Jeremy Corbyn last night refused to say whether he would defend a Nato ally if it were invaded by Russia.
The Labour leader was asked multiple times at a leadership debate in Birmingham if he would uphold the Nato principle of “collective defence” where an attack against one member is considered an attack against all.
But he refused to give concrete assurance that he would do so were he prime minister.
Instead he said: I would want to avoid us getting involved military, by building up democratic relationships.”
The Labour leader repeatedly stressed the importance of improving diplomacy with Russia but would not firmly commit to upholding article five, which enshrines the “collective defence” principle.
When pushed on whether he would sign off on the UK going to the aid of a Nato ally, he said: “I don’t wish to go to war. What I want to do is achieve a world where we don’t need to go to war, where there is no need for it. That can be done.
“In contrast, his challenger Owen Smith offered an unequivocal response, saying: “We would have to come to the aid of a fellow member of Nato. That’s the nature of the Nato accord.
“That would be the job of Britain in the event of a fellow Nato member being invaded, obviously.
“But it would be calamitous and we must never see that happen.”
Jeremy Corbyn continuously refuses to say Britain would come to the aid of a NATO ally in the event of an attack from Russia.
Mr Smith also stressed the importance of improving diplomatic links between the UK and Russia.
Splits in the Labour party deepened on Thursday morning after Jeremy Corbyn endorsed a “rival” party conference organised by the hard-Left activist group Momentum.
The campaign group said leading members of the shadow cabinet including Diane Abbott and John McDonnell will speak at their four-day event in September.
The fringe festival, which is being held less than a mile from Labour’s main conference venue in Liverpool, has been described as poisonous and inflammatory by senior party sources.
Momentum, who have been accused of bullying and intimidation by moderate Labour MP, denied they were trying to create an alternative event.
James Schneider, a spokesperson for Momentum tweeted:
Tom Blenkinsop, the MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, told the Telegraph: “Fringes do not occur at the same time as business in the hall. Momentum are an organisation not affiliated to Labour, it is the personal hard-left automaton army of Corbyn.”
Mr Blenkinsop continued: “Setting up their own conference at the same time as Labour’s demonstrates they are repeating the ‘party within a party’ model of Militant.
“I have to say, what is amusing is that the far-left can’t break the habit of a lifetime. Corbyn won, they control the party, but still they’d rather protest outside and deliberately undermine the real conference, Labour’s party conference.”
Chris Bryant, the former shadow leader of the House of Commons, added: “We can’t have a party within a party endorsed by the party leader.”
Mr Corbyn released a promotional video for the event and said he was “going to be there”.
He added: All those people, with all those ideas, ambitions and energy, are going to be there as well. Come along and join us – you’ll have a great experience. Doing things together benefits us all, educates us all, makes us strong, and does change the world.
The news came amid concerns Labour may be forced to cancel its own conference unless it signs a deal with a new security company after taking the decision to boycott G4S.
The party has failed to get a new company on board after cancelling its deal with G4S because of its links with Israeli prisons, according to leaked emails to Iain McNicol, Labour’s general secretary.
According to reports the latest talks have broken down between the GMB union and the one remaining bidder for the contract.
The GMB’s security industry national officer, Roger Jenkins, told The Guardian the Union had asked Labour to cut its ties with Showsec, the Liverpool company lined up to provide conference security.
The Union signed an access agreement in 2004 allowing it to approach Showsec staff, but Mr Jenkins said: There is no right to representation, no right to collective bargaining, no right to negotiate pay, anything at all like that.
There has not been any real relationship at all, and they don’t recognise any other trade union.
There are concerns the Home Office and police could shut down the conference, set to start on September 25, if Labour fails to source an alternative.
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