First of all I want to tip my hat to Political Betting whose article on this you can read here. So who is John Woodcock? He is the Labour MP for Barrow & Furness. He represents a constituency that has an interest in the building of the four Trident submarines that form the basis of the UK’s renewed nuclear deterrent. This is a policy that three of the Labour candidates for leader are committed too. Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall have all said they will back the renewal. It will come as little surprise to those who follow these things that there is an odd one out, the extremist candidate Jeremy Corbyn, who is opposed to renewal and wants to scrap the project altogether.
This is where John Woodcock comes in. In the May election earlier this year, John Woodcock made a pledge. Now yes OK, I know Nick Clegg once famously made a pledge too and that did not work out too well, But John Woodcock is not going to become the leader of a junior coalition partner. His pledge was that he is committed to the renewal of Trident with all four boats being built, and in the interests of his constituents, if Labour did not commit to this, he would resign as an MP.
At the time of course Ed Miliband was leader, and for all Ed Miliband’s faults, he was not opposed to the renewal of Trident as his Shadow Defense Secretary Vernon Coaker made clear on several occasions. At the time the polls were tight and Mr Woodcock probably thought there was a chance Ed Miliband would be Prime Minister by now. At the time I suspect he certainly never though that even if Ed Miliband did lose and stand down, we would be in a position 27 days from the new leader being announced, that Jeremy Corbyn would be favourite to get the job.
And there it is. If Corbyn wins the abolition of Trident will be official Labour Party Policy. Mr Woodcock could of course play semantics, that a Tory majority will push the boats through anyway, and they will be built so he won’t resign. From what little I have seen of Mr Woodcock he does not strike me as that kind of person. So if Labour voting against Trident does mean he resigns, that will create a by election in a constituency where Mr Corbyn’s policy is likely to create much anger.
In May John Woodcock won Barrow & Furness by a mere 795 votes. In normal circumstances an opposition should not be losing early by elections, even William Hague at the start of his doomed Tory leadership held the first by election he fought in Uxbridge defending only an 800 majority at the time. but given the circumstances this seat would surely be under threat with an extremist Labour leadership under pressure straight away from a confident Conservative Party. The electability of Mr Corbyn will be put to the test straight away and it is an election he must win if it happens., By losing a seat Ed Miliband won within weeks, the reputation of ‘Unelectable’ will be reinforced several times over right from the start and something is is unlikely he would ever recover from. John Woodcock could kill the credibility of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership within weeks.