I know that some of beloved readers will think I am straying far from my role as a councillor when I have the temerity to do a blog about nuclear bombs and the Trident replacement programme. But there are a number of prompts to me that remind me that all policies are interconnected. When we decide to do one thing than we often cannot do another- often because the money we would like to use is gone.
My prompts have been firstly addressing the CND national conference which I am delighted to tell you was held in Liverpool and the publication of a book which I heard discussed on the Today programme this morning.
The CND conference was small but perfectly formed and the existence of CND serves to remind us that nuclear weapons have not gone although the cold war is, supposedly, over. In fact, depending on how you judge it, we still have enough ageing nuclear weapons around to destroy the world 5 times over and that is after 20 years of decommissioning by the major powers!
The book shows just how close America came to nuclear disaster. Two states could have lost tens of thousands of lives if the weapons had not mis-functioned for a second time after initial malfunctions set them in train.
The UK is, of course currently looking at the renewal or otherwise of its nuclear options. Let me be clear from the start I do not believe that our Country should have nuclear weapons. They are an obscene weapon that could never be used by a responsible government. They exist only to keep successive Prime Ministers at the big boys table – the UN Security Council. By absorbing vast amounts of money they prevent us from spending and actions on more urgent military causes and actions and distort or internal expenditure. Think what we could do if we abandoned nuclear and spent the money on other defence and more importantly other social needed projects. As an example the cost of Trident replacement is equivalent to 2.5 times the cost of the new West Coast main line upgrades proposed through HS2.
Although I do not agree with my Party’s current Trident policy I am delighted that it is the only one to be actively calling for a reduction in nuclear arms in the UK. They have ensured that £5 billion has been saved in the life of this Parliament by delaying the replacement programme and would save many more £billions if we were able to put our policies into practice. This seems unlikely given the fact that Tories and Labour are still in ‘cold war’ mode and have no serious challenge to nuclear options.
So what would I do with the money?
Firstly, I would reduce the defence budget. We spend more per capita on defence than any other European power and in most cases a lot more. There is no reason for this.
Secondly, I would spend more on supporting allies who are currently looking to us in vain. In December last year I met a Mayor from the Congo where 50 of his people had been murdered by terrorists. In May this year I met a Mayor from Northern Uganda with a similar story. They don’t want UK boots on the ground and I don’t want that either. But they did want to see their Country’s armies given help particularly with communications and logistics.
Thirdly, I would spend more on social programmes back in the UK. We might all have our own priorities for how this money would be spent but I would increase the capital spend on housing to replace the capital spend on weapons.
What I am sure of is that the debate about Trident replacement and its defence and social alternatives must be much more vibrant. When I was a lad, many years ago, we were still in the aftermath of the Second World War and the cold war was at its height. Tens of thousands of people marched on Aldermaston because of massive concern that nuclear proliferation was endemic and dangerous. The brave women of Greenham stuck at it year after year because they knew that they needed to remind us all about the dangers of the weapons to the UK. The threats have not gone away because the cold war is partly at an end and the threats of the USSR are much reduced.
So I hope that people will get behind CND as I have offered to do and ensure that this vital debate is held.