Words I can’t mention


I learned a valuable lesson on LDV last week and that is that there are some words so emotionally charged that their mere mention provokes a pre-programmed response more incendiary than the sight of a cat to a Staffy. So while I wanted to talk about the Lib Dem take on populist green causes I naively opened my piece with a discussion of the F-word and at that point lost my audience. I won’t make the mistake of stepping on that particular land mine again, you know the one I mean, the issue of vulpine persecution, Basil Brush meets the Hound of the Baskervilles?

Another topical tantrum trigger, one that is splitting Corbyn’s Labour party this week is the T-word – Neptune’s toasting fork (7 letters). No, I can’t say it for fear of unleashing a figurative Armageddon on the terrors of the real thing and blowing any chance of getting to the punch line.

So while Corbyn attempts to rig the ballot by appointing Emily Thornberry to defence, and Ken Livingstone proclaims that we can scrap it because Vladimir is nowhere near as terrible as Nikita or Leonid, the mundane observation that I offer is that paying for renewal is nothing to do with deterrents or the value for money of unusable terror weapons, it is purely a diplomatic question. Renewal is paying tribute to Rome, the rent that the UK must pay for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. In discussing the T-word what we should really be talking about is not the economics of weapons of mas destruction or left-wing pacifism, but Britain’s position on the world stage. It’s a transactional issue, what benefits does the UK gain from spending £100bn to remain a member of a select diplomatic club?

And talking of Britain’s position on the world stage brings me to the E-word and David Cameron’s extraordinary pronouncement on Sunday that if the EU referendum goes badly he has no intention of resigning. Apparently he only promised to hold a referendum, not to deliver a particular result! We might be tempted to dismiss this as Cameron the PR man, all presentation and no principles, or perhaps it’s yet more poker bluff in his EU negotiations, but either way he continues to fail in his primary duty, that of leading the nation. For me, strong leadership comes from fearless commitment to principles, so come on Cameron, put some skin in the game and show some commitment for something other than your own career.

What both of these issues highlight, and as this is the bottom line I will say them, Trident and Europe, is the UK’s ongoing identity crisis. Within a single lifetime we have moved from imperial super-power to G8 industrialised nation. Many of us see this as progress while others see it as being forced to live in reduced circumstances.  To me, Yes to Trident and No to Europe is the ‘living in the past’ option. My choice would be the opposite, No to Trident and Yes to Europe – self-confident and secure, playing a leading role in building a stronger Europe under the Nato nuclear umbrella. (Other combinations of yes and no are available.)



* Phil Aisthorpe has been a Lib Dem member since September 2015 having previously been a life-long Labour supporter. In a previous life, Phil worked as an IT planning manager and business strategy manager with a leading UK financial services organisation.

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  • Should we have a permanent seat on the UN security council? There are many more important countries which are more deserving of a seat. Spending a large sum of money on a nuclear system of questionable ability to work just to strut around is complete madness. In real terms we are no longer an important country in world terms we are not even that important in Europe.

    In defence and security we are far behind USA, Russia, China, India. Brazil, Japan, Germany have an equal right compared to Britain and France.

    Keeping an expensive questionable system to satisfy out of date imperialists is financial madness.

  • Geoffrey Payne 11th Jan '16 - 1:02pm

    I got confused but I was pleased to see that the author opposes Trident replacement and I think that is very sensible. It is odd how austerity stops us from doing so many things apart from replacing Trident.

  • jedibeeftrix 11th Jan '16 - 1:18pm

    “Renewal is paying tribute to Rome, the rent that the UK must pay for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.”

    This is not remotely true.


  • jedibeeftrix 11th Jan '16 - 1:20pm

    “There are many more important countries which are more deserving of a seat.”

    There are… who?

  • My choice would be the opposite, No to Trident and Yes to Europe – self-confident and secure, playing a leading role in building a stronger Europe under the Nato nuclear umbrella.

    Surely it we can’t reasonably ask others to use their nuclear weapons to protect us, if we are not willing to maintain such weapons to keep up our end of the deal?

