Why MPs Must Vote To Renew Trident

Vanguard class submarine - Royal Navy

This is no time for woolly idealism or virtue-signalling. Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent must be renewed if Britain is to maintain its status as one of the world’s pre-eminent nations

Tulip Siddiq, the MP for the London – Hampstead & Kilburn constituency and my local MP, sent an email last week encouraging appealing for her constituents to send their views on the renewal of Trident, which Parliament is debating today.

And fair credit to Tulip Siddiq for doing so, rather than simply voting based on any prior ideological views she may have held on the subject. This was the email she sent:

As you will be aware, on Monday 18th July next week MPs will be voting on the renewal of Britain’s Trident nuclear missiles system.

I am deeply disappointed that the Government has rushed through this measure without the chance for proper debate. We are set to have just a day’s debate in Parliament over a spending commitment that will cost billions of pounds throughout its lifetime, and I would have hoped for the chance for much better scrutiny. We still do not have the wording of the motion which we are expected to vote upon.

Nevertheless, I am duty-bound to vote on this issue, and in just a matter of days I will have a momentous decision to make as your local representative. As with the vote on Syria last year I am keen to hear the views of all local residents – on both sides of the debate – ahead of this important vote.

As residents who have written to me about this in the past will know, I have consistently queried the cost-effectiveness of the Government’s plans and raised testing questions with Ministers about the options for renewal.

Given the pressure on our public services and the bleak economic outlook ahead, I think it is vital that Labour redoubles its efforts to scrutinise every penny of public spending and balance our security needs with our country’s other priorities.

I think that you – local taxpayers in this constituency – are best-placed to advise me on how you feel this money should be spent. Just as I did with Syria late last year, I will take the time to look through every comment I receive on this issue ahead of the vote, and you can expect me to respond comprehensively setting out my position in due course.

And here is my response to Siddiq:

Dear Tulip,

Parliament must vote to authorise the renewal of our nuclear deterrent as a matter of the utmost importance. Contrary to the claims of those who favour unilateral disarmament that Trident is an expensive white elephant which we never use, in fact we use our nuclear deterrent every single day, at great benefit to our nation.

Trident benefits Britain in the following ways:

1. Planting the sure knowledge in the mind of rulers of hostile regimes that a nuclear or otherwise catastrophic attack on Britain will be met with a full nuclear response – a deterrent which served us through the Cold War and which nobody should vote to scrap at a time when we can barely guess what threats we will face in 5-10 years time, let alone the medium to long terms

2. Our nuclear deterrent gives Britain a seat at the geopolitical “top tables” and underpins our seat on the P5 of the UN Security Council. The priority of every government (and every MP) must surely be to ensure that Britain’s voice and influence is projected as powerfully and clearly as possible in the world. Scrapping or downgrading our nuclear deterrent would put our permanent seat on the Security Council at risk, immediately making Britain less relevant in world affairs. This will directly harm our interests because, frankly, being a consequential player in the UN helps Britain in a myriad of tangible and intangible ways touching diplomacy, trade and military alliances.

3. Unilateral disarmament by Britain will do absolutely nothing to prompt a sudden outburst of peace or a change in the attitude of Russia and China, the non-allied nuclear powers. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping would take unilateral disarmament by the UK, put it in the bank and give nothing in return. CND activists and Green campaigners would effectively be virtue signalling their moral purity while Britain’s security and national interest were jeopardised.

4. Britain’s insatiable public services will swallow any money diverted from Trident and then still ask for more, with little money actually reaching the front lines and no great increase in performance metrics over the long term. One could throw billions of pounds more that the NHS and other public services, and newspaper headlines will still talk about how they are perpetually “in crisis”. In fact, throwing more money at public services only serves to paper over the cracks, delaying the eventual reckoning which we need to have regarding the NHS, pensions and other services. Is it really worth killing our nuclear deterrent, deliberately maiming our stature on the world stage just to feed the public services bureaucracy with the extra 0.2% of government spending which the Trident renewal will cost over its lifetime?

I hope that you will consider these points as you consider your approaching vote, and I look forward to your response.

