Friday, 25 September 2009

A meaningless gesture

The first elections of which I have any memory were those of 1964 and 1966. In the first Labour narrowly scraped in, and in the second, they consolidated their position. There was a lot of excitement, and a mood of change - sweeping away '13 years of Tory misrule', in the 'white heat of the technological revolution'. They were good slogans; sadly, in many ways they turned out to be just that – slogans.

One of Labour's key pledges was to scrap Polaris; the change of heart once in government was one of the reasons why so many young people at the time ended up turning against the Labour Party. Nuclear weapons have always been something of an Achilles heel for them; they returned to an abolitionist position during their long period in opposition after the election of Thatcher, only to abandon that principled stand again before being re-elected in 1997.

Indeed, looking back, it seems that several of the key decisions to upgrade and renew the UK's nuclear weapons have actually been taken by a party many of whose members genuinely and sincerely oppose the very existence of such weapons.

I have never believed that the 'independent deterrent' was either 'independent' (the missiles cannot be fired without US permission) or a 'deterrent'; and at long last mainstream views are coming around to a similar viewpoint, even if only because the nature of any 'threats' is perceived to be different. Plaid have never been supporters of nuclear weapons, but at a time when both the Lib Dems and even the Tories are coming around to the idea that replacement of Trident is a pointless and unnecessary expense, the party which has traditionally provided the backbone of CND at UK level seems to be the only one still wedded to the concept.

It's against that backdrop that we need to consider the statement made by Brown yesterday that he might reduce the number of submarines from 4 to 3 in any replacement programme. The statement was so highly caveated as to be pretty meaningless. Effectively, he seemed to be saying that he'll reduce the number from 4 to 3 as long as he ends up convinced that the actual number of missiles which can be fired at any time remains the same as currently. And it was predicated on what happens as part of the replacement process, which will still proceed.

Trying to present that as a contribution to disarmament is one of the most utterly dishonest things that I've ever heard him say (and there's plenty of competition). In no sense or meaning is he proposing any reduction in the UK's capacity to launch weapons of mass destruction; indeed, his whole position is based on building a whole new generation of such weapons. To expect nuclear wannabes to respond by dropping their aspirations is totally unrealistic. The UK under Labour is making no contribution whatsoever to a process of global disarmament.

1 comment:

Spirit of BME said...

Mr Dixon,When on Earth ,I allways spoke against unilateral nuclear disarmaments - mainly to upset Dafydd Elis and the Friends of the USSR in the Blaid.However, now that is no longer an issue ,I agree that HMG having a independant button to blow up the world is totally tonto.
What Brown did not mention, that of the 4 boats only 1 is out and armed but the new boats will need less maintence and refitting, also HMG has the least number of rockets in Europe - France has many more.
The English Navy is the only one in the world that gives the Capt total discresion of when to fire,which has worried the US,Russia and France for some years ,they have to get a code from HO. But on the upside its the ace in hole that will stop a Lib Dem government being established in London.