Conference Countdown 2015: Let’s scrap the “scrapping Trident” motion

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In the run-up to Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, we’ll be looking ahead to examine the highlights in the debating hall, the fringe and training rooms. You can find the papers here. You can find all the posts in the series here.

Yesterday,  the Labour Party made the historic mistake of electing Jeremy Corbyn as its new party leader. Through this decision, it has thrown away years of work (and time in government) convincing the general public that it is electable. To a lesser degree, let us not do the same.

Naturally I respect the views of the “Scrapping Trident” lobby within the party. Theirs is a noble cause. But it should be remembered that the party already threw out the idea of scrapping Trident at party conference just two years ago by coming to a compromise that we would make substantial savings by reducing the number of Successor submarines from four to three.

We should try to refrain from the old referendum trick of keeping asking the same question until we get the answer we want and accept a decision that the party had only recently made.

In just two years of course, the international situation has changed dramatically. We have new threats from a resurgent Russia on our doorstep (which is modernising its nuclear arsenal) as well as deadly turmoil in the Middle East which is destabilising the European Union because of the refugee crisis it has caused. If anything, the need for a nuclear deterrent has grown along with the need to review our conventional defence posture. Politicians need to be frank with the general public about the implications of what is going on, so we do not sleep-walk into catastrophy. We should also not underestimate the impact scrapping Trident would have on our role in NATO and the world

We have steeply downsized the British Armed Forces without having generated the foreseen level of reserves to compensate for the cuts; we have taken the dubious decision to build two very expensive aircraft carriers which would necessitate the redeployment of a shrunken royal navy from other duties to protect them in times of major crisis; and the Treasury continues to make short-term savings which in fact may cost us dear in the end. We just do not have the capacity to adapt to any future change that NATO and the world may demand of us.

This is why it is entirely legitimate to revisit our 2013 “Defending the Future” party policy paper in its entirety and without political prejudice to assess the threats and how we can work with our allies to give adequate security guarantees to our citizens. The work would be timely, given that a new Strategic Defence and Security Review is expected shortly from the government

I support the amendment put forward by Defence Spokesperson Baroness Judith Jolly which in effect sends the whole issue back to a new Defence Policy Working Group. It is right that the whole issue of our country security and defence is debated by the party on the basis of a proper comprehensive assessment.

Let’s not let our emotions rule our heads. The security of the realm is too important to play around with.

* George Cunningham is Vice-Chair, Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats and former PPC for North Thanet

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56 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 13th Sep '15 - 9:24am

    I’m sympathetic towards this idea. The US would go ballistic (hopefully not literally) and it would leave France as the military leader of Europe with Europe diminished as a power generally.

  • John Tilley 13th Sep '15 - 9:27am

    George Cunningham
    Did you pause for a moment before including this sentence in your piece? —-
    “Naturally I respect the views of the “Scrapping Trident” lobby within the party. Theirs is a noble cause”

    Your views on Trident are just as valid as the views of any party member. But so are the views of very many people much younger than both you and me. There are now generations of people too young to remember Greenham Common who simply cannot see any sense whatsoever in spending £ Billions on a 1940s approach to defence.

    Did you notice what happened with the vote of the clearly anti-Trident SNP in Scotland ?
    Did you notice the rise of the anti-Trident Greens in constituencies in the general election ?
    Yesterday the anti-Trident Jeremy Corbyn just win a landslide in the first ever ‘one person, one vote’ election in The Labour Party?

    How keen are you that our party should be on the wrong side of history?

  • Eddie Sammon 13th Sep '15 - 9:29am

    PS, we’d lose our position on the UN security council too. I think we need more consensus from our allies before adopting this position (of having no nuclear weapons).

  • @ George Cunningham

    “We have new threats from a resurgent Russia …” Which requires a multi-faceted response but the correct military portion of this response is through membership of NATO not by threatening the onset of nuclear armageddon independently of our allies in the West.

    “… deadly turmoil in the Middle East …” and which of the current or feasible future actors in the Middle East has an effective air defence system which we would need to penetrate, by ourselves, with submarine launched nuclear missiles without the backing of any of the other permanent members of the UN Security Council?

    “… we have steeply downsized the British Armed Forces…” Not purchasing a £100bn “independent” submarine launched nuclear missile system from the US would leave a lot more room within the NATO commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence to maintain the strength of our conventional armed forces.

