THE new Labour leader of Barrow Council has rounded on her critics after questions about her past opposition to Trident.

Cllr Ann Thomson was unveiled as the new leader of the ruling Labour group at Barrow Town Hall after winning a ballot of party members.

But her appointment was questioned by Independent Barrow MP John Woodcock and Barrow Conservative Party spokesman Simon Fell.

The pair issued statements calling on Cllr Thomson to “renounce” her previous opposition to the multi-billion pound nuclear weapons system.

Cllr Thomson accused them of “political posturing,” and insisted she and Barrow Council had always strongly supported the shipyard and its workforce.

She said: “To be quite honest, it’s political posturing. They are just playing games and trying to put doubt in people’s minds – it’s a load of garbage.”

Cllr Thomson, the deputy leader, won a ballot of party members on Monday to edge out Cllr David Pidduck, who led the Labour group for 12 years.

Mr Woodcock praised Cllr Pidduck as an “ally” of the Dreadnought programme.

Mr Woodcock said: “I have great respect for Ann Thomson and look forward to working with her, but it is concerning Barrow Labour wants someone who has long opposed Trident to lead the local authority.”

Mr Fell, a Tory parliamentary candidate for the Barrow seat, claimed it was “evidence of a “hard-left take-over”.

He said: “I hope that Ann will renounce her long-held opposition to Trident as she takes the reins of the council. Barrow’s future is reliant on the yard and it needs a champion in the council.”

However, Cllr Thomson, a Labour Party member since 1986, did not duck the barbs.

She said: “I have never said anything against the yard. I have never stood up in council and said anything against the yard. With the way the world is at the moment, we need a nuclear deterrent. The yard is Barrow’s future.”

Cllr Thomson confirmed that in the 1980s she had been a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).

But she said many Labour councillors back then had concerns about the potential damage nuclear weapons could cause – including former Barrow MP John Hutton, who won four terms as the town’s MP.

Cllr Thomson, aged 64, said: “I haven’t been a member of CND for years or a member of any other organisation which would be detrimental to the shipyard.”

“My ideal world would be one where we didn’t need to have nuclear weapons. But our party supports them, it has gone through conference and we support it. People forget that it was under the Tories in the 1990s that thousands of people in Barrow lost their jobs at the shipyard.”

Cllr Thomson, who again retained her Hindpool seat in the local elections earlier this month has appointed shipyard employee Cllr Lee Roberts has her new deputy.  As planning committee chairwoman for eight years, she said she had fully backed various applications by BAE to expand its operations in Barrow.

“We have a booming shipyard which Labour fully supports and the economic benefits of the Dreadnought programme will be felt by this community for decades to come,” said the married grandmother-of-three.

Cllr Thomson joined the Labour Party in 1986 in protest at Margaret Thatcher’s policies against the “working people” of the country.

She was first elected in 1990 and has represented three different wards – Central, Hindpool and Risedale – and spent a term as mayor in 2015-16

Cllr Thomson said she was “looking forward” to the job and working with new town hall boss Samantha Plum who joined the council earlier this month.

Cllr Thomson said: “Conservative Government cuts have deprived this council of more than £7m in recent years and that has had consequences for the services we deliver.

“Part of my focus will be looking at more innovative ways of working and seeing what we can learn from other councils.

“I am pleased to have around me dedicated councillors who want to do their best for the borough, and that includes new faces who are very determined to get stuck in.”

“It is an enormous privilege to be elected leader and I would like to thank my Labour colleagues for putting their faith in me and we all would like to acknowledge the great service that Dave Pidduck has given to the borough during his time as leader.

Cllr Pidduck, aged 75, will stay on as a back bencher and also dismissed the comments by Mr Woodcock and Mr Fell.

Cllr Pidduck said: “The country is in chaos at the moment and there is a feeling we could get a General Election coming up. This may just be part of getting the pre-emptive strikes in.”

He dismissed claims of a “hard-left” take-over of the local party, calling the Labour group a “broad church”.

He added that it was possible for someone to oppose the damage nuclear missiles could cause, while still championing the yard.