The British Labour leader, Jermey Corbyn, was harangued and lauded in equal measure last night when he repeatedly refused to state he would be willing to push the nuclear button.
Asked how he would react if Britain was under imminent threat from nuclear weapons, the Labour leader said: “I think the idea of anyone ever using a nuclear weapon anywhere in the world is utterly appalling and terrible.”
But as presenter David Dimblebly pressed Corbyn to answer the question directly, a fierce debate broke out on social media.
Corbyn, who has campaigned for nuclear disarmament for most of his political career, eventually said it would depend on the scenario.
He’d earlier said: “I would do everything I can to ensure that any threat is actually dealt with earlier on by negotiations and by talks, so that we do adhere to our obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.”
Corbyn said he “would view the idea of having to use a nuclear weapon as something that was resulting in a failure in the whole world’s diplomatic system.”
One audience member asked if he would “allow North Korea or some idiot in Iran to bomb us and then say ‘We’d better start talking’.”
Corbyn said: “Of course not, that is why I made the point … about the need for president Obama’s agreement with Iran to be upheld, it’s quite important actually, and also to promote disarmament in Korea.”
“That is difficult, I appreciate,” he added.
— BBC Question Time (@bbcquestiontime) June 2, 2017
The nuclear section of the show did eventually come to a close, thanks in large part to an audience member.
“I don’t understand why everyone in this room seems so keen on killing millions of people with a nuclear bomb”, she said, before asking a question on immigration and moving the debate on.
Other issues Corbyn covered in the programme, which saw Theresa May take questions from the studio audience ahead of and separately from the Labour leader, included health, small businesses, immigration and Brexit.
His overall message can be summed up in answer given to a question about whether the Labour manifesto is realistic.
Corbyn said: “We have to respect the needs of people and challenge all of us to say that if we want to live in a society that genuinely cares for all, we’ve got to be prepared to deal with issues of inequality and pay for it. And I’m prepared to do that.”
“Our manifesto is a serious, well thought-out document, that I believe is getting a lot of support and people are getting very excited at the idea of how we can do things differently,” he added.