr Healey said: “First, Labour’s commitment to NATO is unshakeable.
“Second, Labour’s support for the UK’s nuclear deterrent is non-negotiable.
“Third, Labour’s commitment to international law and the UN, to universal human rights and to the multilateral treaties and organisations that uphold them, is total.”
“And fourth, Labour’s determination to see British investment directed first to British industry is fundamental, not just to our thinking on defence, but on the kind of society we want to build.”