Scrap Trident and reduce the deficit fairly
POSTED IN Blog, Top Stories 16.07.2010
Over the course of this campaign I have discussed at length my opposition to the Trident nuclear system and everywhere I have been my position on this issue has drawn applause and support. So why do so many of my colleagues still refuse to support the dismantling of our nuclear weapons system? In part, I wonder whether Cabinet meetings are actually just very influential and very convincing, but I doubt it.
I think a better assessment is that Trident is a New Labour talisman, borne out of the need to chase, or in this case avoid, Daily Mail headlines. It is symptomatic of the way we made policy in Government and symptomatic, I’m afraid of many of my contender’s inability to be brave and stand by the values of the Labour Party. I say brave because sometimes it’s difficult saying what’s right. Sometimes it’s difficult to make the case against the right wing press – It is difficult but absolutely necessary. At so many junctures in our time in Government we were too scared to make the case for what was right – civil liberties, immigration, trident.
And to be against Trident is right, morally and economically. Most people in this country cannot fathom a time when it would be acceptable to use it. Most people I speak to cannot understand why we would spend billions of pounds on this type of system when we’re cutting such vital services in our communities. And most Generals and Unions are beginning to say the same thing – we don’t need it, we don’t want it, it’s too expensive and it’s irrelevant.
The Government has presented the budget as if it didn’t have any other option. Of course we need to curb public spending – all major parties support that, but let’s not pretend that there isn’t a choice here. You can cut progressively and spread the burden or cut emphatically and hurt the poorest. The coalition chose the latter and ignored the issue of Trident altogether.
That’s not to say a continuing Labour Government would’ve chosen a different path. Some of my contenders say decommissioning isn’t economically viable. They argue that the cost of decommissioning out ways the financial benefit gained from scrapping the replacement. But they’re wrong. The figures clearly show that decommissioning would save the economy money. Both in the short term and the long term the economy would benefit and as I’ve argued, help plug the deficit. According to the Ministry of Defence figures, the cost of decommissioning would be approximately £300 million over the next 3 years and £1.5 billion over the next decade. Compare that to the immediate saving of scrapping Trident at £2 billion annually and the £20 billion that would be saved from terminating the programme altogether and you begin to wonder why ex members of the treasury haven’t looked at their own Government documents.
As leader of the Labour Party I would scrap Trident immediately, I would listen to the Generals and the public. I would use the money saved as part of my deficit reduction package, a package that wouldn’t punish women and the most vulnerable in society for the greed of a few bankers. Most crucially, I would stick to this position as I have done for 23 years, unlike the Liberal Democrats who have suddenly gone very quiet on the issue.