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Whatever happened to Trident?

Trident II missile (US Defense Dept)Among the reasons for concern that Labour has still not broken with its tradition of forming policy out of sight of party members, and with scant concern for their views, is the handling of policy on Trident. Our ‘independent nuclear deterrent’ became something of an iconic issue for the left and a subject where the left and centre of the party could unite.

The Left Futures website illustrates the importance given to the issue by the number of articles devoted to it. The subject has been returned to probably more than any other issue except austerity. Since January 2013 there have been thirteen articles on Trident. Four of them were published earlier this year. Not a single one found any case for renewing our nuclear weapons. The only article with anything positive to say about Trident was one by a trade union official which considered Trident renewal without nuclear weapons.

The articles were as follows:

  • (1) Cut Trident, not jobs, homes, and health (Jeremy Corbyn, 17/01/2013);
  • (2) Trident: Labour needs your views (George McManus, 26/04/2013);
  • (3) Dear Ed…. Please let Labour vote on what to do about Trident (Walter Wolfgang, 16/07/2013);
  • (4) Trident: government urged to consider the “real alternative” (Newsdesk, 16/07/2013);
  • (5) Trident: the establishment has a delusional approach to our role in the world (Billy Hayes, 15/10/2013);
  • (6) Investment, not Trident (Michael Burke, 02/04/2014);
  • (7) Tory attacks on Ed are detestable but the practical case against Trident must be made (Diane Abbott, 15/04/2015);
  • (8) Why Scottish Labour was right to oppose the replacement of Trident (Dave Watson, 01/11/2015);
  • (9) Thatcher: should we pay out all that money for Trident? (Ann Pettifor, 09/12/2015);
  • (10) Conventional warheads on Trident actually might make sense (Andy Newman, 01/17/2016);
  • (11) The truth about Labour’s policy on Trident (Guest, 20/01/2016);
  • (12) Corbyn and the Israel/Islam/Putin/Trident critique (David Osland, 29/01/2016);
  • (13) Trident advocates must answer their critics (David Pavett, 24/02/2016);

Left Futures was far from being a lone voice on this question. There have been hundreds of conference speeches newspaper articles and resolutions from across the Labour Party. Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership Emily Thornbury produced an excellent paper inviting the party to reconsider its whole defence strategy and therefore to work out the role, if any, for nuclear weapons within that strategy. That paper Britain’s Security: Labour’s Defence Policy Review was published in January 2016 when Emily Thornbury was Shadow Defence Secretary. No discussion based on it ever took place. It simply disappeared. It has been removed from the Labour Policy Forum website (formerly Your Britain). It is as if it had never been written.

Then came Annual Conference 2016. At that Conference Clive Lewis spoke as Shadow Defence Secretary and therefore on behalf of the leadership. In addressing the issue of Trident he said

There are defence issues on which we are not united. This should not surprise us though. The security of our country – the first duty of any government – demands nothing less than the most rigorous of examination and debate. Friends, we know that nuclear weapons are one of those issues. As you know, I am sceptical about Trident renewal, as are many here. But I am clear that our Party has a policy for Trident renewal. (Emphasis added)

That was it. That was all he said about Trident. In effect, he is not keen on it but all the same it’s Party policy. Certainly not much in the way of “rigorous examination and debate” there. The most important thing about Clive Lewis’s speech is that not a single military reason was advanced for keeping Trident. And that’s how years of campaigning on the issue were overturned.

CND reacted with understandable dismay at the acquiescence of Labour’s left leadership with the views of the political establishment, in contrast with its campaigning stance over many years. A few on the Corbyn-supporting left, such as Paul Mason, have welcomed the pro-Trident stance. Most, however appear to have chosen to look the other way and tried to convince themselves that there are more important things to argue about. Even if we assume that they are right about that, they should at the very least show concern at this very considerable breach in the idea of a more open and honest politics and, on this issue at least, abandonment of the idea that members should be in the driving seat on party policy.

