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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Living In The Shadow Of The Bomb

Slate Magazine has a thought-provoking article exploring the condition of disused above-ground nuclear test sites in the former Soviet Union, and the nascent tourism industry which is springing up to give intrepid explorers an experience of this slice of recent military and geopolitical history:

Nuclear test site in Kazakhstan. Photo by Jacob Baynham.
Nuclear test site in Kazakhstan. Photo by Jacob Baynham.

Focusing on a particular test site in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, the article looks at the impact that 116 above-ground nuclear tests can have on the wildlife and topography of an area:

Looking out from the epicenter of these blasts, you can still see remnants of structures the Soviets built to test the power of these explosions. To the right are the crumpled remains of a bridge. To the left are fortified bunkers and barracks that had been filled with dogs, pigs, and goats to approximate the effects a blast would have on soldiers. In a line in both directions, 10 four-story concrete buildings rise from the Earth like the moai of Easter Island. These structures were filled with sensors to measure the explosions. Strilchuk calls them “geese,” because from a distance that’s what they look like: giant goose necks craning up from the grass, facing the place where man played God.

As well as the human impact on those in the nearby towns, fifty miles away:

Anastacia Kyseleva is an 86-year-old resident of the Institution for the Elderly and Disabled in the nearby town of Semey. She was newly married and living in a village near the test site when the explosions began. “We didn’t know what it was,” she recalls 60 years later, wringing a scarf in her hands. It wasn’t until a test in 1956 that soldiers told the villagers to leave their houses and stand beside the river. “We could see the mushroom cloud from the field,” she says. “It looked like a sunset. Since that year, a lot of people started dying.”

But amidst this ongoing legacy of sickness, birth defects and infant mortality, there is also cause for optimism:

The government’s optimism for the Semipalatinsk test site reflects Kazakhstan’s emergence from a Soviet nuclear wasteland into a prosperous capitalist economy. Kazakhstan has come to terms with its history quicker than most former Soviet republics. A wealthy, resource-rich country, Kazakhstan is broadening its profile as a leader of the nonproliferation movement by hosting negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. They’ve volunteered to establish an international nuclear fuel bank, a measure of nuclear security that the International Atomic Energy Agency is seriously considering. The government even talks of building a nuclear energy reactor of its own, a peaceful application of the fierce atomic power that the Soviet Union once wrought upon the Kazakh steppe.

The full article is well worth a read.

The Sheer Unimportance of North Korea

The press coverage lavished on the every theatrical ranting of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and his propaganda machine is rapidly becoming ridiculous.

Reports The Telegraph:

That American pledge to defend South Korea and Japan is crucial to deterring the North from full-scale war. “Kim Jong-un has to understand, as I think he probably does, what the outcome of conflict would be,” said Mr Kerry.

“I think we have lowered our rhetoric significantly and we are attempting to find a way for reasonableness to prevail here,” he added. “The rhetoric that we are hearing from North Korea is simply unacceptable by any standards.”

The North voiced yet more belligerence on Friday, turning its venom on Japan, saying: “If Japan makes a slightest move, the spark of war will touch Japan first.” The statement added that “Japan must come to its senses” or else Tokyo would be “consumed in nuclear flames”.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kim Jong-Un is a pudgy, spoiled little tinpot dictator, presiding over a desperately poor nation and an army which, while large in size, is comically antiquated and under-equipped, and not at all prepared for significant combat.

Like most rational people, Kim and the senior officials around him who pull the strings, do not have a death wish, and are not about to launch a nuclear strike against anyone, with very low chance of success but the certainty of total destruction in retaliation.

It should be obvious to a small child that Kim Jong-Un is sabre-rattling (if I hear the term “bellicose rhetoric” one more time on the news, or read it in print, I think I will go mad) purely to shore up his authority and support at home. Given the fact that none of the poor enslaved citizens of North Korea will ever see the stern-faced responses that our own leaders somehow feel compelled to give every time their babyfaced dictator throws one of his tantrums, we have to ask ourselves why do John Kerry and William Hague (and countless other military and diplomatic officials) feel the need to respond publicly when those responses will be seen only by their domestic audiences?

And incidentally the people at Fox News, who have been covering the latest tensions with great glee as another “Obama foreign policy crisis” would do well to discover some humility and remember that it was their beloved president, George W. Bush, who allowed North Korea to go nuclear in the first place.

That is all.