Majority of Britons would be prepared to launch a nuclear strike if they were Prime Minister, poll finds

Prime minister Theresa May says she would not hesitate to trigger missile defences

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The Independent Online

More than half of Britons would be willing to launch nuclear weapons if they were Prime Minister - with two thirds of those asked supporting Theresa May's claim that she would do so, according to a recent survey.

The prime minister issued a definitive "yes" at a parlimentary debate on the Trident nuclear programme when asked if she was "personally prepared to authorise a nuclear strike that could kill 100,000 innocent men, women and children".

Fifty-nine per cent of people surveyed by YouGov said they would do the same if they were in Ms May's position, in particular circumstances which would warrant a nuclear retaliation against a hostile power.

This is in contrast to a First Verdict poll from October 2015, which showed just 37 per cent would be willing to use nuclear force if they were in power, with 38 per cent saying they would not. 

Meanwhile, in the YouGov poll, 66 per cent of those interviewed said they supported Ms May in her assertion, with only 15 per cent saying she was wrong to agree to such a decision.

A seperate survey found 44 per cent of British people want to see Trident replaced when it reaches the end of its useful life, and believed the Conversatives were better equipped to handle the country's nuclear deterrent than the Labour Party.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said on numerous occasions he would never launch a nuclear strike if he became prime minister, and has repeatedly criticised the renewal of the Trident programme - leading just 13 per cent of those surveys to conclude he would be the best person to handle have power over Britain's nuclear weaponary.

Ms May told MPs at the debate she believed it would be "an act of gross irresponsibility" for the UK to remove its nuclear capabilities and accused opponents of trident of being "the first to defend the country's enemies".

Since the Cold War, previous British prime ministers have avoided answering the hypothetical question of whether they would be willing to trigger nuclear missiles.

Trident was originally bought from the USA by Margaret Thatcher as a possible defence against armies of the former Warsaw Pact.

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