    “… reducing the number of Successor submarines from four to three …” As I recall it the associated strategy was that at times of international tension we would put one of these three to sea armed with nuclear missiles. So the UK would be responsible for a micro-escalation of the crisis. Probably not the best way to resolve the initial international tension.

    In years of listening to this debate I have never heard anyone identify a potential enemy who would have a sophisticated air defence system which would require penetration by sophisticated nuclear missiles who we would wish to launch an independent nuclear attack on.

  • Mick Taylor 13th Sep '15 - 9:52am

    The proponents of nuclear bombs need to answer clearly three questions

    1. When will we use the bomb and on whom?
    2. If multilateral disarmament is such a sound policy why have we made no progress at all in my lifetime in getting rid of nuclear bombs? On the contrary, more countries have a bomb than when I joined the party in 1964.
    3. Why must the UK have a bomb when Germany, Australia, Spain, Italy, the rest of the EU apart from France and most of the rest of the world feel perfectly safe without the bomb?

  • @ Eddie Salmon

    When the UN was founded neither China nor France nor the USSR had nuclear weapons and whilst the UK had participated in their development it did not have any of its own. This lack did not stop these countries being granted permanent membership of the Security Council. It is not a requirement of permanent membership of the Security Council that you possess nuclear weapons.

  • i sincerely hope for the partys sake that delegates take note of George Cunningham.

  • The idea of setting up another working group to report to Conference long after the Maingate decision has been taken is absurd. And a Zero working hours or part-time Trident is a nonsense. Trident is a relic of the cold war – we do not need it. It does not address our defence needs and to spend any amount on it is like putting two fingers up to those suffering the effects of austerity. It’s time for the willy-waving to stop. It’s time to Scrap Trident.

  • @ Kevin White “The idea of setting up another working group to report to Conference long after the Maingate decision has been taken is absurd”.

    +1

    Does our Defence Spokesperson not know what our defence policy she wants? If she opposes the motion she should urge delegates to vote against it. If she supports the motion she should urge delegates to vote for it. We should not have to wait for another working party to tell us what to think.

  • 1. Could Mr Cunningham please explain how Germany and all the other European countries with the exception of France all manage to get by without their own independent nuclear deterrent ? Does it make them feel any less safe, and does it indicate that like Britain French possession of nuclear weapons is some sort of post imperial hangover ?

    2. Does Mr Cunningham agree that to replace Trident would cost £ 100 billion – five times more than the £ 12 billion welfare cuts the party voted against in the recent budget and the £ 8 billion needed by the NHS just to stand still according to the Kings Fund in January this year ?

    3. I’m afraid many of us regard Trident as a folie de grandeur which which makes it more difficult to reduce the deficit and simply turns the screw on more worthwhile and productive public spending. We will vote accordingly in Bournemouth.

  • It’s an unusable weapon. The main reason for replacing it is that, as Eddie Sammon, said is that it ensures our place on the UN security council. The problem is the argument against it as ceased to be dominated by one about peace and has become one about money. I know that there people who think they can occupy the “moderate” centre vacated by the death by the death of New Labour but it will just make the Lib Dems look weak, vacillating and willing to waste hundreds of millions on a basically useless firework after years of presenting the opposite argument. In short we will look craven and unprincipled.

  • How appallingly arrogant of George to use the phrase: “The security of the realm is too important to play around with.”

    One might equally say that allowing George Cunningham to have any say in the matter was ‘playing around with our security’ by wasting our money while our armed forces which we might need are being shredded. But i won’t.

    A number of matters determined in the Lob Dem conferences of the past four years have been overshadowed by the conservatism of coalition government. and the fact that a lot of people interested in the future of our party and its policy failed to attend conference because they did not want to waste their money attending an event dominated by a procession of ministerial speeches. It is time, now, to have a proper rational debate on this and many other matters.

  • Dave Orbison 13th Sep '15 - 11:06am

    The more I read on LibDem Voice the more I realise how far of course the Party has shifted in just a few years. More than ever we should be taking a really close look our priorities in public expenditure. Trident isn’t a Corbyn issue and to try and use it to score points or bounce a few LibDems into the ‘Trident retention’ camp is rather desperate. Mick Taylor’s questions are as relevant as ever and as always, never addressed by the pro-Trident lobby. Trident has and never can provide any protection to modern threats such as terrorism. The idea that Putin’s behaviour is moderated because we have a so-called independent deterrent is risible. There are no circumstances were the UK would use such weapons independently. Our nuclear arsenal is negligible compared to the USA/Russia/China. We could use the money saved in so many better ways including defence. As for the UN Security Council arguments – what a dreadful waste of money for such a vanity project.

