We store cookies on your device to make sure we give you the best experience on this website. I'm fine with this - Turn cookies off
Switch to an accessible version of this website which is easier to read. (requires cookies)

Conference Countdown 2015: Let’s scrap the “scrapping Trident” motion

September 13, 2015 12:43 PM
By George Cunningham in Liberal Democrat Voice
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

In the run-up to Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, we'll be looking ahead to examine the highlights in the debating hall, the fringe and training rooms. You can find the papers here. You can find all the posts in the series here.

The Labour Party has made the historic mistake of electing Jeremy Corbyn as its new party leader. Through this decision, it has thrown away years of work (and time in government) convincing the general public that it is electable. To a lesser degree, let us not do the same.

Naturally I respect the views of the "Scrapping Trident" lobby within the party. Theirs is a noble cause. But it should be remembered that the party already threw out the idea of scrapping Trident at party conference just two years ago by coming to a compromise that we would make substantial savings by reducing the number of Successor submarines from four to three.

We should try to refrain from the old referendum trick of keeping asking the same question until we get the answer we want and accept a decision that the party had only recently made.

In just two years of course, the international situation has changed dramatically. We have new threats from a resurgent Russia on our doorstep (which is modernising its nuclear arsenal) as well as deadly turmoil in the Middle East which is destabilising the European Union because of the refugee crisis it has caused. If anything, the need for a nuclear deterrent has grown along with the need to review our conventional defence posture. Politicians need to be frank with the general public about the implications of what is going on, so we do not sleep-walk into catastrophy. We should also not underestimate the impact scrapping Trident would have on our role in NATO and the world

We have steeply downsized the British Armed Forces without having generated the foreseen level of reserves to compensate for the cuts; we have taken the dubious decision to build two very expensive aircraft carriers which would necessitate the redeployment of a shrunken royal navy from other duties to protect them in times of major crisis; and the Treasury continues to make short-term savings which in fact may cost us dear in the end. We just do not have the capacity to adapt to any future change that NATO and the world may demand of us.

This is why it is entirely legitimate to revisit our 2013 "Defending the Future" party policy paper in its entirety and without political prejudice to assess the threats and how we can work with our allies to give adequate security guarantees to our citizens. The work would be timely, given that a new Strategic Defence and Security Review is expected shortly from the government

I support the amendment put forward by Defence Spokesperson Baroness Judith Jolly which in effect sends the whole issue back to a new Defence Policy Working Group. It is right that the whole issue of our country security and defence is debated by the party on the basis of a proper comprehensive assessment.

Let's not let our emotions rule our heads. The security of the realm is too important to play around with.

* George Cunningham is Vice-Chair, Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats and former PPC for North Thanet

Read more by George Cunningham or more about conference countdown or trident.