Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Shirley Williams supports Liberal Democrat Trident call

Shirley Williams is my political hero. I had real goosebumps when during the Conference debate on the emergency motion on Trident when the chair asked our 79 year old peer to stand by.

When she took to the platform, she started by reminiscing on her own 1981 by-election win for the SDP in Crosby, paying tribute to all those who helped in her campaign.

She then went on to basically annihilate the position of the Tories on insisting that Trident is not subject to the scrutiny of the Strategic Defence Review. She made the point that Trident is essentially a cold war weapon, and last time she looked, she reckoned that the Cold War was over.

Shirley has more knowledge and understanding of US politics than most other people and went on to take apart the idea that not replacing Trident would damage the special relationship with the US. She asked if Liam Fox had noticed that George W Bush had gone, and that a new President, committed to disarmament had taken office. She said it would be ludicrous of us to move in the opposite direction to President Obama, taking on a new system committing us to nuclear weapon power for 40 years, when he's doing what he can to get rid of as many as possible. She argued that a better way forward would be to support him in his endeavours.

Conference supported the motion, pretty overwhelmingly, to ask our Ministers to continue to press for Trident to be included in the Strategic Defence Review.

I would like to see us adopt a policy of getting rid of nuclear weapons altogether but that wasn't on offer today.  Some might say that this motion was a large portion of fudge, rather than the unequivocal rejection of nuclear weapons that others wanted to discuss. There's plenty of time to have that sort of debate, though. We slated Labour in Government  for rushing to replace Trident.

I liked the fact that Julian Huppert, the new MP for Cambridge proposed the motion and mentioned his own opposition to nuclear weapons in principle in the process. There must somewhere be an issue I disagree with him on but I've yet to find it.

1 comment:

SK said...

Moving in the opposite direction to Obama? We're in rather a different position to the US, though. Not renewing Trident would leave Britain without any strategic nuclear capability whatsoever. Obama has never suggested that the US disarm itself in such a way, and indeed his speeches on Iran which bang on about keeping al options open would surely make it impossible, politically, for him to suggest complete unilateral disarmament.

If Britain had several nuclear weapon systems, and the debate was over whether to replace just one, then you would have a point that letting it lapse would support the general Obama-esque goal of nuclear weapons reduction, but unilateral disarmament -- which is, make no mistake, what not replacing Trident would mean -- is a far more extreme position than that.

Obama isn't anywhere near that extreme position (unsurprisingly, as it would be impossible for him to be elected if he got within an ICBM's range of it) so while it may be true that to not replace Trident wouldn't hurt the relationship wit the US (though I've never heard that put forward as an argument for replacement -- all the arguments I've heard have focused on how stupid it would be to leave ourselves without a strategic nuclear capability, as while it might not be as relevant in the current global situation as it was thirty years ago, we're really, in this discussion, talking about the situation thirty years hence, and if the changes between now and then are as huge and unforeseeable as the changes between 1980 and today, who's to say we won't need it -- and better, surely, to have it and not need it than need it and not have it?) it is going far to far to suggest that by keeping a nuclear capability we are somehow moving in the opposite direction to a US president whose policy is also for his country to retain such a capability.


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