Angela Rayner: 'I would press the nuclear button'

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner
-Credit: (Image: Kenny Brown | Manchester Evening News)

Angela Rayner has said she is prepared to press the nuclear button if she becomes the deputy Prime Minister. Labour's deputy leader, who has been the MP for Ashton-under-Lyne since 2015, said she supports the policy her party set out this week on nuclear weapons.

Sir Keir Starmer set out a 'triple lock' commitment to nuclear deterrents, including building four new submarines in the North West, in a speech at the Fusilier Museum in Bury on Monday (June 3). The Labour leader insisted he had the backing of his top team despite several members of his frontbench - including Mrs Rayner - voting against the renewal of the Trident nuclear programme in 2016.

Mrs Rayner later told the BBC that she has not changed her mind, saying that the world should be looking at disarmament of nuclear weapons. However, speaking to the Manchester Evening News on Tuesday (June 4) she insisted that she supports her party's stance.

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Asked whether she would be prepared to press the nuclear button as deputy Prime Minister, she said: "Absolutely. You have to be.

"But it depends on the circumstances of what's going on at the time. But you always have to be in a position where you would be willing to use that deterrent because it is a deterrent.

"The first job of a government is to keep the country safe and I'm very, very united with Keir on that."

Mrs Rayner made her comments during a campaign visit on Labour's election battle bus in Ashton-under-Lyne. Mrs Rayner is hoping to be re-elected in the constituency where she secured a majority of 4,263 in 2019 when she served in Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet.

The Stockport-born trade unionist spoke out last week following reports that her former shadow cabinet colleague Diane Abbott would not be allowed to stand for Labour again. The veteran left-winger has now confirmed that she will stand for the party on July 4.

Asked whether she was frustrated by the way the matter was handled, Mrs Rayner said: "Selections are always a challenge when a snap election is called. We were the furthest forward in terms of getting our candidates in place.

"Once the election is called then we have to have a quick process which is the [National Executive Committee]. That's always been the case.

"In Diane's case in particular, an investigation was dealt with and it was dealt with through the whips and the NEC so it wasn't a matter for us. But I'm really pleased that Diane is able to stand.

"She's the first black woman female MP ever. She's done 37 years, her constituents love her and it's right that she's there to represent them."