Shadow defence minister faces furious backlash for endorsing Tory line on British war crimes

A mural depicting Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland, with Labour shadow defence secretary, Mia Griffith, pictures alongside
Joshua Funnell

The Labour Party’s new approach to foreign policy has proven popular with the public under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

But many supporters have expressed dismay at recent comments by Labour’s shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith, which expressed support for Conservative defence secretary Penny Mordaunt. Specifically, Griffith praised Mordaunt’s comments about the legal accountability of British troops for historic crimes.

Mordaunt later expressed her belief that British armed forces should have amnesty and not be investigated for historic crimes in the north of Ireland.

Griffith’s offending tweet

The saga unfolded after a tweet Griffith posted on 9 May. In it, she showed approval for an approach advocated by Mordaunt:


Mordaunt was addressing the controversial issue of the possible prosecution of British troops for historic crimes. According to the Guardian, Mordaunt’s views suggested:

that she favoured an amnesty for British soldiers from historical prosecutions

Many take issue with this approach for violating the rights of victims. And Griffith’s apparent support for it drew a hostile reaction on social media:

Journalist Abi Wilkinson had this to say:

Wilkinson further added that:

Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle wasn’t happy either:

Mordaunt speech makes Griffith’s position worse

Later comments by Mordaunt further called into question Griffith’s support. According to ITV News, Mordaunt’s proposed new legislation:

would protect [British armed forces] from investigation over actions on the battlefield abroad after 10 years, except in “exceptional circumstances”, such as if compelling new evidence emerged.

It will stipulate that such prosecutions are not in the public interest unless there are “exceptional circumstances”.

ITV reported that this amnesty wouldn’t apply to the north of Ireland. According to the Independent, however, Mordaunt told a naval conference in London:

I do think it should cover Northern Ireland.

Many feel Mordaunt’s comments express a desire to shield British troops from legal accountability for war crimes.

How not to set the record straight

After Mordaunt’s subsequent provocative comments, Griffith tweeted on 15 May:

But for many, this still wasn’t enough. Journalist Abi Wilkinson had this to say:

Journalist Owen Jones was also displeased. He included a link to a petition addressed to Jeremy Corbyn, expressing:

profound disappointment with Nia Griffith’s support for the government’s proposals to grant members of the armed forces immunity from prosecution.

Meanwhile, London Labour Students felt Griffith’s comments were contrary to the Labour Party they believe in:

And economics commentator Grace Blakeley sought clarification on official party policy from Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC):

The Canary contacted Griffith for comment, but she had not responded by the time of publication.

The heart of the Labour Party is still being fought for

Caroline Molloy of Open Democracy argued that the Griffith furore shows a problem of party leadership on security issues:

Griffith may later clarify her position. But this incident suggests there’s a battle still raging for the soul of the Labour Party. Hopefully, the battle will be won by politicians unwilling to accept the military violating human rights with impunity.

Featured image via YouTube – ODN and YouTube – BBC Newsnight

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