Sunday, June 17, 2012

Let's not miss the point on Trident

Today's Telegraph reports that a new Government contract for nuclear reactors in submarines brings the renewal of Trident a lot closer and creates a rift with the Liberal Democrats.Well, I'm glad that they recognise our point of view on this, that we fought the last election on a policy of there being no like for like replacement of Trident. Can I suggest that before we get ourselves in a twist about this, we read what Liberal Democrat defence minister Nick Harvey wrote on Liberal Democrat Voice last month. The main decision will not be made until after the next General Election. We have seen to that.

I for one was never entirely comfortable with the notion of no "like for like" replacement of Trident. I have no desire to go shopping in the bargain basement for nuclear weapons. I actually don't think we have any business investing squillions in weapons of mass destruction at all. I want to see our entire nuclear weapons programme ended. No ifs, buts or maybes. Keeping a stock of these weapons is absolutely unjustifiable in my opinion. Why would you want to have missiles whose prime purpose is to cause widespread devastation, death and destruction amongst innocent civilians, people like you and me.

What those of us who feel the same way, whatever party they're in, should be doing is spending the next 3 years building a campaign against a nuclear deterrent in principle. That's going to be a huge issue in the next election. I am far from convinced that we'll be out of the economic mire by then and we will have better things to spend our money on than stellar guided wickedness. The Labour Party needs to think long and hard about whether it can justify it. They may well be haunted by their 1983 manifesto which advocated unilateral nuclear disarmament but we are in a different world now. If the biggest threat we face is from international terrorism, as the US and UK Governments would have us believe, then there is no point investing in more nukes, because they will do nothing to deal with that threat.

My Nationalist friends will no doubt rush to tell me that an independent Scotland wouldn't have any nuclear weapons. How selfish can you get?  As part of the UK, we Scots, who tend to be less convinced by the argument for these things, have a chance to bring about a change of policy which will rid the whole island of them. Narcissistic nationalist nimbyism isn't going  to help make the world non nuclear place. A UK without Scotland would, I think, be less likely to abandon nuclear weapons, leaving all on these islands worse off.

We know that the Tories like to scare people into accepting the unacceptable - just look at Theresa May's comments on the Draft Communications Data Bill (which is only a draft bill due to Nick Clegg putting his foot down). She's clearly trying to convince us that unless she's given unbridled power to snoop on all our Facebook messages, terrorists will run amok. Of course, the people who are really up to no good will be able to circumvent such measures. In the same way, they will build a frightening case for maintenance of the deterrent. The  opponents of nuclear weapons need to build a more compelling, evidence based case for getting rid of them. We don't have long - just around half a year further away than the Independence Referendum. Let's get to it.

5 comments:

tris said...

Your heading hits the nail on the head.

The "Point" of Trident is at stake.

We are hardly likely to be fighting the cold war again. And even if we did I don't think Britain's little contribution would make any difference.

In the meantime, thanks to Labour and the Tories we are fighting conventional wars, and we have lousy equipment, second rate kit, and even the food we serve our troops is muck compared to what the American and French troops get.

It is also true that teachers are reporting that children are looking for food in bins here at home in Great Britain, so poor are ordinary people becoming.

The reason we have trident (and it's not an independent nuclear deterrent; we need America's permission, and authority to deploy it) is that without it we would no longer merit a place at the UNSC.

Being without the input of the likes Blair, Brown and Cameron wouldn't be a HUGE loss to the world. Doubtless, however, it would be a huge loss to the likes of Blair, Brown and Cameron. Clearly that is what counts, and so they spend our money to ensure its continuance.

It's all about status. The Americans, of course want us to have it, because it adds to their arsenal without them having to pay for it; and of course, it keeps UK on the UNSC, where we agree to everything they want us to.

Sorry to be cynical, but small poor countries really don't need to have weapons of mass destruction (which is what we call them when people who are not quite like us have them...or in the case of Iraq, don't have them).

We should sort our roads, get people back to work, build railways like the Germans and French, Spanish and Italians and leave the big boy stuff to ....big boys.

Richard Thomson said...

Hi Caron,

"Narcissistic nationalist nimbyism" makes for a nice alliteration, but if you don't mind me saying, the sentiment is unworthy of you.