It may be argued that the party has simply stuck with the policy it had already adopted. But what kind of an argument is that? What cannot be doubted is that coming to terms with Trident in this way, with no debate in the Party and with no explanation has been an example of a very old form of Labour politics and one that falls very far short of the reasons why many of us voted for Jeremy Corbyn. Left-wing leaders like Jeremy Corbyn and Dianne Abbott who declared their outright opposition to Trident may still hold those views privately but have decided for political reasons to drop the issue. If so then surely we have the right to expect and explanation in the spirit of open politics. I guess I am not alone in finding something chilling about long-standing political positions being dropped without a word of explanation and with no subsequent discussion.


  1. John Penney says:

    All very true, David. its not just Trident though is it ? Compare Jeremy’s “offer” in the 2015 Leadership Election, with its commitment to tackling the banks, and nationalising the utilities , with his 2016 bid. Where has nationalising the Utilities, and controlling the banks gone ? The Left line on the EU as a neoliberal capitalist club ? – forgotten. The mandatory re-selection of MP’s ? Forgotten.

    What is clearly happening here is that the constant sabotage and undermining of the PLP Right majority is having a major impact on the Corbyn Team, and has worn Jeremy down personally . They simply are rapidly becoming prisoners of the PLP majority’s continuing neoliberal politics.

    Which is why the Corbyn Team are utterly terrified of a fully internally democratic, policy discussing , Momentum of 22,000 radical Left-wingers. And will do everything to try and keep it as a passive top-down structured tame resource for local and national campaign phone banking and election leafletting.

    1. C MacMackin says:

      To be honest, even during his 2015 leadership campaign Corbyn started sliding towards the centre. I think it began when it became clear he actually had a shot at winning rather than just being a protest candidate. Take nationalising utilities. Near the end of that campaign he seemed to be embracing Michael Meacher’s approach of “locally owned” energy and feed-in tariffs. In fact, in a policy paper written by Meacher and published on the leadership campaign website, there seemed to be a criticism of the current system as not giving consumers enough choice. Instead it wanted to allow use to choose from dozens of small producers, with the implications that at least some would be cooperatives. Leaving aside the fact that renewable energy coops really tend to be little different from any other company, just with many small shareholders rather than a few large ones, this does nothing to address the fact that this sort of competition is inefficient and that, in order to decarbonise our electricity, we’ll need the capacity to plan and run the system at a national level. What we do not need is to quite literally turn the electricity sector into a cottage industry.

      1. David Pavett says:

        @John Penny & C MacMackin.

        I agree with both of you. I did try to say that I was using Trident as an illustration of a more general problem. I am not sure that it is that “the Corbyn Team are utterly terrified of a fully internally democratic, policy discussing ….”. Maybe but I think more to the point is that they haven’t got a clue what fully democratic policy making means in practice. They haven’t breached the gap between easy slogans and solving challenging practical problems.

        1. John Penney says:

          Yes, I agree with you , David, that, after 30 + odd years operating in a very , disconnected from real political influence, Labour left/ultraleft, political posturing bubble, and winning the Labour Leadership in 2015 completely unexpectedly, the Corbyn inner circle are utterly at sea as to how to go forward.

          A deep culture of “back-room manoeuvring” deals with the supposed PLP “Soft Left”, and campaigning and parallel political positioning attuned to the barren doctrinal certainties of the tiny Far Left, has left Jeremy and co, deeply unfamiliar and uncomfortable with genuine mass political debate – which the now 22,000 strong Momentum requires if it isn’t to rapidly wither on the vine.

          Unless The Corbyn Circle can rapidly acquire the insight that a serious radical Left party needs both a seriously mobilised mass Left “ginger group” within its ranks to drive transforming the Party at all levels, AND a serious , credible joined-up radical Left Programme of action to guide its work, the “Corbyn Insurgency ” will be in serious danger, as soon as it is confronted by serious political challenges (like a sprung General Election, never mind the challenge of the Market when in office) of ending up where Alex Tsipras and the ruins of the “Syriza Insurgency” in Greece are now , ie, from claimed radical opponents of capitalism – to craven opportunist handmaidens of the system.

        2. John Walsh says:

          DP, CM JP – what you say on here again and again chimes absolutely with my local experience of Labour and Momentum (I wish I had more time to contribute). I would add that, where I am (East Midlands), from what I see the ‘great comrade’ activists see the JC moment more as an opportunity for them to further their influence. Very sad and so demoralising for the vast majority of new members.

