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Why Trident should be included in the strategic defence review

News that Hilary Clinton has waded into the debate over budget cuts at the Ministry of Defence provides Ed Miliband with his first opportunity to meaningfully express his commitment to a foreign policy “based on values, not just alliances”  – as stated in his first leader’s speech at party conference.

Whilst other departments face cuts of 20-30%, Liam Fox has successfully fought for a lower spending cut of just 10% and has been boosted by the US intervention. Clearly concerned about UK military capability, Clinton has issued a warning shot before next month’s NATO summit to shore up support as other NATO allies pull out of the disastrous occupation of Afghanistan. But in order to demonstrate UK commitment to the NATO alliance and US military adventures, this potentially puts greater pressure on other departments to achieve greater savings. We cannot let the US dictate where we allocate public spending.

In his immediate response, Jim Murphy has been right in condemning the rushed nature of the Strategic Defence and Security Review, the speed of which the Commons Defence Committee itself has described as “quite startling” and due to which “mistakes will be made and some of them may be serious.” But Ed Miliband should ensure Labour goes further.

We need also to condemn the exclusion of Trident from the review. The debate over whether the Treasury or the Ministry of Defence pays the capital costs of replacing the submarines has gained some column inches over the summer, but for a review that Liam Fox himself said was meant to ‘kiss goodbye to the Cold War’, the exclusion of the archetypal Cold War weapon, guaranteeing its future for decades to come, is scandalous.

Such a condemnation may not come easily to some former Labour ministers – Labour with Bob Ainsworth at Defence, had intended to exclude it from the review as well. But over the summer we have seen a demand that it be included, not only by Eric Joyce, who resigned as Ainsworth’s PPS last year, but also by Des Browne, the Defence Secretary who steered the Trident replacement decision through the Commons.

Next week, Ed Miliband needs to assert a fresh Labour argument that in the face of spending cuts, and a US administration seeking to advance nuclear disarmament, Trident should be up for consideration.

Whilst he stated in the leadership election that he supported a ‘minimum deterrent’, he also asserted that in the face of the election loss, it was right “to look at the renewal of Trident, to look at the pace of the renewal of Trident and the necessity of the renewal of Trident” as part of the Defence Review.

What Ed Miliband should do next week is condemn the exclusion of Trident which has made it a partial and flawed review, particularly when military spending cuts are being considered, and he must make absolutely clear that the US has no place intervening into such a process.

Trident and the Strategic Defence and Security Review will be debated at a public meeting in Portcullis House, 6pm, Monday 18th October.

One Comment

  1. william says:

    The US just happens to be our closest ally(eg.WW2 and The Falklands communications help),so they have a voice.The notion that Trident has been excluded from the process of defence review is utter nonsense, and comes rather badly from a party that authorised defence orders for which it knew there was no money.Is Labour trying to become a party of government?

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