  • PUBLIC OPINION AND SCRAPPING TRIDENT.

    Sadly our party failed to read the public mood over the last five years – we saw the consequence in May and its time we woke up to this. The public mood as changed – as evidenced by the election of Corbyn. Here is a selection of polls from the last few years (some in the Tory press).:

    1. A Survation poll in January 2015 showed 47.2% of Scottish people opposing a new generation of nuclear weapons being based on the Clyde, with 31.6% in favour.

    2. 79% of respondents to a Guardian poll in April 2014 did not think the UK should replace Trident.

    3. In a February 2014 ComRes poll, 65% said they would feel uncomfortable living near a nuclear weapons base and 64% think there should be an international convention banning nuclear weapons.

    4. 63% of the public said they’d back scrapping Trident to reduce the deficit in a BPIX survey for The Mail on Sunday in June 2010.

    5. 58% of people say that ‘given the state of the country’s finances, the Government should scrap the Trident nuclear missile system’ in an Independent/ComRes poll of September 2009 .

  • ………………………….Yesterday, the Labour Party made the historic mistake of electing Jeremy Corbyn as its new party leader. Through this decision, it has thrown away years of work (and time in government) convincing the general public that it is electable. To a lesser degree, let us not do the same……………Naturally I respect the views of the “Scrapping Trident” lobby within the party. Theirs is a noble cause…………

    A noble cause, worthy of respect when proposed by LibDems…A historic mistake, throwing away years of work when offered by Corbyn…
    No-one, least of all Corbyn, has argued against defending Britain…However, the most likely scenario of a nuclear ‘war’ is in the ME; either by terrorists or a combination of factors involving Israel….in neither scenario will Trident play any part…..
    If China/Russia are involved in any such conflict our ‘independent’ deterrent will, again, be irrelevant…

    To my mind ‘Trident’ serves only one major goal…To allow the government to be at the ‘top table’; even if it’s only as obedient ‘pets’

  • Food for thought:
    1. UN Security Council – membership of this has nothing to do with the possesion of nuclear weapons.
    2. Our armed forces are underfunded and over stretched, and that’s before Northern Ireland kicks off again.
    3. Our nuclear weapons are in no way independent.
    4. We can’t use the weapons without an American nod and wink.
    5. The Americans would prefer us to us to beef up our conventional forces.
    6. Multilateral disarmament has probably gone as far as it can.

    It is extremely unfortunate that Baroness Jolly wishes to effectively kick the issue into touch. I haven’t seen the amendment but George Cunningham’s description of it leads me to believe that it represents “old politics”. -a continuation of the “mum/dad knows best attitude”. Conference has a chance of making a clean break from the past unencumbered by the don’t “rock the boat” of the coalition days. I for one will stand up and be counted against these old ways.

  • Dave Orbison 13th Sep '15 - 12:22pm

    Joe Otten: Ah so your ‘straw poll’ seems more reliable than those quoted by David Raw? By the way have you heard the story about the house built of straw?

  • Neil Sandison 13th Sep '15 - 12:45pm

    The problem with the motion going forward to conference is that it started with a specific weapons system namely Trident and then in lines 3 and 4 of the motion made broad and sweeping statements on the value of the British deterrent. It will be those broad and sweeping statements that will be our undoing .Like I suspect most Liberal Democrats I would love to see all nuclear arsenals deemed as weapons of mass destruction and to be outlawed alongside chemical ,biological and other weapons that indiscriminately kill civilian populations .But the outlawing and decommissioning of such weapons is by its very nature a multilateral decision agreed at a strategic level with inbuilt monitoring of possible breaches. Trident is not only expensive but as a multi war head system indiscriminate of its targets .Lets keep the motion clean with no hidden agendas and with a clear statement on nuclear arms reduction talks.

  • Would Joe Otten or any other multilateralists please explain why their policy has been a failure for the past 50 years and why they think that sticking with a failed policy makes it more likely to succeed?

