Has Labour committed to renewing Trident? No


by Sunny Hundal    
5:15 pm - February 27th 2013

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The Independent today had a big ‘exclusive’ story titled: ‘Labour to join Tories in backing a £25bn deal to renew Trident fleet‘.

The story was unsurprisingly picked up by many across the left and criticised from within the party and outside.

But the actual contents of the story didn’t seem to match the headline, so I made a few calls.

A source from the the shadow defence team told me that the headline was essentially jumping the gun: no final decision had been made.

Ed Miliband has already said in the past that he wanted Britain to retain an independent nuclear deterrent for now. The Labour leader also believes that disarmament of nuclear weapons should be multilateral and not unilateral.

Labour say the decision on whether to renew Trident will be based on three factors: capability of such a deterrent, whether it is cost-effective and save money on the current Trident bill, and thirdly – allow the UK to downgrade our current stockpile and warheads deployed.

The Labour spokesperson said Labour’s decision will also be based on the work that Des Browne is doing on the matter.

So why the Independent article? It seems to have been prompted by Lord West raising concerns about the alternatives to Trident.

How seriously that intervention should be taken is up for debate.

But I was told in no uncertain terms that a decision had not been made on like-for-like renewal of Trident.

So when will a decision be made? That depends on when the Trident alternatives review is published (which should be this spring, and could be as late as September).

It also depends on what the review says. If it says there aren’t many viable and cost-effective alternatives then Labour may be backed into a corner.

If, however, the review offers a range of alternatives and sufficient level of detail on how they could work, there would be more momentum to opt for an alternative.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


I’d say Milliband should shit or get off the Tory pot.

By media accounts, America has over 7,000 nuclear weapons, which proved to be useless in preventing the 9/11 atrocity in 2001, just as Britain’s modest stockpile of 200 or so nuclear weapons was useless in preventing the London tube bombings on 5/7 in 2005:
http://ploughshares.org/world-nuclear-stockpile-report

Sunny,

the article struck me too and I thought your article was on point. One question, if Obama does make the 80% reductions along with Hagel in a bilateral cuts with Russia that they want to and makes a serious call for multilateral negotiations, or at least overtures about the desire to do so, do you think there is sufficient potential leadership to consider the real alternative, not renewing Trident within the time frame before modernisation?

So this is a story about another story that isn’t really a story. Thank you for clarifying that for us all. No seriously, it is good that no final decision has been made, Labour should keep all of its options open, this is an important issue and deserves to be taken as such.

“But the actual contents of the story didn’t seem to match the headline”

It’s a real shame when headline writers do this.

The crucial defence issues for a future Labour government are how to deal with asymmetric conflicts, cyber warfare, terrorism and internal subversion. Trident renewal comes nowhere near dealing with any of those potential threats.

Nuclear weapons for Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) were an essential means of deterring a possible Soviet blitzkrieg attack across the north German plain – possibly intended as a pre-emptive strike against perceived NATO “aggression” or to liberate some group of oppressed workers in western Europe.

The Warsaw Pact countries had maintained overwhelming superiority in armour which made that a credible theat for which the threat of a nuclear response was cost-effective compared with attempting to match Soviet armour capability. But that situation is no longer relevant so there is no sense in spending billions in addressing it.

This doesn’t mean Britain should unilaterally give up its modest nuclear stockpile, only that we need to consider a much less costly delivery system even if that system is more vulnerable than Trident missiles to defensive measures. It’s a matter of carefully balancing costs against pay-offs in the context of the need to constrain the budget deficit while protecting social priorities and infrastructure commitments in public spending.

planeshift: It’s a real shame when headline writers do this.

I’m watching you son.

It is on issues like Trident that Labour can provide a clear alternative to the voter.

10. So Much for Subtlety

3. Bob B

By media accounts, America has over 7,000 nuclear weapons, which proved to be useless in preventing the 9/11 atrocity in 2001

Yet again Bob doesn’t get it. Those terrorists were reduced to 9-11. There was no repeat of Pearl Harbour. There never will be. There was no repeat of the Battle of Britain. Nor will there be. The only way people can attack us is with these pathetic little efforts. The Soviet Army never dared roll through the Fulda Gap and now we are dealing with pin pricks.

However Bob thinks that because something is only 99.5% effective it is useless. Go figure.

7. Bob B

The crucial defence issues for a future Labour government are how to deal with asymmetric conflicts, cyber warfare, terrorism and internal subversion. Trident renewal comes nowhere near dealing with any of those potential threats.

Again Bob does not understand the basic logic – Trident means that any future Labour government will be freed from the need to deal with anything other than terrorism. Get rid of them and a whole world of pain opens up.

we need to consider a much less costly delivery system even if that system is more vulnerable than Trident missiles to defensive measures.

Come on Bob, impress us. Explain a single counter measure that can be taken against Trident and a single alternative system that can’t be messed with.

11. John Ruddy

@2

Since the councillor referred to in the link is an independent, what party do you think Labour is joining?

I was amazed to see that according to this global league table of national military budgets, Britain ranks fourth in the world after the US, China and Russia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures

At a time of national austerity to rein back the current fiscal deficit, that seems to me to be an absurd national priority given the size of Britain’s population.

SMFS

With its nuclear arsenal, has the US won any wars since ww2? Try this answer from an American respondent:

“We allegedly have the best military in the world, but think about it. Have we won a war since ww2? Vietnam= lost, korea = stalemate, iraq and afganistan = fail I’m mean were killing the shyt out those ppl, (most of whom are innocent) but are goals are not being met, which is ousting the terrorist. Oh I forgot, panama in which they were charged with violating their own geneva convention.”
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20101114081056AAf3W5V

He overlooked the successful American invasion of Grenada in 1983. Mrs T complained about that at the time because she hadn’t been consulted.


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