  2. Peter Rowlands says:

    I don’t think it is a question of moving to the centre, and I think that JC and JMD have recognised ( Despite what JMD said in his conference speech) that because of our electoral system it is not possible for the Labour Party to be more than left social democratic,which is effectively what they are offering, although I agree that action to control the banks, which would be very popular, is an omission that needs rectifying.
    On Trident, there was clearly no basis for agreement, with most unions and MPs opposed to non renewal, and to have pursued it would have perhaps dealt a mortal blow to party unity just when it is needed most. But as David says this could have been openly acknowledged rather than pretending it was never an issue.
    What to me is rather sad is that the new left grassroots, the active core largely in Momentum, who have shown themselves to be quite vocal over a range of things, have been almost completely silent on this. Why?
    PS CMac is quite right on electricity.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Peter, I think moving towards the centre is being used in two different senses. The first is that Labour’s immediate policy demands are no more than centrist social democratic ones. I agree with you both that this is the case and that it could hardly be otherwise.

      But the second sense is in terms of shutting down radical medium to long term objectives which, while not immediately realisable, would give a sense of direction. These are lacking as they always are from Labour. This is the Achilles heel of Labour policy making and is the reason why, when push comes to shove, Labour’s lack of sense of what it is about means that radical inclinations are abandoned in the face of the practical difficulties of holding things together with no cohesive political aims.

  3. Tony says:

    For the Labour Party, this issue has been very much a self-inflicted wound. Tragically, there is absolutely no evidence at all that the Attlee government ever wanted to do anything to ban such weapons in the first place. Instead, it chose to develop them. You even get some Labour MPs today who actually boast that it was a Labour government that started it all!

    In a recent letter to the New Statesman, Lord Tebbit even praised the Attlee government for developing nuclear weapons.

    But this has never been a simple left-right issue in the Labour Party anyway because Chancellor Hugh Dalton opposed it as did many others.

    Nuclear weapons are routinely described as a ‘deterrent’. But this by no means factually proven.

    Nuclear deterrence is only a theory. Even David Cameron admits this:

    “All our political lives we have been nurtured on the theory of (nuclear) deterrence. We were talking about it and fighting for it when Blair and Straw were still members of CND.”

    (“Call Me Dave” by Michael Ashcroft and Isabel Oakeshott), p 169/170.

    Most of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet opposed the original Trident decision and yet you would not know this to listen to the same old pro-nuclear nonsense spouted by most Labour MPs.

  4. Rob Green says:

    With Trump in da big House and Christian Zionism now in charge I don’t think being a part of the US nuclear deterrent is such a good idea. Trident stands at the level of pawn in the overall game and it makes Scotland a prime target and the most likely place on Earth to get nuked next with the possible exception of somewhere in China.

    By the way, really looking forward to being told that opposition to Christian Zionism and Christian Statehood is anti-Christian by Jim Denham and the KKK.

  5. David Pavett says:

    Wouldn’t it be nice to have a dialogue

    My piece above and several of the subsequent comments are critical of the failure on this and other issues to maintain a stance which is consistent with the open/honest politics and membership engagement which we have been promised.

    Woudn’t it be nice if just one member of the leadership or one member of their support teams were to take a few minutes to explain either why we have got it wrong or to say “yes we have messed up on this one but this is how we are going to avoid this problem”?

    Were that to happen I would have to revise my view that the often stated commitment to party democracy have little real substance. What is the chance of it happening? My guess is that it is zero or very close to it, but it would be great to be proved wrong.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      I’m not so sure they have ‘got it wrong’ on this to be honest DavidP.

      The policy on Trident (in favour of renewal, along with renewed international efforts to progress agreed multi-lateral disarmament) has been established for some time and neither the 2016 nor the 2015 LP conferences reversed it, or even held formal debates on reversing it.

      Clive Lewis, I thought, made one of the best conference speeches when he set this it and explained the current situation and policy clearly. It was also put forward by Emily Thornberry in her (also excellent) conference speech.

      The only thing that disappointed me was moving Clive Lewis away from Shadow Defence.