    I am in favour of abandoning the bomb and not replacing it regardless of what anyone else does. However, it just may be that others might not be so keen to get nuclear weapons or even to give up the bomb too if someone actually takes the lead.

  • George Cunningham 13th Sep '15 - 1:17pm

    I am grateful for the 21 comments generated already within three hours of this posting. My main issue is that you cannot remove one important part of the party’s whole defence and security strategy without taking account of the impact it may have on the effectiveness of the rest. There is nothing in the proposed motion that discusses the redeployment of any savings from scrapping Trident to bolster the remainder of our severely depleted armed forces. Although the Cold War has been over for some time, I did note in my posting that Russia is modernising its nuclear weapon arsenal. China is building ballistic missiles with ever-increasing ranges which reach across the Pacific . Iran’s missiles can now reach the EU. And I doubt that Ukraine would have been invaded if it had not given up its nuclear weapons. The UK and France’s nuclear deterrent is part of NATO’s overall defence posture. And don’t forget the USA grows ever more impatient at Europe’s lack of will to use its money effectively to pay for its own security and defence properly. One day, we may have to look after ourselves and we’d better have the military tools to do so.

  • Anyone that thinks £100bn on unusable insurance policies is better spent than on tangible social improvements has a different belief system to me. You’re asking us to ignore public sentiment, you’ve pre-determined what will happen as regards Corbyn and you’ve set forth a set of threats that you perceive. I think you’re wrong on all counts – 65% of the public want no nukes, you’re channeling the MSM as regards Corbyn (that makes me want to vote for him!) and you suggest we might need nuclear weapons to combat Russia and the “Middle East”? Why/how? You’ve hinged your argument on the premise that we might need to spend all of this money to defend ourself from two places that are falling to bits and that nuclear hegemony is key to that protection. I don’t buy it, neither does most of the rest of Europe.

    I re-joined the party the day Kennedy died, articles like this make me realise I might be in the wrong place. I loathe the idea of voting for a party supportive of Trident when so many tangible social problems are self-evident. I didn’t realise the party had already scrapped the notion of scrapping Trident until this article, had I of known I’d never of rejoined. 🙁

  • Nonconformistradical 13th Sep '15 - 2:04pm

    @Geroge Cunningham

    ” Although the Cold War has been over for some time, I did note in my posting that Russia is modernising its nuclear weapon arsenal. China is building ballistic missiles with ever-increasing ranges which reach across the Pacific . Iran’s missiles can now reach the EU.”

    But does the UK’s possession or otherwise of Trident make the slightest difference to this?

    “And I doubt that Ukraine would have been invaded if it had not given up its nuclear weapons. ”
    Pure speculation. Do youhave evidence of Ukraine’s willingness to actually USE nuclear weapons if they were still stationed on their soil?

    Does anyone still believe in the concept of Mutual Assured Destruction – which was how possession of nuclear weapons was sold to those of us around during the Cold War?

  • Why is ISIS always brought up when talking about Trident renewal? There is a less than zero chance they’ll become a proper state, let alone a paranuclear state, let alone a nuclear state. Indeed, the only state in the Middle East which can be accurately described as paranuclear – Iran – actually stepped back from nuclear posturing and instead pursued the diplomatic option.

    The rest of the world is stuck in a loop of “we must not disarm, but not now”. Everyone is waiting for everyone else to make the first move. So why not lead the multilateral effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons?

  • Gemma Roulston 13th Sep '15 - 2:26pm

    George, could you please tell me how does Trident protect us against IS?
    The funds saved from Trident renewal – could be used to help our armed forces, as well as fund other things such as NHS. Can we really afford the money that will be spent on Trident?
    Ukraine probably lost its nuclear arms due to the collapse of the USSR.
    Why should we have to wait before knowing what our policy on Trident is?
    This piece should not have been allowed – as not many people know what the amendment is, and the FCC is still trying to contact the people who did not get an amendment to be accepted. Also, Baroness Jolly should have done the decent thing and told Kevin White that she was against the proposed motion, and that she would urge conference to reject the motion – instead she did not respond to his emails.
    As has been said many times before, we cannot use Trident without USA approval. We should not be the USA poodles, and do everything that they say. Look at the mess of the Middle East – to see how successful that has been, I include in that Libya – another US backed plan that has caused severe problems.