Interestingly, the Conservative candidate defeated by Tulip Siddiq in the 2015 general election was a wishy-washy, vague Coke Zero Conservative who disagreed with the “bedroom tax” and who wanted to scrap Britain’s nuclear deterrent altogether. Shamelessly adopting these left-wing positions did not help him much.

As a “rising star” of the Labour Party and with one eye doubtless fixed on her future political ambitions it will be interesting to see which way Siddiq decides to vote this evening.

 

Trident Nuclear Submarine - Faslane Naval Base

Top Image: Guardian

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William Hague’s Bizarre Critique Of Donald Trump

Donald Trump Hosts Nevada Caucus Night Watch Party In Las Vegas

William Hague is just the latest media personality to use Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy as an opportunity for virtue-signalling, rhetorical target practice

William Hague is getting rusty.

The former Conservative Party leader has already shredded his reputation among real conservatives through his shameful support of David Cameron and the Remain campaign. And now, added to that, his latest column on the US presidential election is written with all of the insight of someone who has been paying no attention to the American political scene for years, and is basing their hastily-written column on all of the most tired generalisations from a British television news report.

Whatever happened to the sparklingly witty and intellectually nimble political personality who could keep the House of Commons spellbound (or laughing uncontrollably) with his skills as a raconteur? Perhaps that side of William Hague is curled up in the foetal position, rocking backwards and forwards in shame and incredulity at what the europhile side is up to.

Hague begins with this remarkable statement about the main factors which should disqualify Donald Trump from becoming president of the United States:

Two characteristics make Trump fundamentally unfit to be president: his attitude to women and the way he treats rivals. The first of these, including crude and offensive remarks about female interviewers and candidates, shows deeply patronising instincts.

This isn’t just foul manners. It really matters because the way to liberate the greatest quantity of untapped talent in the 21st century is to achieve the full social, political and economic empowerment of women. Having a leader of the world’s most powerful country who shows no recognition of that cannot be a good idea.

His insulting response to rivals is another disastrous weakness in a potential global leader. The belittling of political opponents – “Lying Ted”, “Little Marco” and so on – shows no grasp of the fact that any president must work with them in Congress the minute he or she is elected. Even worse, Trump’s bullying attitude to other countries – telling Mexico it will have to pay for a wall along its border – would be utterly counterproductive and diminish the power of the USA by destroying its moral authority and crucial ability to persuade others to act.

Of all the things that Hague could have picked as Donald Trump’s disqualifying features, he chooses to virtue-signal and cite Trump’s view of women – as though Trump’s public attitude to women is any worse than, say, JFK’s attitude and behaviour were in private. Of all the things about Trump that Hague can think of, his frequent obnoxiousness is deemed the most serious.

Nothing to do with Trump having no functional knowledge of trade or foreign policy. That’s fine, according to Hague – President Trump can pick all of that stuff up on the fly. But God forbid that the next occupant of the Oval Office says off-colour, crass things about people (despite claiming to have “the best words”).

Hague even goes on to specifically mention some of Trump’s more outlandish statements on foreign and defence policy, so it is not as though he is unaware of them:

When Trump says that South Korea and Japan should have their own nuclear weapons, rather than rely on America, and that the US should stop funding Nato, what he is advocating is the collapse of the entire security architecture of the western world. But the people voting for him and such policies are telling us that they are fed up with paying for the defence of other countries who do very little to look after themselves.

[..] Trump’s other main policy with an impact on all of us is trade protectionism: he wants to impose swingeing tariffs on imports from China and Mexico, and withdraw from new trade agreements. This would be another disastrous act. It would result in widespread retaliation against American products, higher prices for consumers, and lower growth for the world. For Britain, the ninth largest exporter in the world, such policies would be very bad news indeed.

But apparently itching to provoke a trade war and undermining the security structure which has protected the West since the Cold War – with no clear plan for its replacement – is less of a disqualifying factor than Trump’s ongoing feud with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly.

Hague’s broader point – that by supporting Donald Trump, his voters are sending an important message about longstanding, unresolved problems with the American economy – is a fair observation, though it is one which has been made by many other commentators (including this blog) for some time now and so hardly counts as original.