  • Anti-Trident; Hooray….Rather like our ‘adventure’ in Syria we like to pretend that our ‘military might’ will make a difference…it won’t

    Ranged against the US/Chinese/Russian nuclear arsenals our few warheads will deter no-one and, in the more likely threat of a nuclear attack from a rogue state/terrorist group, they are equally pointless…
    The 1956 Suez crisis showed our ‘independent’ military action is limited to what our US master allows; it is time that we realised that fact.

  • Phil Aisthorpe 11th Jan '16 - 2:50pm

    In MHO jedibeeftrix, if Britain were to dump Trident, questions would be asked as to why we were permanent members of the UN security council. The permanent members have two things in common – victors in WWII and nuclear missiles.

    If I’m not mistaken the money paid to renew Trident goes to Washington and we cannot fire the missiles without approval from Washington. In the Roman empire large sums of money were paid to Rome by minor states as a sign of allegiance and often in order to finance projects that benefited both parties. Sounds a lot like Trident to me.

  • If I’m not mistaken the money paid to renew Trident goes to Washington

    Some of the money will go to US companies which build the missiles, but British companies build the submarines and warheads, so not all the money will leave Britain.

    and we cannot fire the missiles without approval from Washington.

    Technically they can be fired without approval from Washington (Washington doesn’t need to be asked for ‘control codes’ or anything like that), although politically of course such a move would have consequences — but this is no different from the UK’s conventional forces, as demonstrated by Suez (and some of those forces also use American-manufactured equipment too, so pretty much the same situation)

  • @jedibeeftrix more deserving countries. India, Brazil. from Europe Germany. From the Pacific Japan, South Korea. It might be better if the EU sent a representative instead of Britain and France and India and Brazil were permanent members.

  • @Mat while Barrow builds them a lot of the expensive equipment inside comes from European owned companies.

  • The real question is when would it be used? Under which circumstances would it be launched? The greatest threat is from non state terrorism or cybercrime. The cold wr threat of the Warsaw Pact has gone. If Russia did decide to creep westwards at what stage would it go nuclear? Ukraine? Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia? Poland? Would an inward and pacific looking USA hold to article 5 of NATO and commit large forces to protect these countries?

  • And the value of a seat on the Security Council is ………………………… ?

  • jedibeeftrix 11th Jan ’16 – 8:20pm……[email protected] crewegwyn – “And the value of a seat on the Security Council is ………………………… ?”…. because we get to shape the world as we desire, rather than being shaped by others to the world they desire?…..

    Well, to be honest we aren’t making much of a job of it….Anyway, the only times the UK has used its veto unilaterally was on the Rhodesia/Zimbabwe situation….Usually we just follow the US lead. The one time we opposed the US was in 1956, in conjunction with France, over Suez…But as the US threatened to destroy our economy we backed off…

  • @jedibeeftrix most countries in the world are more deserving. It is easier to make a list of the countries Britain hasn’t fought with, sold shoddy goods to or forced to be colonies. Britain’s foreign relations policy has caused trouble over the years. The empire was based on force and selling overpriced unreliable goods to the colonies. Anyone who has owned a BMC Holden or a Land Rover knows that. The great British expert Mark Sykes drew the lines in the sand that are now causing trouble. The British and the French should be barred from foreign affairs.

  • nigel hunter 12th Jan '16 - 11:25am

    Why cannot we compromise?. I know it is a hot subject (trident). I do think we can reduce it to 2 subs , for diplomatic purposes. The money saved can go on other military needs, the choice is yours to debate. We will still need weapons. The EU has kept the peace in Europe for my lifetime, that alone is one reason to stay. Another £125million was available from the EU for the floods, has this been used? We drive European cars. Most power companies are European investments ie Npower Yorkshire water. EDF nuclear power, good or bad you decide. We are in Europe we need it.

