Thursday, 9 April 2015

Britannia Needs a Trident

The UK general election campaign has the virtue of being quite short. In other respects, it is an exercise that induces nausea. My sick feeling comes from the recognition that the campaigns of the political parties involved reflect the concerns of the electorate. Not what the parties think are these concerns, but what are in fact the main topics on the mind of the voting masses, as revealed in numerous opinion surveys. Common themes are immigration, the National Health Service and relationships with Europe. But this makes the latest campaign political 'issue', Trident, something of a surprise.

Trident is possibly the biggest ever UK military spending programme, with a lifetime cost of close to £100bn. But it gets far from proportional attention or debate, whereas the ability of the health service to manage the costs of cosmetic surgery or comments on the latest tattoo fad would fill many pages. Instead, the major UK political parties take for granted as, implicitly, does the UK population, that being able to nuke other countries with submarine-launched missiles is an important sign that Britain is in the Premier League of world nations. After all, countries like Iran are not even allowed to join the club.

Michael Fallon, the Conservative defence secretary, saw fit to impugn the imperial loyalty of Labour leader Ed Miliband on the question of Trident. He claimed that Miliband would dare to give up this fiendish device in a deal with the Scottish National Party, who are using Scottish nuclear bases as a bargaining chip in their claim for more subsidy from the London-based authorities. This is how the Labour leader reacted:

"National security is too important to play politics with. I will never compromise on national security. I will never negotiate away our national security.

"The Conservative Party can throw what they like at me, but I'm going to concentrate on what matters to the British people.

"On the question of four boats [submarines] or three boats, we will be guided by the experts. The experts say four boats. It's right to have a review."

Imperial status matters to the British people. Despite Miliband being the personification of incongruity, even he understands that. It is probably also indicated by Labour's opinion polls.

Tony Norfield, 9 April 2015

No comments: