Our nuclear weapons are neither needed nor deployed. Does Ed Miliband have the courage to scrap them?

There would be no better way for the Labour leader to make a break with the past than a renouncing of Trident. He knows we simply do not need it

Share
Related Topics

After half a century of avoiding a decision it is surely about time that the Labour Party got round to abandoning our nuclear deterrent. For there has been no rational reason for retaining this expensive toy since the Soviet Union collapsed over twenty years ago. Although the Russians, like the French and of course the Americans, have retained their nuclear weapons none of the nuclear-armed countries which pose any kind of threat – Israel, India. Pakistan, North Korea and soon possibly Iran as well – are ever going to be able to reach the White Cliffs of Dover.

The list of the ‘new’ nuclear states – with the obvious exception of China – is a clear demonstration of the disconnect that has evolved over the past decades. There are countries which feel the need for a bomb for a variety of reasons, like Israel because of a perceived threat to their very existence, like India and Pakistan because of mutual suspicion or like Iran and North Korea to demonstrate their grown-up status in the world. On the other hand there are major economic powers, most obviously Japan, Germany and Brazil, which feel no need the reassurance provided by the possession of the bomb. So Britain’s continuing apparent need to possess the bomb can be ascribed to a feeling of psychological rather than military insecurity.

The Labour party’s failure to acknowledge this fact and to press for so obvious a step springs from history. For decades after the launch of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the late 1950s the idea was synonymous with the  - by definition unelectable - extreme left, an assumption reinforced by the prominent place disarmament played in the 1983 election manifesto, that so-called ‘suicide note’. Messrs Brown and Blair were first elected that year so it was not surprising that they – yes for once they were in agreement – decided to start preparations for replacing our fleet of Trident submarines a decade before construction was due to start.

As a result were Mr Milliband to come out as a nuclear disarmer now it would be as decisive a gesture symbolising a complete break with the past as was the abandonment of Clause 4 by Tony Blair, and would be greeted by the great mass of the British public today with a mixture of indifference and relief. Nor would the Armed forces be unhappy, the Army and Air Force have long believed in the step, indeed some courageous Chiefs of the General Staff have been pressing for it for decades

The Navy – and the workers in the shipyards involved – could be reconciled by the work needed to convert the present Trident fleet into ‘hunter-killer’ submarines and to build some more relevant ships, like the frigates deemed essential by admirals since the days of Lord Nelson. But the decision would also mark a major turning point in emphasising that were significant not because of our nuclear armaments but because we are a seriously significant country for all sorts of reasons –we have put on the most successful Olympic Games in history, in which we proved to be a major power in the world of sports, a duel triumph which finally removed any excuse for further nuclear posturing.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Read Next
Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos gives a statement outside Southwark Crown Court after her trial  

It would be wrong to compare brave Tulisa’s ordeal with phone hacking. It’s much worse than that

Matthew Norman
The Big Society Network was assessed as  

What became of Cameron's Big Society Network?

Oliver Wright
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary