Friday, May 08, 2009

Nadine Dorries thinks Trident isn't a weapon of mass destruction

Yes, you did read that right. Tory MP Nadine Dorries actually said on Question Time (and I replayed it several times to make sure, because I thought my dodgy ears couldn't possibly be right) that Trident, which her Party has vowed to replace in the unfortunate event of them ever returning to office, is not a weapon of mass destruction.

It's a pity she couldn't have looked up her leader's plans for a more important item of defence spending - the aircraft carriers which are due to be built at Rosyth dockyard if this Government ever stops delaying the project. She was asked the direct question and she said she didn't know. I think we should be told the Tory plans for a project which is so vital for the Fife economy, where unemployment is up a jaw dropping 70% on last year. You would think that when she was appearing on a tv programme being filmed a hop, skip and a jump from Rosyth that somebody in the Tory party would have had the sense to brief her. Of course, there's always the possibility that they don't want to make their plans public.... Why could that be?

Anyway, I think the clear star performer last night was Nicola Sturgeon. She is usually very good in these combative settings and she did shine last night, despite not having particularly great opposition.

What on earth are the Labour Party going to do about Iain Gray, though? He's a nice enough man with his heart in the right place, but he was clearly otherwise engaged when charisma was being handed out. His delivery is wooden and he can barely string an argument together.

Nadine was, well, Nadine and totally out of her comfort zone. The bizarre SNP/Tory love in lives on as she praised a lot of what was happening in Scotland and had to be reminded by David Steel that the Tories had completely and obstinately opposed devolution in any form.

I wasn't too enamoured with David Steel saying he saw the point of the people in the audience who were calling for everyone's DNA to be taken at birth and put on a database and not advancing any of the arguments why this would be a really bad idea.

Nadine's Trident comment has to be the quote of the week, though - the audience gasped with sheer incredulity.

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Richard Thomson said...

Sums up my feelings as well, Caron.

Nicola's experience really shows through on these occasions, Mind, she's been representing the SNP on Question Time since well before she became an MSP in 1999, so she's probably not too far behind David Steel in the QT appearance stakes!

Poor old Iain, though - his attacks were contrived, his defences were poor, he seemed to forget he was in front of a UK audience at times - he couldn't even give a good response when Nicola flirted with him about his having a nicer smile than Gordon Brown.

I'm sure Nadine Dorries is a lovely person, but I'm amazed that she's allowed on these programmes unsupervised. That said, her apparent view that nuclear weapons only become WMD when posessed by regimes of which we dissaprove is a pretty widespread one in both the Labour and Tory parties.

sm753 said...


There may be a way in which Nadine is correct, believe it or not. (I've actually got a half-written blog post which deals with this, which is why it's in my mind.)

For a country like the UK its nuclear forces are not weapons at all; they are a deterrent. If we ever got to the point where the thing had to be used it would have failed as a deterrent and there would be no point using it.

(Which does not, of course, invalidate the reason for having it and making the rest of the world think that you *might* use it.)

This is reflected in the UK control arrangements, which are the most fatalistic and, if you like, peacable of any of the major nuclear powers.

Whereas the US and the Russians make all sorts of efforts to keep their leadership alive, in control and able to retaliate, the UK has always assumed that the government would basically cop it straight away. (Geography - we're a much smaller place and much closer to Russia, so less warning time.)

So the decision to retaliate basically devolves straight down to the commanders of the bomber sub(s) at sea, and the only influence the PM has on them is the famous "letter in the captain's safe".

If you caught the Radio 4 Peter Hennessy documentary on it a few months back, Denis Healey reached the same conclusion and actually went a bit further: he said that if it was up to him, even if the Soviet missiles were already landing, he would not have retaliated.

Jim Callaghan, on the other hand, would have.

And of course the fact that the actual decision might be made by a 40-year-old Commander RN somewhere at sea adds another layer of uncertainty - NB this is a *good* thing in the context of deterrence.

I have to say, though, I doubt whether Dorries was thinking of any of this, and more likely was just being a bit of a Dorries.

Richard Thomson said...

So it's a bit like an irregular verb. We have a deterrent, you have nuclear weapons, they have WMD? ;-)

I don't disagree with your explanation of the logic of deterrence, but like a firearm, Trident remains a weapon whether it is ever intended to be used or not.

I did hear the Hennessey documentary to which you refer. It was very interesting - I certainly don't take lightly the responsibilities which the people involved in the 'firing chain' have.

jossc said...

Greenpeace has just produced a new report, In The Firing Line, which reveals true costs of £97 billion for Trident: five times government estimates.

How can this expensive project be justified at a time of economic crisis and emerging threats to national security such as international terrorism, failed states, pandemic diseases and above all, climate change?

And does it really deliver genuine security for the UK?

The report has received the backing of many senior political and military figures, including former shadow defence secretary Michael Ancram, who wrote the report's forward, Lib Dem shadow chancellor Vince Cable, and Lord Ramsbotham, former Adjutant-General of Defence Management.

You can read a summary of the report’s findings at:

And the full report at


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