    How is it independent?
    How is going to help us with the situation in the Middle East?
    Putin may start to be unpopular at home, because of the state of his economy – how is he going to successfully improve his arsenal of nuclear weapons?

  • Conor McGovern 13th Sep '15 - 2:30pm

    Let’s have the motion. Not only is Trident expensive but it’s a needless and unethical part of 21st century Britain. In my opinion, get rid. Whether that’s unilaterally, working with France or holding a world nuclear summit. We need to focus on jobs, tax reform, housing and green investment – not clinging on to a nuclear relic.

  • John Barrett 13th Sep '15 - 2:35pm

    Many contributors have mentioned the link between possessing nuclear weapons and a place on the UN Security Council. The other link is the need to be a major arms trader and exporter.

    Too often all political parties in the UK, including ours, have promoted the decisions of the UN Security Council as having a unique authority, not to be questioned. If the words “Permanent Members of the Security Council” were replaced by “Major arms Exporters” it would throw a different light on many of their decisions.

    If we can get rid of Trident and as a result lose our place on the UN Security Council it would be a price many would think worth paying.

    While Trident is a waste of money and often described as a WMD, the other WMDs responsible for thousands of deaths every year are the small arms exported in their thousands to unstable countries, by many of those with a permanent place on the Security Council, including the UK.

    The export licenses granted for such products by the UK government tell their own story.

  • @Richard Russia probes our air defences with nuclear bombers on a regular basis.

  • Regarding the security council membership – we own western internet intelligence and sell it back to our allies. That makes us far more powerful than a mere nuclear nation, this debate is couched in last centuries terms. The idea that nuclear war is the forefront of defence is ridiculous, a technology we’ve never used set against effective technology we use constantly highlights how retrograde this mindset really is.

    So, does anyone here really think NATO, and UNSC membership is in threat? That the Americans or Europeans would exclude the nation that they’re purchasing their intelligence from? Seems far fetched to me.

  • Sarah Noble 13th Sep ’15 – 2:19pm ………….Why is ISIS always brought up when talking about Trident renewal? There is a less than zero chance they’ll become a proper state, let alone a paranuclear state, let alone a nuclear state…..

    They feature because of the possibility of them obtaining a single nuclear weapon…

    Missiles are not needed; a single container delivered to any seaport Felixstowe/San Francisco/New York could hide a nuke…With the ‘International Pool’ of ship personnel, any suicide bomber could be in the crew and trigger the weapon by radio/cell phone….

  • Dave Orbison 13th Sep '15 - 4:34pm

    ChrisB I joined the LibDem and voted for them in 2010 precisely because I believed they were more radical than the other parties. This after years of Labour Party support although that ceased because of the Iraq War I believed Clegg when he said the LibDems had a costed out manifesto and that scrapping Trident was part of the deal. I was, and remain, horrified that the LibDems formed a coalition with the Tories and set aside a large part if not all of their main policy ideas.

    I was used to Blair and co side stepping the inconvenience of the wishes of the party and hoped that the LibDems would make an honest and welcome change. It’s clear that the LibDem party is full of principled and sincere people who cherish the ideas of social justice. But it became increasingly clear that their voices were ignored by the Parliamentary Party intoxicated by power and the arrogant and delusional belief that somehow the country was better off propping up a Tory Govt. The long-term consequences of such a move were clear for most to see, not least David Cameron. As at the last GE the LibDems got their just reward with Cameron laughing all the way to No 10. The Labour Party still has its issues – and the sulky front Bench who believe in their own infallibility re policy over and above the wishes of the party are a testament to that. Corbyn will succeed in bringing real democracy for members far more than dreamed of by LibDems. I believe the Labour Party policy will be to scrap Trident. Last night I moved back to the Labour Party – Corbyn deserves a chance. The LibDems have had their chance and they blew it.

  • @ expats

    Let us assume that your scenario occurs exactly as you describe it.

    Let us further assume that after ISIS destroys Felixstowe and its environs the UK government decides that the correct response is to have at a nuclear weapon explode on territory controlled by ISIS and that neither Russia, nor the US nor France agrees with this counter-measure but the UK still decides to proceed.

    Even in this scenario we still do not need missiles capable of penetrating a sophisticated air defence system as ISIS has no such air defence system.

    Therefore the scenario you set out is not one which requires the UK to invest £100bn in a successor to Trident.