The awkward truth, of course, is that one of the primary drivers of the rise of populists like Donald Trump is the way that mainstream politicians have comported themselves, behaved in power and failed to govern on the platforms on which they ran for office. It is unsurprising that William Hague makes no mention of his, because he is a prime example of the kind of politician who pushes voters toward populists.

William Hague built a career and a reputation out of eurosceptic posturing. Yes, those who paid attention a little more closely could discern that Hague’s euroscepticism was not of the same nature or intensity of that of, say, Iain Duncan Smith. But Hague was nonetheless happy to hoover up eurosceptic support by making the right noises against Brussels and in favour of British sovereignty – right up until his stunning betrayal of the Brexit movement.

Similarly, the establishment Republicans now shunned and held in derision by Trump supporters also have a record of campaigning and posing one way, but acting in quite another. GOP voters have been let down in turn by cynical politicians cosying up to evangelical Christians and promising them the world, but then failing to prevent the enormous recent social changes in America. They have also been let down by the GOP’s brand of faux fiscal conservatism, which preaches the necessity of belt-tightening and cuts but often succeeds only in cutting taxes for higher-earners and exploding budget deficits.

Meanwhile, the Rick Santorum-esque wing of the Republican Party have either pretended that every American is a job-creating millionaire in waiting or talked about solidarity with the American worker while watching the American middle class getting squeezed and then decimated by the forces of globalisation without enacting a single proposal to help them make the adjustment to the new economy.

William Hague is right when he says “my experience of 30 years of elections is that when you think voters might have gone mad, they are actually trying to tell you something”. Unfortunately, what Trump voters are saying is that they are heartily sick of being lied to and peddled shiny promises of a New America which never come true.

Hague can focus on Trump’s abrasive and sometimes obnoxious personality all he wants, but it will not assauge his guilty conscience nor change the fact that his decision to support the Remain campaign in Britain’s EU referendum means that he himself has become just another flip-flopping politician of the type which feeds, not dampens, populist insurgencies like that of Donald Trump.

 

William Hague - Parliament

Top Image: The Spectator

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Beware The Short-Termism Of Those Who Fail To Prioritise Defence Spending

HMS Queen Elizabeth

 

As Britain heads toward an incredibly hard-to-predict general election, nearly everything about our country seems up for discussion – everything except Britain’s declining level of military spending, our long-term national defence strategy and our commitment to the armed forces we are quick to call heroes but grudgingly slow to fund.

James Forsyth, writing in The Spectator, talks about the bear in the room:

You wouldn’t know from this election campaign, but Europe is in crisis. On its eastern border, the threat from Russia is as great as at any point since the end of the Cold War. Crimea has been annexed and large parts of eastern Ukraine are under control of Russian-backed forces. Russian aircraft have even been taunting the RAF in the English Channel. The Baltic states are increasingly fearful that they will be next to suffer from Vladimir Putin’s attempt to reassert Russian dominance on its doorstep.

On Europe’s southern border, Islamic State continues to cause death and destruction — the recent decapitations in Libya were filmed along the shore to make the point that the jihadis have reached the Mediterranean. More worrying, perhaps, is the number of Europeans fighting for it. Last weekend, Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister, warned that the number of Europeans who will have taken up arms with Isis may treble to 10,000 by the end of this year. As these radicalised youths return home, the terrorist threat in Europe will rise exponentially.

But neither of these subjects features with any prominence in the election campaign. Isis and the Russian threat are deeply inconvenient truths that don’t fit into the party leaders’ scripts. The Tories’ six-point long-term economic plan doesn’t have room for foreign entanglements. Labour wants to talk about the National Health Service, not international security.

These are sobering words. There has been a worrying tendency of late in the Tory-friendly press to excuse David Cameron’s various failings and oversights – be it refusing to champion the conservative case in the televised leaders’ debates, or failing to ringfence defence spending during a period of global turmoil – in order to help push the Conservatives across the finish line on 7 May. It is good to see The Spectator taking a firmer stance on the issue of defence, at least.

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