      1. C MacMackin says:

        I don’t think David was referring to this specific policy so much when he said the leadership has got it wrong. Rather he was referring to the way in which the leadership decided, on their own, to put this issue to bed without ever opening it up to debate among the membership.

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          I think they were cognisant of the fact that two of the three biggest unions – Unite and GMB – would not have supported a change to the current policy and they just didn’t have the conference votes to overcome this.

          What would have been the point of entering into a battle over this if the result – a very public defeat – is already certain?

          And the opposition to changing this policy would not have just come from unions concerned about their members’ jobs, but also from the significant body of opinion that holds to the view that unilateralism and pacifism are wrong in principle and the most certain guarantors of electoral defeat.

          Many feel that unilateralism and pacifism are self-indulgences that serious political parties simply cannot afford.

          1. David Pavett says:

            @Karl Stewart. You say what would be the point of entering into a very public debate if special interest groups within the Labour Party mean that the result is determined in advance.

            Such second guessing of the views of such groups as well as of the wider public (as you do) is Labour’s traditional way of determining policy. If Labour wants to stay with that method then let it say so but it should not, at the same time, talk of a new open and honest politics and of putting party members in charge of policy.

          2. Dave Roberts says:

            I think you have summed the situation up most admirably Karl. One of the reasons why Labour i languishing in the polls is laid out in the main aricle. The references are all to this blog, CND and the rest of the left. It’s as if the rest of the country not to mention the electorate doesn’t exist.

            The unins won’t allow it and the country by and large won’t have it so this article and most of the comments are academic.

          3. John Penney says:

            The idea that the only alternative strategy in relation to the renewal of the hugely, ludicrously, expensive Trident submarine and ballistic missile system is :

            “unilateralism and pacifism”

            and that opposition to Trident is therefore a “self-indulgence that serious political parties simply cannot afford”, is a laughable proposition, Karl.

            It is quite true that the craft unions like the GMB, with many members (but tiny numbers relative to “the working class”) , will never willingly admit that Trident is a strategic nonsense for the UK, providing lots of well paid jobs for their members as it does , but absolutely no credible protection for our UK citizens against any credible threat in the real world. And at the “opportunity cost” of pumping circa £100 billion or so into our Welfare Services and useful productive economic regeneration and housing, etc.

            I am no sort of pacifist at all, and fully recognise the need for the UK to maintain a credible level of national military defence. The sad irony is, that the current level of UK defences are extraordinarily poor, after decades of poor forward planning, and blatantly corrupt and incompetent defence procurement. And Labour in office has been deeply implicated in this omnishambles – via its various Labour Defence ministers – now all working for the Defence firms who have provided us, for example:

            Two “White Elephant” Elizabeth Class mega aircraft carriers, WITHOUT vital steam catapults, which can only fly off the VTOL F35, which wont be available until 2025 or thereabouts, and is a widely recognised rubbish aircraft.

            The scandal of the six new “high tech” UK Type 45 Destroyer fleet, the power systems of which simply don’t work, and are mostly tied up in Portsmouth harbour.

            The scandal of the privatised air tanker refueling fleet, which can’t actually refuel most of our military hardware.

            And the same story for much of the hardware the army uses too, and on it goes endlessly.

            Yes Jeremy’s apparent pacifism is no use as an alternative political offer, but there are a whole range of alternatives to Trident, from simple unilateral disarmament, to moving to a much simpler submarine launched cruise missile system to deal with that “rogue state threat” issue. I hope no-one on the Left is seriously suggesting the UK’s Trident is a serious factor in “repelling Russian aggression”, or that £100 billion squandered on Trident is worth it to justify the UK still retaining a seat on the UN Security Council ?

            So in fact there is a huge area of debate, well away from any sort of pacifism, on UK Defence Strategy and weapons procurement, for the Labour Party to engage in – rather than simply accepting the barren status quo pro Trident position inherited from the pre “Corbynite” surge period, and backed by the military industrial complex, and a few self-interested craft unions, and the posturing Labour Right – who are in many cases personally implicated in the current utter shambles of the UK’s military capability. We haven’t even got enough small coastal naval craft to police our territorial waters FFS !