  • Richard Underhill 12th Jan '16 - 2:27pm

    One letter words are in widespread use, but can cause offence. This is a general comment, not aimed at the author of this piece.
    In a party which values and teies to protect diversity words such as ‘everyone’ can also cause frustration.
    When Saddam Hussein got a 100% vote on a 100% turnout there was some scepticism. Was there no-one on the electoral roll who was still alive but in a coma? Was there no-one who had suffered a road accident on the way to vote? Even Stalin and Hitler only claimed percentages in the high nineties.
    David Cameron has used the word ‘Never’. Surely he knows that a general election has been legislated for 7 May 2020, subject to any votes of confidence or no confidence in the Commons? Is there an inherent contradiction in his wish that the inner core of the EU should strengthen their economy/economies, providing the UK with increased export opportunities and his wish to be empowered to veto any he dislikes? Is he so well informed and does he have such fine judgement that he can pick winners in this way?
    Can he tell us whether the price of oil tomorrow will be slightly higher or slightly lower?
    Can he tell us whether Wall Street or the Chinese stockmarket will inch up or down?
    If so, how does he know?

  • Richard Underhill 12th Jan '16 - 2:28pm

    teies should be tries

  • @jedibeeftrix back in the 1950s I lived aboard British tankers. Although we were owned by a British company we sailed under the Liberian flag registered in Monrovia because the British flag was not welcome or allowed to enter many ports.

    We had British officers but all the crew were Chinese. Every day meals were served to the Officers in No1 dress uniform in the Salon in the aftercastle by Chinese stewards in high collar jackets. It was like the dining scene from “carry on up the Kyber” The Chinese had poor conditions and were paid 10/- per week. The way Britain (and France) has treated other countries in the past excludes it from getting “to shape the world as we desire, rather than being shaped by others to the world they desire?” The others might do it with more respect and fairness.

  • @nigel hunter. You can’t do continuous at sea with two subs. You need a 3rd to cover any problems and then by the time the 4th id built the 1st is due for a refit which takes years.

    If you are not doing continuous at sea you are just as efficient using air launchedcruise missile from a hercules.

  • Dave Orbison 12th Jan '16 - 6:12pm

    Phil your comments confuse me. You’re against Trident which, I think, reflects current LibDem policy though some LibDems disagree.

    Corbyn’s policy review is likely to be decided by a full membership vote. You have accused Corbyn of ‘vote rigging’. A serious accusation in politics. Are you saying Thornberry and Livingstone will personally tamper with the votes? Alternatively, are you suggesting Labour Party members (who are voters at the end of the day) are so feeble-minded that they will simply do as they are told by Thornberry/Livingstone whilst somehow having the strength of mind to withstand the appeals from dissenters such as Umunna, Hunt etc.

    More wild accusations thrown at Corbyn. ‘Vote rigging’ a serious accusation and one that is completely and unjustifiably levelled at Corbyn. Perhaps, you believe there is something inherently wrong with holding anti-Trident views, as do Thornberry and Livingstone, and participating in policy reviews on this issue? In which case are you seriously suggesting that the only way forward is to have such a review only on the provision that it is headed by someone who is pro-Trident view?

    Corbyn favours scrapping Trident and he trust the party membership with that decision. How can extending a vote to all members as opposed to a couple of hundred MP’s be represented as vote rigging? How does Corbyn’s policy towards Trident and increased democratisation of the policy determination in the party differ from the LibDems approach?

    Have some LibDems acquired a Pavlovian anti-Corbyn response no matter what he says or does. All this is supremely ironic given that only last week Tim Farron continues to appeal to those Labour MP’s who are actually pro Trident and anti-party democracy to join the LibDems.

    Why does this matter? Isn’t is all a good laugh at Labour’s expense? Well to that I’d remind you that it was only the other day Tim Farron spoke of the need for a strong opposition. So what chance do you think we will have of changing the UK policy on Trident when it seems you would rather score petty points by attacking Corbyn in this way on this issue even when standing on the same platform? Do you seriously believe the LibDems will bring about a Trident-free UK on their own?

  • The UN Security Council was established in 1946, with five permanent members. One had nuclear weapons at the time. The other four didn’t. Nevertheless, their memberships are permanent. More permanent, indeed, than the nations themselves: three of the memberships have passed to successors of the states that held them.

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