If George Osborne’s visit to Faslane earlier this week was supposed to boost support for Trident in Scotland or deal a killer blow to Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign, then he’s failed on both counts.
Pumping £500 million into the city's naval base – and pre-empting a parliamentary decision on Trident replacement – is presumably supposed to strengthen local support on employment grounds.
But the reality is that the constituency in which Faslane sits, Argyll and Bute, swung decisively to the SNP in this year’s general election, taking votes from the strongly pro-Trident Labour and Conservatives.
What's more, Trident isn’t only unpopular in Scotland. For years polls have shown a majority across the UK in favour of scrapping the nuclear programme, and an ever-growing list of political and military figures are now publicly opposed to nuclear weapons. The fact is, nuclear disarmament isn’t a minority sport, engaged in by loony lefties as Osborne would like to suggest, but an increasingly widespread common sense position.
The economic situation has done much to drive home the folly of spending on nukes. Many would prefer to see the money – £100 billion for Trident's replacement – spent on jobs, schools and hospitals; others would prefer it to be allocated to the conventional military budget. There is no doubt that the impact of Trident spending has had a negative impact on troop numbers and military hardware.
Osborne's much vaunted "pro-nuclear consensus" is an artefact of the Cold War and it needs to be broken down. It remains largely in the minds of politicians while generations of ordinary people have moved on. The Labour establishment needs to grasp this too – scrapping Trident would be a vote-winner, not a vote-loser.
Nuclear weapons have no military utility, and are primarily about Britain’s position in the world. So it’s not surprising that Jeremy Corbyn thinks it doesn’t make any sense to spend £100 billion on a status symbol. And – as he’s quick to point out – in whose eyes do we have status when the 190-odd countries without nuclear weapons are increasingly insistent that the nine nuclear weapons states comply with treaty obligations to disarm?
For over a decade, successive governments have been at odds with majority public opinion on war, military intervention and nuclear weapons. Jeremy Corbyn has been firmly with the majority on all counts, backing an alternative that would enhance Britain’s security rather than threaten it.
The consequences of our disastrous war on Iraq are all around us, from the barbarism in Iraq and Syria, to catastrophic breakdown in Libya, to the enormous flow of refugees that our Government seems so reluctant to help. Being able to threaten the planet with nuclear meltdown seems a suicidal addition to our so-called security options.
Osborne has fallen back on the old Cold War trope – that Trident is our ultimate "insurance policy". Someone needs to tell him that insurance policies only pay out after the worst has happened – they don’t prevent it happening. And someone needs to tell him that a Corbyn-led Britain would help make Britain – and the world – a safer place.Reuse content