          4. Peter Rowlands says:

            Yes a significant body of opinion also holds that immigration is the prime problem and that welfare claimants are mainly scroungers.So let’s junk all left policies and take on board those of UKIP . That’s what Karl S seems to be suggesting.
            A very informative post from John P on defence misexpenditure.

          5. John Penney says:

            Dearie me, Karl, you have really bought into the pro Trident mythology, wholesale !

            I don’t recall our nuclear capability stopping the Argentinians invading the Falklands, or preventing decades of bombings by the IRA, or more recently, by Islamic terrorists. Because it is a strategically unusable doomsday machine ,Karl. I don’t even recall that most of the world’s non nuclear states have been invaded in recent times, so maybe there are much more complex issues involved in the invasion, or non invasion, of states than their possession of nuclear weapons. For instance, Israel was known to have nukes at the time of the Yom Kippur surprise attack, but the surrounding Arab states STILL ATTACKED (despite the fact that we now know Israel was
            prepared to nuke Cairo and Demascus if the conventional war looked like being lost).

            Even a limited Nuclear Capability does not automatically mean the UK has to buy the actually entirely US controlled mega expensive Trident system.

            Even a small part of the £100BN to be squandered on Trident would equip our armed forces very adequately for the real limited conventional wars we might actually have to fight. In fact not
            squandering what we currently spend on conventional weaponry would do that ! Many senior generals are also on record as also not convinced that Trident is a viable deterrent or best use of money.

        2. David Pavett says:

          @C MacMackin. Yes, that is exactly my point.

          1. peter willsman says:

            DPetc.Our Party’s sovereign body is Annual Confce.That decides our policy,not the Leadership or any other body.Debate and vote at Confce is what counts.Every Clp can put a motion to Annual Confce and if the dels,choose it for debate then policy can be changed.Instead of bellyaching why don’t you organise a load of motions to confce.and change the policy.Thjs does take a lot more hard work than bellyaching but you might actually achieve something.It will also be taken seriously by members,whereas bellyaching rarely is.

          2. Karl Stewart says:

            DavidP, the Labour Party exists as the political expression of the organised working class. The organised working class is not, therefore, a ‘special interest group’ within the Labour Party, it IS the Labour Party. And the party leadership and MPs are ITS representatives.

            It isn’t ‘second-guessing’ to say that Unite and GMB are oppposed to changing the policy in this area, it’s an established fact and union delegates to LP conference are formally mandated as to their respective policy positions.

            These policy positions held by Labour-affiliated unions are reached through the open, democratic processes of those unions at their own conferences.

          3. David Pavett says:

            @peter willsman (November 20, 2016 at 1:07 am)

            You have missed the point which is the failure to organise informed debate throughout the party and the continuation of stitch-ups made without involving members.

            I didn’t say that the leadership should determine policy. In fact I said the opposite. My point was that it is an important leadership role to ensure that members have what they need to decide for themselves. It’s a shame that you seem not to agree.

            Your solution of passing Branch/CLP motion (which I do) in the hope of getting them selected for debate by Annual Conference is in fact no solution. The key issues of the day should be debated throughout the party. That needs to be organised nationally. It is a cause for concern that you as a left-wing member of the NEC do not appear to understand that.

            In my piece on Trident I tried to bring relevant facts together, provide references and make some analysis. To you that is just “bellyaching”. That is clearly meant as a criticism but it is one which has no content beyond the abusive label.

          4. David Pavett says:

            @Karl Stewart (November 20, 2016 at 6:46 am)

            I think that you will find that the position of the unions is more nuanced than you suggest. This statement from UNITE gives plenty of opening for a proper debate. In fact it specifically mentions Emily Thornbury’s Defence Review paper to which I drew atrention in my piece. That paper has now been withdrawn without debate – a major missed opportunity.

            P.S. You might like to test your view that “the Labour Party exists as the political expression of the organised working class” against the facts of the history of the LP, especially when in government.

          5. Karl Stewart says:

            Response to Pete Rowlands at 2.25pm:

            Pete, I disagree with your suggestion on immigration. In my opinion, the right policy in that regard would be to start from a presumption that entry is OK. But that the state should retain the right to exclude a person or persons whose presence here could potentially be deemed dangerous or harmful to society. That isn’t UKIP’s position. UKIP agree with DavidP that entry should be determined on an ‘Australian-style points system’.

