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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Jeremy Corbyn’s Yellow Submarine Policy

Trident Nuclear Submarine - Faslane Naval Base

Jeremy Corbyn’s yellow submarine proposal is nothing but a white elephant, with all the cost and none of the benefits of nuclear deterrence

Spare a thought for those in peril on the Labour Party’s Trident renewal commission. As they seek to square their leader’s avowed nuclear disarmament stance with the parliamentary party’s broad support for Trident renewal, they are being forced to consider – and publicly discuss – ever more ridiculous potential compromises.

Jeremy Corbyn’s latest proposal is particularly bad, and would involve spending billions of pounds designing and building the next generation Trident submarines, but – crucially – not arming them with any new weapons.

The Guardian reports:

Jeremy Corbyn has suggested the UK could have Trident submarines without nuclear weapons, a move that would mean disarmament while protecting defence jobs in Scotland and Cumbria.

The Labour leader raised the idea on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show as a possible compromise between his opposition to nuclear weapons and the position of the trade unions, which want to protect the jobs of workers who will build replacement Trident submarines.

In an interview over the weekend, the Labour leader argued it was not a binary decision on whether to replace Trident submarines, suggesting a possible compromise. Pressed on the Marr Show as to what this meant for Trident, Corbyn said: “They don’t have to have nuclear warheads on them.”

[..] Asked again whether he was suggesting that new submarines could be built to be used without nuclear warheads, Corbyn said: “There are options there. The paper that Emily Thornberry has put forward is very interesting and deserves study of it. I hope there will be a serious and mature response.” He also stressed that he would want to maintain employment for people in the defence industry, who would be involved in building Trident submarines, as a “first priority”.

Thornberry told the BBC’s Sunday Politics: “The way that it works is that the Japanese have got a capability to build a nuclear bomb…[but] you can then put them on to, or you can use them, in various delivery forms. So that’s a possibility, that is an option.” She said she would not speculate on what the review would recommend but she added that Corbyn “said there’s a number of options, and I said the Japanese already have this as the way that they use theirs”.

This is ludicrous.

Nuclear-powered submarines capable of carrying and launching Trident nuclear warheads are very expensive, as you would expect from high-tech stealth technology designed to last for a generation. Their only value is the fact that they provide a near-undetectable, continuous at-sea presence, so that any would-be aggressor knows that whatever attack they may launch at Britain, a retaliatory response always remains possible.

Investing in a new generation of nuclear submarines but failing to simultaneously build a new generation of missiles and warheads to deliver them would be like… well, it would be like commissioning two new aircraft carriers which will come into service without any aircraft capable of launching from them.

But at least this ludicrous defensive gap of the Conservative government’s making is only temporary. The aircraft to complement the Queen Elizabeth class carriers will follow the commissioning of the ships, albeit an embarrassing couple of years late.

Not so the Trident missiles to supply the next generation of submarines. Under Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal, Britain’s four (or three? Two?) new Vanguard replacement submarines will dart around under the ocean carrying no weapons and providing no deterrence of any kind. In fact, they may not launch at all, since Jeremy Corbyn probably sees little value in keeping a Navy. So in theory, Britain could end up spending over £20 billion designing and building four new ICBM-carrying submarines, only to sit back and watch them grow cobwebs in dry dock.

Jeremy Corbyn would counter – and indeed his ministerial colleague Emily Thornberry has already pointed out – that Britain would retain the ability to produce nuclear weapons under Labour’s latest plan. But this is extraordinarily misleading. By their nature, the kind of potential nuclear crises that Trident protects us from every day are impossible to anticipate and come about suddenly or with no warning. And in such cases, having the ability to one day rebuild a nuclear deterrent capability is very far indeed from having a system already live and operational.

In cases of nuclear blackmail or brinkmanship, it is not enough to say to our enemy “just you wait 12 months while we build our own nuclear weapon to destroy you, then you’ll be sorry!”. When you need the credible threat of nuclear weapons, you need it now, not after a lengthy lead time during which our design and construction facilities would be vulnerable to sabotage from within or attack from without. But this is precisely what Jeremy Corbyn proposes.

This is socialist pacifism at its most absurd. When people criticise Corbynite policies, their defenders retort that we misrepresent them by taking their publicly expressed ideas to illogical extremes. But in this case, Jeremy Corbyn himself has stated that the illogical extreme is his preferred option.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Britain would be a country which builds things not to use them or gain any utility from them at all (in this case the valuable insurance policy of nuclear deterrence), but rather just to give the people with a vested interest in their construction something to do. In this perverse worldview, keeping union chiefs happy and workers employed is a worthy national objective, but guaranteeing Britain’s national security and promoting our interests by ensuring that we are taken seriously as a military power is of no importance.

But never let it be said that the Corbynites don’t do compromise. Jeremy Corbyn may find the idea of nuclear weapons – or any military spending at all, really – to be morally repugnant and utterly indefensible, but because the trades union like the jobs which come from submarine construction and maintenance, he is willing to tolerate Britain’s continued construction of the things – just so long as we don’t ever use them.

What next? Why not have the armed forces spend all their time rolling massive boulders up hills in the Peak District, sending them tumbling down and pushing them back up again, in order to give the military something to do which doesn’t involve handling weapons? Why not extend the same principle to the British people at large, and pay everyone currently on JSA thirty grand a year to do the same?

A nation of people industriously labouring away to build complex, expensive machines whose purpose they fail to understand, and which they neither appreciate nor value. Just so that people have something to do besides watching Jeremy Kyle on daytime TV.

Welcome to Corbynland.

Unarmed Trident missile fired from HMS Vigilant

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