Sunday, 17 October 2010

Trident: Is It Time?

In a move that will spark internal warfare here at Keir Hardie Blogs, I think I am becoming open to changing my opinion on Trident. While I have always agreed that we need a nuclear deterrent, and therefore need Trident, I am beginning to change my mind.

This is not some knee-jerk response to being in Opposition, but a reaction in many ways to the axe-wielding government. The more and more I hear of people's lives being affected by things like street lighting cuts, police cuts, Child Benefit cuts and University fee hikes, the more I think we need an alternative to Trident.

Because can we really justify the £34bn that Greenpeace say renewal will cost when people are going to be left homeless by the changes to Housing Benefit that the government is proposing? Some even say it will be more than that. Vince Cable said Trident would cost £70bn from..... Wait a minute; why should we care what he said? Naughty liar.

Anyway, the arguments for are still strong. I do agree that we need a proper defence system that will protect us from the nutjobs that the world throws up from time to time. But then, as a friend pointed out to me recently, where have the threats to the Western world come from over the last decade or more? 9/11, the IRA and it's successors, 7/7, Glasgow, the failed bombings of 21st July 2005, the car bombs found in June 2007; none of these security threats, the real threat to the UK in the modern world, were deterred or defeated by Trident. These are the real dangers we face today much more than any international threats from nations or "rogue states".

I do accept that these threats come along unexpectedly, but surely a cheaper alternative would be much more sensible given the economic, political and military circumstances all over the world? Especially as, with Presidents Obama and Medvedev's leadership, we are trying to move towards a nuclear free world. And the alternatives sound, well, okay. Cruise missiles, with a range of 1,000 miles, are one cheaper alternative. Sure, they wouldn't reach, say, Iran. But is Iran really going to attack Britain? Are we that important? And if we do face the threat of attack, do we really need a stockpile consisting of weapons that are "eight times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb"?

And then there's the possibility of a land-based defence system. I appreciate these can be more vulnerable to attack than Trident subs, but we can sort out the correct security for them at a cheaper cost than we pay to house the missiles underwater.

So whilst I'm still not totally converted, I am definitely beginning to wonder. Is Trident really a T.I.N.A. issue? Or can we find a cheaper, workable and effective alternative that could soften the burden of cuts in other areas?

Open to any thoughts. I think I know who will be first...


1 comment:

  1. You will be slightly surprised I feel with my response.

    An independent nuclear deterrent is essential. Of that there is no question; however, I agree that there is room to quibble on its delivery method. Aware of the development hell British weapon systems seem to go through every 30 odd years (TSR2, CVF, even the Eurofighter and F35) I find it extremely difficult to believe we could develop a more or equally effective, cheaper, delivery system.

    I think that Trident therefore is the most efficient, effective and cost effective way of doing what we need to do. What should certainly be up for debate is how many SSBNs do we need, how many need to be on patrol at any one time, how should we replace our current SSBN's (I think what must certainly be the most effective way is an section that can be slipped into a submarine similar in size to the Astutes.) On a more philosophical level I think we also need to think about, as you do in this article: what is the future of nuclear weapons globally?

    But the chance of me (and I feel, when pushed, the majority of the British public) admitting we don't need nuclear weapons is about as likely as Vince Cable telling the truth or Matt Smith winning in Cardiff North.