            On what you refer to as ‘welfare’ and I describe a social security, I think we should have a system of guaranteed full-time employment for all, free education for all at school, college, or university. And appropriate support for people with disabilities. And of course free health and dental care and quality housing for all.

            With regard to unilateral disarmament, countries that have unilaterally disarmed have tended to be invaded – such as Iraq, Libya and Ukraine – while countries that have not unilaterally disarmed have tended not to be invaded – such as North Korea and Iran.

            Deterrence works. Sorry, but the facts show that it does.

          6. peter willsman says:

            DP.As I anticipated you have retreated from bellyaching to returning to you Ivory Tower.You always refuse to accept the world as it is and work from there.Instead you always insist on putting forward an ITower analysis, that may be wonderful, but does not relate to the world as it is.The LP has a rule book, which we all have to follow,unless you change the rules.(That’s what CLPD is all about,we have been linked to rule changes at most Annual the last 40 years).The procedures for policy making are spelt out in rule book and every part of our federal party has a direct role.The members are only a part of the federation,going back to 1901.If you want a national structure,like you suggest,you will have to get it into the rule book,otherwise all you are doing,in reality, is bellyaching.No doubt it gives you a personal boost,but it’s not the way to make progress.But you may not be much concerned about that, given that you happily spent years in the CP,which not only made no progress, but vanished when the Moscow Gold run out.

  6. David Pavett says:

    @peter willsman (November 20, 2016 at 4:22 pm)

    “As I anticipated you have retreated from bellyaching to returning to you Ivory Tower”. Such insight!

    On policy formation see Chapter 1, Clause V of the LP Rulebook.

    Also, as an NEC member, you should know that Clause VIII makes it clear that among “The key functions of the NEC” are to “contribute to policy development”.

    1. peter willsman says:

      DP,the Blairites downgraded the NEC, and its role in policy was largely handed over to the NPF.CLPD is on the case re this but it is a long hard battle.Of course the LP,NEC,NPF welcomes stuff from members and a range of websites have been set up to collect all this and then a report is given to Policy Comms.I get some 500 pages of docs a year from members re the Econ.Pol.Comm.What would be helpful would be if you were my ‘research asst’,and you gave me the key points from the docs.Its a lot of very hard work,but I couldn’t then accuse you of simply bellyaching.You have my no.,please phone and we will meet up and you can start on the first 500.I thought you were talking about a much more elaborate system,that would have a formal status.The best way for getting this is a rule change.Please work on a draft and I will get CLPD to take it on board,particularly if you are spending hours reading all the docs from members.

      1. Rob Bab says:


  7. archie says:

    DP looks like PW has put the ball in your court now matey . Put up or shut up , get stuck in and help eh ?

  8. Peter Rowlands says:

    Reply to Karl S.
    On Trident, I will not add to the excellent response from John P.
    On welfare and immigration, you fail to get my point. Just because something has a lot of support, like Trident, we shouldn’t support it for that reason, which is what you seem to be suggesting.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      Hi Pete,
      Fair point that just because something’s unpopular doesn’t make it wrong. As an example, my ‘presumed entry’ viewpoint on immigration isn’t popular – it’s not even popular with left wing socialists on this site – but I still think it’s the right way to go.

      But having said that, the unpopularity of a policy position does still need to be factored into any discussion on strategy – certainly in terms of how that unpopularity can be addressed and overcome.

      With regard to unilateralism, it’s deeply unpopular and, in my opinion, the wrong policy too.

      To me, it defies logic to tell the world that we’ll disarm militarily and then hope that others will follow this example. Surely if disarmament is the objective, then a multi-lateral approach would be far more effective?

      But to those who do advocate the unilateralist position, what strategies, arguments etc do people think can be deployed in order to address its unpopularity? What do advocates of unilateralism think should be the most effective response to attacks on that policy from political opponents for example?

      Personally, I don’t agree with continued NATO membership, but most advocates of unilateralism do. So to those unilateralists who want to remain in NATO, how is unilateral disarmament compatible with continued NATO membership?

