Opinion: Time to revisit the Trident debate

In the coming leadership campaign, I would like to see a revisiting of the replacement of Trident debate where the party settled on a policy of fudge. Reluctantly I have to accept that we cannot do this before the next general election, but I am sure that whoever wins will be leader for at least the next two general elections, and he will have a big say in how the policy develops.

I believe that the current fudge of a policy gave the SNP a stick to beat us with in the last Scottish elections – and for them it worked. I admit that to say so suits my own personal agenda, since I believe that replacing Trident is a colossal waste of money, but the evidence is there all the same. And many Scottish Lib Dem activists I met in the Brighton conference say so as well.

So which of those standing for the leadership are more likely to suggest that we should NOT replace Trident?

Well for now I very much doubt that any will be able to say. They have to support existing policy. This is a policy that gives everyone the freedom to say almost whatever they like. They could all easily say “The policy of the Liberal Democrats is that we should not replace Trident now, but of course after the next general election we will have a better idea of the threats facing the UK and we can look again at what policy will be best for securing our future”.

All options open then. But whoever we elect now will push their preferred policy in the future, and we have no way of knowing what it is.

* Geoffrey Payne is secretary of Hackney Liberal Democrats.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Absolutely agree!!!!!!!

  • Martin Land 17th Oct '07 - 8:11pm

    Geoffrey, no it’s not time to re-visit the Trident Debate; it’s never time to visit the Trident Debate. There is no way we will be in government before the twiddly bits that go bang are stuck on the other bit that goes whoosh, so can we let the Tory Twins, Gordan and David dance on this particular pinhead and discuss what we are going to do about the things we can actually do something about or where we can genuinely influence the course of events, please!

  • Peter Bancroft 17th Oct '07 - 9:21pm

    I’m not sure that I understand the reason that we need to go over this one again.

    Conference recently took a vote and this was what they decided. I’m not aware of any new developments here, so is it anything other than those who lost the vote just disagreeing with it?

    Presumably other people who disagree with other votes then could say the same things about whatever it is that they disagree with.

  • 1.Stop it please!

    2&3. spot on!

  • Geoffrey Payne 17th Oct '07 - 10:05pm

    Yes it is confusing. I am asking for a debate on a policy that cannot change because it is too late. We already have one, albeit one that lost us votes to the SNP in the last Scottish elections.
    Maybe in the light of that we can have one?
    It would be a huge risk for anyone who does, so it probably won’t happen.
    That in itself makes the leadership contest more like a beauty contest; how do you disagree on policy, ie the kind of party we are going to be?
    It is said that Webb, Clegg and Huhne are virtually identical in what they believe, yet some of us know that is probably not the case. Otherwise how can so many get so worked up about it?

  • A voice from Lothian 17th Oct '07 - 10:13pm

    Re 2. We will really need a policy after the Non Proliferation negotiations and it will need to include more options that (a) Trident II and (b) no nuclear weapons after Trident I. We will need to consider (and hopefully be able to rule out as a result of a treaty) (c) small scale very small number nucs and (d) posses and store and not deploy. So lets not do a discussion now.

  • Tristan, I know Geoff well, and I can assure you he has been a committed unilateralist for the last 92 years, in fact preceding the detonation of the first nuclear bomb by some thirty odd years.

    I was under the impression from our acting leader on News 24 the day Ming went that he’d instantly and unilaterally changed the policy – I’d swear he said “we are against nuclear weapons”, though he may well have meant “nuclear power”.

    I think the best argument against replacing Trident has to be “it’s a waste of a humungous amount of money”

    Think what we could do with that cash – schools, hospitals, renewable energy investment, abolish tuition fees (obviously not all of these)

  • Geoffrey Payne 20th Oct '07 - 9:54am

    Thank you Eastender.
    I would clarify that it is not even a matter of being unilateralist. Jo Grimond led the party in it’s opposition to an independent nuclear deterrent because it was the case of the UK unilaterally having nuclear weapons, ie not under the control of NATO. I would have thought “liberals” such as Tristan who want the party to embrace the Thatcherite economics would welcome the opportunity to cut state spending.

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