  • @expats: exactly where are ISIS going to get a nuclear weapon from? The world is not some James Bond fantasy with secret nuclear arms trading in the Siberian wilderness.

    It is also practically impossible for a nuclear weapon to denotate without arming technology that ISIS will never get their hands on. Contrary to what video games may tell you, nuclear weapons are designed pretty meticulously to not denotate by accident.

  • @Sara Noble no, but a”squib” can spread radioactive material over a large area.

  • steve James 13th Sep '15 - 6:32pm

    @TCO – but would the UK ever get permission from America to use the “trident” weapon system in retaliation, even if we could identify a suitable military target. Or are people in here really suggesting we should deliberately nuke civilians?

  • @ Joe Otten “We had a straw poll at one of our members meetings. About 80% were multilateralist, and a full third wanted a like for like replacement of Trident. I do suspect the conference bubble may be out of line with the broader membership on this one”.

    Well they would wouldn’t they. Sorry to touch a tender spot, Joe, but how many members do you have in Hallam compared to 2010 ? How big was the members straw poll compared with the Yougov polls ? Can you explain how, after shed loads of money were spent (enough for honours apparently) Nick’s majority fell from 15,284 to 2,353 ?

    I’m genuinely sorry to say it, but your school of thought has had it’s chance and it ended in tears. It’s somebody else’s turn now. Please reflect on the need for the Party to rebuild its traditional brand identity as a radical force. I regret you think we should be consorting with the Tories again and spending £ 100 billion on a weapon we will never use. We could be investing in infrastructure, health, education, yes and welfare….. or even in fulfilling Orange book dreams of cutting the deficit quicker to shorten the pain.

  • Stephen Hesketh 13th Sep '15 - 8:51pm

    Conor McGovern 13th Sep ’15 – 2:30pm
    “Let’s have the motion. Not only is Trident expensive but it’s a needless and unethical part of 21st century Britain. In my opinion, get rid. Whether that’s unilaterally, working with France or holding a world nuclear summit. We need to focus on jobs, tax reform, housing and green investment – not clinging on to a nuclear relic.”

    Well said Conor!

    Does anyone seriously believe this is an independent deterrent and that it would ever be used without US approval?
    Would anyone here really be prepared to commit to its actual use (please don’t bother with a ‘keep them guessing’ lecture)?
    Can we as a nation afford it?
    Can our armed forces actually afford it or would we be better actually manning and equipping our conventional forces to a higher standard?
    Does anyone believe that the UK is really safer than Germany and other non-nuclear European states?

    A full scale submarine-based replacement for Trident is a totally unsupportable nonsense and Liberal Democrats should have no part in it.

  • Four boats to three makes no sense. Four is the minimum for continuous at sea deterrent

  • Richard and Sarah ,..”Therefore the scenario you set out is not one which requires the UK to invest £100bn in a successor to Trident” that is what I said…
    Firstly Trident is a ‘deterrent’ if you use it, it has failed…..ISIS won’t worry about any retaliation…Osama bin Laden stated that the acquisition of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction is a “religious duty”

    As for acquiring and detonating a nuclear device The US and UK take the idea rather more seriously than you do…There have been raids in Pakistan/Russia to try to get a bomb and, as the IRA used to say “They only need to be lucky once”

  • Mick Taylor 14th Sep '15 - 9:33am

    I agree with David Raw (a rare occurance). Our membership of UNSC is a hangover from a different world, when Britain was considered to be a ‘Great Power’. I would rather have no nuclear bombs than be a member of UNSC if that really is the choice.
    Incidentally no-one has yet answered the question when will we use this bomb and on whom?

  • Neil Sandison 14th Sep '15 - 9:54am

    I think what these threads show is just how complex and interrelated the defence of Great Britain and Europe is and that motions that make some people feel comfortable may practically be undeliverable without unpicking the fabric of NATO. The party is not isolationist but internationalist at its core . Great Britain through Europe has a wealth of soft power at its disposal and should not wring its hands and say we cannot do anything to negotiate nuclear arms reduction talks .Should there be a nuclear incident in mainland Europe we cannot put up a magic shield of unilateralism and hide behind it .please remember Chernobyl a domestic Russian nuclear accident impacted upon our Welsh sheep farmers .de-escalation of nuclear arsenals should be a Liberal Democrat cause.