      1. John Penney says:

        I effortlessly showed with real world examples, that your claim that “nuclear deterrent works” is ahistorical nonsense, Karl. And all you can put up to justify spending £billions on the strategically worthless white elephant of Tridant, is the straw man of a bogus binary choice of Trident or unilateralism. The choice isn’t that at all , as there are lots of other options, including a relatively cheap and cheerful nuclear cruise missile out of torpedo tubes option to stay nuclear ( andplease don’t claim that the UK can’t engineer a nuke warhead for the torpedo tube launched cruise missile – yes we could).

        If the public actually understood how utterly ineffective our current military capability is, partly due to the huge cost of the nuclear component (and largely due to incompetent and corrupt weapons procurement) , then Joe Public might well not be so keen on the unuseable multiple warhead city smasher balistic missile megabuck option.

        The point is surely that our overall military posture, including nukes, needs to be discussed and debated, and the public won to an understanding of how wssteful and worthless Trident is. Socialists don’t always have to follow the consensus view , when its utter rubbish !

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          JohnP, the examples I cited – Libya, Ukraine and Iraq – were of countries that unilaterally disarmed and were subsequently invaded.

          The examples you cited – the Falklands and Yom Kippur – were not invasions of either the UK or of Israel.

          Sadat and Assad had no intention of invading Israel in 1973. Their war objectives were the recovery of the Sinai Peninsular and the Golan Heights respectively.

          In 1982, General Galtieri similarly had no intention of invading the UK. His war objective was the conquest of the Falklands and South Georgia.

          My argument is that nuclear capability deters invasion and occupation, not that it deters every conceivable ill.

          Of course nuclear capability does not deter everything. It has zero deterrence value against acts of individual terrorism – as you rightly point out. It also does nothing to prevent car crime or football hooliganism.

          But in each of these instances, there are appropriate deterrences that do apply. Arrest, jail sentences, deportations for example.

          1. C MacMackin says:

            Out of curiosity, would you feel unsafe living in a country such as Canada, Germany, or Sweden? These are all countries which have never had nuclear weapons, and the latter-most isn’t even a member of NATO. None of them have been invaded in the nuclear-weapon era. Surely if you are to cite examples of states which have disarmed and subsequently been invaded you must also include the examples of states which never had nuclear weapons in the first place. There are far more of those, plenty of which (I’d think most, but don’t have the figures) have not been invaded.

            If by unilateral disarmament you mean nuclear disarmament, then as far as I can tell neither Libya nor Iraq ever had nuclear weapons to dispose of. Do you have any references for this? The Wikipedia article ( on posession of nuclear weapons makes no reference to them. If you are talking about broader disarmament then you are being deliberately disengenuous, as no one on this forum has called for that (at least not explicitly). In any case, of the 4 states which gave up nuclear weapons, only one has been invaded (Ukraine). South Africa, Belarus, and Kazakhstan have not. As a side note, the former members of the USSR only had physical posession of nuclear weapons–the control system was held by Russia. They couldn’t actually do anything with the weapons anyway.

            In any case, do you think an invasion of Britain is likely? There are no hostile or expansionist neighbours, as was the case in Ukraine. Even if an attempt is made to chart a more independent foreigh policy, I find it difficult to imagine the US or NATO going so far as to invade. In a country like Britain they need to keep some pretense of respecting democracy, even if they would try to pull some dirty tricks behind the scenes.

          2. John Penney says:

            This is pure sophistry, Karl. The Argentinian invasion of the Falklands was an attack on internationaly recognised UK territory. Having nukes provided the UK no defence against the Argentinian attack. The multi Arab Yom Kippur attack included a major Syrian attack across the Golan Heights. Your claim that this wasn’ t an attack on Israel is pure sophistry . It temprarily recovered occupied Syrian territory, but to pretend this, and the Egyptian asault across the Suez Canal, “wasn’t an invasion” is laughable. Nuke ownership by Israel should, by your arguments, have detered Egypt and Syria from attacking at all.

            You seem to have bought in wholesale to the entire bagage of bogus Nuclear deterrence

          3. John Penney says:

            Pure sophistry, Karl. I repeat, having nukes didn’t deter the Argentinians from attacking sovereign UK territory , ie, the Falklands, and having nukes didn’t deter the Syrians and Egyptians from their Yom kippur surprise attack either. Because the nuclear retaliation option is so doomsday that it is non viable as a defence strategy . For all the billions The UK spent on Polaris a frigate or two could have deterred the Argentinian invasion.

