Last week’s news that the Labour Party in Wales would support the move of Trident to Milford Haven if Scotland becomes independent caused a flurry, but was hardly a surprise. It’s entirely consistent with Labour’s position on nuclear weapons over many years.
But the underlying reasoning behind the move by the First Minister is really nothing to do with the argument about nuclear weapons per se. It is, rather, based on a much simpler logic which runs something like this:
· Wales needs jobs
· ‘This project’ provides jobs
· Wales should welcome ‘this project’.
One could substitute almost anything for ‘this project’; and in that sense, Carwyn Jones’ position on Trident isn’t that different from the position of many other politicians on other projects – such as Wylfa B or the Severn Barrage for instance. The logic is exactly the same.
There is scope for debate, of course, about how many real jobs ‘this project’ provides. The only certainty is that the numbers will be overstated by supporters of the project, and will inevitably include a number of jobs to be filled by those relocating with the project. And whilst the debate about the number of jobs is far from irrelevant, it has more to do with whether any particular project represents value for money than with the underlying principle.
And it’s the consideration of the principle which is missing from the logic above. It’s easier to see a principle in relation to Trident than it is for a number of other projects, but that simply underlines the fact that different people draw the line in different places. Rather then admitting that the real issue is where to draw the line, most politicians seem to fall back on criticising anyone who opposes ‘this project’ as being anti-jobs – and it was notable that that was exactly what Jones did last week, in his side-swipe at Plaid over Trident.
I’m clear that I want to see a demilitarised Wales (and world, come to that, but let’s start with that part for which we bear the most direct responsibility), and that Trident, or any other variety of WMD, doesn’t fit with that view. (Just as I’m also clear that I want to see an energy policy based on renewables, and that Wylfa B doesn’t fit with that view.) That means that there are some projects to which I would be opposed, no matter how many jobs they would bring. Ultimately, I want to see employment in Wales based on creating a new future, not on simply perpetuating the status quo.
To argue that we should ignore such questions – and all the strategies produced by government – in pursuit of jobs, in whatever field, is to avoid taking responsibility for building a different kind of future for our country and the world. Politicians who argue otherwise are simply reacting to and managing ‘what is’ rather than building ‘what should be’.