Labour Needs to Stand Up Over Trident

October 1, 2015

One thing should be clear to all Labour politicians: there is no case for maintaining the Trident nuclear deterrent. I think that this is understood, even by people like Andy Burnham and Maria Eagle, who have been criticizing Jeremy Corbyn for suggesting that he would never use nuclear weapons should he become PM.

There is no conceivable context in which the £100 billion (or more) nuclear “deterrent” could ever be used without participating in armageddon. Security and defence experts also agree that Trident is not equipped to deal with future threats to Britain’s national security. It can do nothing about cyber-attacks or terrorist attacks. As Corbyn rightly pointed out, no amount of nukes could prevent 9/11.

So why do we see Labour figures (grown-ups, some of them) squabbling over who would press the red button, when there is no chance that this could ever be a realistic scenario?

There is an element of macho posturing about this. On one hand, British politicians from all parties are obsessed with “Britain’s place at the table” (presumably at the Mad Hatter’s tea party). Labour, doubly so, as historically they have fought to rid themselves of insinuations of appeasing Moscow. Hence Hugh Gaitskell’s famous refusal to experiment with naturist diplomacy.

There is also the perception that the British “people” would not accept the humiliation of Trident being scrapped. This rather neatly avoids the reality that Trident itself is only operable at the behest of the Pentagon, and is in no way an “independent” deterrent, which is pretty humiliating in itself. I can’t imagine the French begging Washington for a few low-grade nukes to play with in the bath.

The Labour party need to be courageous and stand up for humanity. The British public have never been offered a genuine option of scrapping this hopeless, barbaric weapon. They will respond to a party that offers a principled, passionate opposition to its retention. They will rightly despise a party that sits on the fence and splits hairs about the possible circumstances in which it would be permissible to consider considering the use of Trident should consideration of the circumstances ever become a procedural possibility etc….. (c.ref Eagle, Maria).

But that’s where we are. Senior Labour figures need to stand up and offer a real alternative to British militarism. There are plenty of allies from the military itself, from security think tanks, the international community and even the press.

Corbyn’s Labour needs to be seen as forthright in pursuit of principle, not vacillating and pathetic. There are some policies that they can make progress with, wresting control of the press and political agenda. Trident is surely one of them.


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