            You appear to have bought the entire bogus Daily Mail justification for the strategically useless nuclear deterrent. At least GMB member , Andy Newman , simply supports it because it provides good jobs for the GMB labour artistocracy. But then of course so would building the dozens of much more useful frigates , destroyers, and small naval craft, that the navy really needs to carry out the UK’ s real maritime defence needs.

  9. Andy Newman says:

    David Pavett:

    I think that you will find that the position of the unions is more nuanced than you suggest.

    Both Unite and GMB support the successor programme for replacing the Vanguard submarines. There is no ambiguity.

    The arguments are not solely about jobs, but also the maintenance of engineering and manufacturing skills bases and capability.

    This debate is a bit surreal as the boat has sailed. Construction has already started, and contractually the commitments have already been made.

    Real world arguments should focus instead on practical matters, such as opposing the UK developing a next generation warhead; and the immediate step that could be taken for the UK to take the same approach as India, China and Israel, of storing the warheads separate from the delivery systems.

    Given the fact that India faces a more credible threat of nuclear attack than the UK, it is extraordinary that we have a more aggressive state of readiness than them.

    1. John Penney says:

      Yes. Yes, Andy, let’s all just just accept that the UK will build an entire class of utterly strategically useless nuclear submarines, for Trident – as a Permanent Arms Economy “Keynsian” job creation programme to benefit the military Industrial Complex, and your own GMB craft union members. Very principled . Very “socialist” , Andy.

      In fact a serious radical Left government would have to take an axe to most of the current UK “big ticket” white elephant major arms programmes, that have been set in train because of both incompetence and corruption politically and the linked revolving door corruption relationships between MOD officials and top military men for decades.

      Some of the utterly worthless programmes that would need to be scrapped include, the entire Trident nuclear deterrent nonsense, the two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, the utterly useless F35 fighter/bomber order, the utterly worthless 6 strong , brand new, (can’t sail in warm seas !) Type 45 Destroyer fleet, the current , new, (privatised) air refueling tanker fleet, and much more. And why would this be necessary ? Not because of any pacifist ideology at all – but because none of it is any bloody use in defending this country from any possible current or future threat, Andy !

      A UK weapons procurement tradition based entirely on keeping a few craft unions happy and feeding the profoundly corrupt “revolving door” ministerial and officials , culture governing UK defence procurement for decades, and the mindless posturing of UK establishment politicians wanting at all costs to retain the UK’s permanent seat on the Security Council because we are still “nuclear Big Boys” , is no way for socialists to decide how best to structure a credible defence strategy for the UK.

  10. Andy Newman says:

    David Pavett:

    You say what would be the point of entering into a very public debate if special interest groups within the Labour Party mean that the result is determined in advance.
    Such second guessing of the views of such groups as well as of the wider public (as you do) is Labour’s traditional way of determining policy.

    The unions are not a “special interest”, they are one of the constituent parts of the party, with 50% of the votes at Conference, and have equal weight in the party with the constituency membership.

    What is more, the unions are the only social force in labour movement politics who can counterbalance the PLP.

  11. Andy Newman says:


    So to those unilateralists who want to remain in NATO, how is unilateral disarmament compatible with continued NATO membership?

    This is an interesting point, due to NATO’s nuclear sharing programme, some states – such as Germany – actually do have nuclear capable planes and specially trained pilots, but no warheads of their own. NATO is inherently based upon a shared capability to deploy nuclear weapons.

  12. Karl Stewart says:

    Andy’s right to remind us that this particular issue is essentially decided. Parliament voted in favour of replacement several months ago (July as I recall).

    Labour did not change its long-held policy of supporting that position and neither did Labour’s unilateralists make a serious attempt to do so.

    The party did not even hold formal debates on the subject at either its 2015 or 2016 conferences, and in his excellent conference speech this year Clive Lewis made it clear that the party policy on disarmament was now focused on multi-lateral efforts.

    So these are the reasons why the subject of discussing Trident replacement has dropped down the political agenda – it’s been decided.

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