  • peter tyzack 14th Sep '15 - 10:03am

    I entirely agree with just one part of George Cunningham’s diatribe, to revisit the Defence Policy Paper. But why should we not, as a party, preface that revisit with a condition that excludes nuclear.? We NEED to have that debate now, more than ever. We need to scrap our outdated notions about how WMD’s will keep us safe, and think about the good that could be done by using the money more wisely. The only people who benefit from the proliferation(or replacement) of armaments are the manufacturers and their shareholders.. and after all, our Preamble also says ‘We will contribute to the process of peace and disarmament, the elimination of poverty and the safeguarding of democracy’ we can’t do that by ignoring the plight of the poor and spending the money that could be used to help them by ignoring the will of the majority in building a war machine.

  • Neil Sandison 14th Sep '15 - 10:31am

    Peter Tyzack We will contribute towards the process of peace and disarmament .That’s the missing link in the motion to conference,

  • @ expats

    So I think we agree that ISIS [and similar groups past and future] are not a reason for the UK to hold nuclear weapons.

    51 posts now and still no one has identified a power possessed of sophisticated air defence systems for which we need the capacity to launch a nuclear attack even when both the US and Russia are against their use.

  • Steve Coltman 14th Sep '15 - 6:52pm

    I have been in this party since the merger between the Liberals and SDP and I don’t ever recall this party having a meaningful debate about defence. Nuclear weapons are so emotive that they suck up all the oxygen and stifle proper discussion.
    It hardly seems credible that over half a century deterrence, there are still so many people who don’t understand what a deterrent is for. “In what circumstances would we actually use it?” people say. If our nuclear weapons ever have to be used they will have failed, but they are ‘used’ all the time to deter those who might wish to intimidate us. It was not widely reported in this country that earlier this year Russia threatened to target, with nuclear weapons, the three big guided missile frigates of the Danish Navy. Denmark has had the temerity to contribute its frigates to an anti-ballistic missile defence screen for the whole of Europe. What would we do if thus threatened? Russia is still a problem.
    Much of the argument about the like-for-like replacement of Trident is down to the cost. The Lib Dems demanded the government undertake a Review of Alternatives to Trident. Its worth reading this document closely. This party’s leadership simply capitulated when told there was not a viable Alternative, they did not challenge the findings. they should challenge them. One option was discredited by the MoD simply (I suspect) misleading parliament and two viable alternatives were not considered at all.
    The tide is moving in the wrong direction, the future is more likely to see more nuclear powers rather than less but at the same time our conventional defence spending is not enough to deal with the problems that Russia are presenting, plus the disordered state of Africa and the Middle east and the often under-estimated problem of Organised Crime. We need a nuclear deterrent of some sort, it does not need to be Trident, it does not need to be so expensive and we need to spend more on conventional defence.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Sep '15 - 11:22pm

    George Cunningham | Sun 13th September 2015 – 8:55 am “we have taken the dubious decision to build two very expensive aircraft carriers”. Let us be precise, the Blair-Brown government created these two Potemkin villages, but eventually built them. The Chinese government has recently announced missiles intended for aircraft carriers, not taking short cuts, but fired into space and descending at high speed in a way which worries our US allies in the Pacific. Where will we deploy ours?

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarCassie 18th Jun - 10:32am
    Key point being that even if there is some amazing Brexit benefit for the NHS, it will be for England only. Either they think Welsh...
  • User AvatarSimon Shaw 18th Jun - 10:20am
    @Cassie "David Raw… And the relevance/usefulness of your remark to 2018, to Brexit, to TM cynically linking extra NHS cash for England (only) with Brexit…...
  • User AvatarSimon Shaw 18th Jun - 10:13am
    @Peter Martin "Dianne Abbot was widely criticised for attempting a similar back-of-envelope type calculation as yourself when she mentioned recruiting 1000 police officers who were...
  • User AvatarPaul Walter 18th Jun - 9:49am
    Thank you David. I wasn't trying to undermine you. I don't treat comments exchanges as a sort of game. I have plenty of other things...
  • User AvatarLyn N 18th Jun - 9:32am
    @Cassie Quite. The Lib Dem’s as a minor partner in a coalition are only ever going to be able to soften the actions of larger...
  • User AvatarGlenn 18th Jun - 9:30am
    Military spending is not just about defence. It's about selling arms and expertise. It can kill people, which I'm pretty certain is not a public...