I know that you'd prefer to remain part of a UK without nuclear weapons. That's a view I can respect, as is the desire to fight your corner to try and make that happen. However, the fact is that the only thing the Lib Dems are on course to change right now is whether the toilets on the submarines which will carry the UK's next generation of WMD are painted in beige or blue.

Your party's MPs are acting as the midwives for son of Trident and frankly, there are many in the upper echelons of your party who are more than happy that this should be the case. They buy into the post-WWII groupthink so beloved of the Westminster political class that Britain remains a 'global player' which needs to 'punch above its weight'.

Being in favour of a 'deterrent' is seen as a measure of your 'soundness' when it comes to 'security' and our place in the world. It's the sort of empty platitude which echoes around Westminster and Whitehall meeting little dissent, allowing the third rate and mediocre of all 3 'main' parties the reassurance that somehow, they themselves might be significant players in the political system of a significant player.

Be in no doubt that Trident will be replaced on what is more or less a like-for-like basis, whether the Tories need the Lib Dems to keep them in power after the next election or not. Given the importance of the Faslane and Coulport facilities and the impossibility of replicating them outside Scotland, the only thing which can stop Trident replacement is restricting the ability of a future Westminster government to use these sites.

Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives are neither willing or nor able to stop the next generation of British WMD. Painful as it might be to acknowledge, one of the many costs of staying within the UK is that everyone on these islands is going to be stuck with British WMD. With independence, you can be certain that Trident will not be replaced, thus freeing the whole of the UK from the burden they present.

A British Isles free of WMD is surely something which, even despite our differing views on the constitutional question, we might both be able to agree would be a good thing, no?

Caron Lindsay said...

Richard, let me get this right. You are saying that Scotland voting for independence is the only way to rid the entire UK of nuclear capability?

That strikes me as somewhere between unlikely and complete fantasy.

I think we should concentrate on getting Labour to change its mind and realise that replacing Trident is a really daft idea. We don't need it, WMDs are wrong and there is no evidence based justification for us to maintain a weapon that's capable of obliterating Moscow.

Richard Thomson said...

Caron - that's exactly what I'm saying.

The leaderships of the Conservatives, Labour and your own party all support British possesion of WMD. Accordingly, there will always be a majority in the HoC to have British nuclear weapons.

Labour always has and always will return MPs prepared to ignore the views of their membership on WMD. They've been doing so since the days of Clem Attlee and with the best will in the world, that's not going to change because of a few Lib Dems, however well intentioned, trying to bring about a change in Labour thinking which they've been unable to effect in their own party.

Face it - the only way to stop Trident replacement is to prevent the long-term use of the facillities already in place. That only happens with independence.

Like I said, I can respect and understand your preference to be part of a UK without WMD. It just so happens that those 2 objectives, without some Damascene conversion in terms of Establishment and wannabee Establishment thinking, are in irreconcilable conflict with eachother and will always remain so. Pretending otherwise is the fantasy.

tommy5d said...

I think you're absolutely right that the real issue is over whether to have a deterrent or not.

I personally favour having a deterrent and therefore favour Trident.

After all, we spend £32bn/year on having a military and only £2.5bn on Trident. Our conventional military could defend us from most countries but our nuclear deterrent assures that we're safe from everyone.

The point of having nukes is to never use them. How many more people would have died in the Cold War if nukes hadn't prevented it from becoming hot? Would we have really disastrously invaded Iraq if they'd genuinely had WMDs?

Some people think having weapons that you'd never want to use makes them pointless but it doesn't. If a foreign power that our conventional military couldn't fight off landed troops in Dover then yes we'd use our nuclear weapons but the very fact that we'd do that means that foreign troops will never land in Dover in the first place.

We have tanks, jets, submarines, etc. that we never use but that we hold because they act as a deterrent. Our conventional deterrent though is both ineffective (currently no carriers) and expensive (16 times what our nukes cost).

If we have to make cuts then cut our ability to wage war abroad so we can't have another Afghanistan or Iraq, scrap the Cold War tanks we have in Germany, close the Naval bases in Cyprus, etc. ,etc. but please let us keep the best value for money protection that we have which is the incredibly cheap and unquestionably effective Trident.

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