Since Liam Fox made his announcement last week that while Trident replacement design is going ahead, the Lib Dems will also be looking at alternatives, there has been a flurry of derision about the latter initiative. Most obviously this comes from Liam Fox and the hard–line pro-nuclear lobby who just want to rubbish it. But criticism of Lib Dem efforts also comes from some anti-nuclear quarters and I am not convinced that this is totally reasonable.
From my point of view, it would be very easy to have a pop at the Lib Dem leadership for not backing CND’s maximum programme – to scrap Trident and cancel its replacement. And of course we will continue to work with those Lib Dem members who share our views on nuclear disarmament and who make strenuous efforts to bring about a change in their party policy.
I would merely make the point that although current Lib Dem policy – no like-for-like replacement and looking at alternatives – falls considerably short of what CND would like to see, it is actually streets ahead of its Conservative and Labour rivals. In fact, it is not just streets ahead – it is in a totally different ball park.
The Lib Dems are a soft target for attack on this and many other issues. But in reality it is the two main parties that have repeatedly set their faces against complying with international treaty requirements, against listening to the majority of the population and against saving well over £100 billion that could be better spent on virtually anything else other than weapons of mass destruction. The Lib Dems are not the main enemy on this issue. That dishonour goes to the Conservative and Labour leaderships, who despite their repeated claims to act in the best interests of Britain and its security in the twenty-first century world with its plethora of new threats, obsess about an absurd white elephant of a cold war weapons system. At least the Lib Dem leadership is in the process of rethinking.
I would urge all anti-nuclear campaigners to engage with the review process in whatever ways are available to us. This may mean writing unsolicited submissions, lobbying ministers or raising the issue in the press, in our trade unions or elsewhere. All this should be done, and more. But I would urge everyone who believes nuclear weapons to be an important issue to take this review seriously. And above all raise the fundamental issue: alternatives to Trident replacement must include the possibility of no nuclear weapons.
Kate Hudson is the General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.