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Labour MPs keen to keep useless Trident nuclear weapons should be ashamed

Trident is about diplomatic clout, global posturing, domestic grandstanding and huge sums of public expenditure.

LABOUR'S shadow cabinet reaction to Jeremy Corbyn on Trident is astonishing. An end to Britain’s nuclear arsenal has been an article of faith to most Labour supporters for a generation. It has also been common currency of most defence analysts for almost as long.

Trident has never been about defence but about diplomacy.

The sole reason for Trident surviving the Blair government’s first defence review (on whose lay committee I sat) was the ban on discussing it imposed by the then defence secretary, George Robertson, in 1997. Members were told to “think the unthinkable” about everything except Trident and new aircraft carriers.

It was clear that Tony Blair and his team had been lobbied, not by the defence chiefs, but by the procurement industry. Labour was regarded as soft on defence and mega-projects were seen as talismans of the party’s patriotism. Robertson, John Reid and John Gilbert were adamant that no chink should appear in the nuclear armour.

I can recall no head of the army and no serious academic strategist with any time for the Trident missile. It was a great hunk of useless weaponry. It was merely a token of support for an American nuclear response, though one that made Britain vulnerable to a nuclear exchange.

No modern danger, such as from terrorism, is deterred by Trident (any more than Galtieri had been in the Falklands or Saddam in Iraq). But the money was spent and the rest of the defence budget had to suffer constant cuts – and soldiers left ill-equipped – to pay for it.

For decades the Labour party has lacked the courage of its own convictions on nuclear weapons and the courage to confront the industry lobby behind Trident. Gordon Brown openly backed Trident simply as job-creation for Scotland.

While the missiles come from America and their use without American permission is inconceivable, a decision on the related submarine replacement programme is due next year. It will have nothing to do with national defence.

Talk about “ultimate deterrents” might as well apply to any Armageddon weapon, bacteriological or chemical. Trident is about diplomatic clout, global posturing, domestic grandstanding and huge sums of public expenditure.

This is precisely the kind of issue on which Jeremy Corbyn’s straight talking might be thought to turn over a new leaf. He might break with New Labour’s craven appeasement of the industrial lobbies and log-rollers.

It is sad that his party colleagues, not one of whom can seriously believe in Trident, feel obliged to oppose him on this issue, just so Labour can seem tough on defence. Perhaps Corbyn should talk to a soldier.

Source: The Guardian

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