Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Liberal Democrat Conference 2015: Scrapping Trident.

The Motion.

Scrapping Trident

1 Conference notes that the go-ahead for building Successor submarines
2 for the Trident system is scheduled to be decided upon in 2016.
3 Conference believes that British possession of nuclear weapons is
4 inappropriate and unhelpful to today’s needs.
5 Conference rejects the projected spending of £100billion on the system
6 over its lifetime, believing the money could be better spent.
7 Conference therefore calls for the plans to renew the Trident system to
8 be scrapped, and for the earliest decommissioning of the existing Trident
9 forces.

Amendment One
14 conference representatives
Mover: Baroness Jolly (Defence Spokesperson) Summation: Rt Hon Sir Simon Hughes
1 Delete lines 3–4 and lines 7–9.
2 After line 6, insert:
3 In line with our existing policy as set out in policy paper 112, Defending the Future – UK Defence in the
4 21st century (2013), and our recent General Election Manifesto, conference resolves to oppose like-for-
5 like replacement of the Trident system as proposed by the Conservative government.
6 Conference believes that the ‘Maingate’ decision to proceed with Trident replacement is such a
7 fundamental question affecting the UK’s national interest that it should be subject to a binding vote in
8 Parliament and not simply a government decision; and calls on Liberal Democrat Parliamentarians to vote
9 against any such proposal should it come before Parliament.

Two things are obvious.  The majority of the party are against the continuation of the Trident system.  The leadership, in whatever incarnation it takes: Ming, Nick and now Tim, are determined to keep it, despite anything said to the contrary.  It sincerely pains me to write that but one has to go on the evidence.

Okay, let's do the common ground stuff.  There is not a Liberal Democrat that likes nuclear weapons.  Where the party is split is between those of us who follow a multilateral approach: seeing a global lowering of all nuclear weapons, verses those (myself included) who wants to get rid of Britain's nuclear missiles.

The key to the motion above is:
"conference resolves to oppose like-for-like replacement of the Trident system as proposed by the Conservative government."
In other words, the parliamentary party would be pretty much free to decide whatever they like, short of supporting Conservative and (until recently?) Labour policy of replacing four Vanguard-class boats with four Successor-class boats.  This is so fundamentally against the will of the majority of the party that the amendment deserves to be, ought to be, rejected out of hand by conference.

The original motion has been criticised by Tim as it does not specify what comes next.  That is intentional for leaves room for further debate within the party whether to continue with some form of nuclear deterrent or whether we should recommend that Britain should not continue with the ownership of nuclear weapons.

I think that Baroness Jolly's motion and, I am sorry to say this, Tim's support, is based upon the fear of looking weak or irresponsible with the nation's defence.  I am sorry folks but as a party we have been the epitome of responsibility for five bloody years and look where it has got us.  In today's politics, we have to stop fearing what other people might think of us and just be ourselves.  Saying what we think and acting upon it has worked for the SNP and it has worked for Jeremy Corbyn.  Why cannot it work for us?

For what it's worth, here is what I think:

Nuclear weapons do nothing to add to the UK's security.  While multilateralism is good in theory and showed some promise in the past, the major nuclear powers have taken the decision to renew their primary ICBM systems.  Britain looks set to follow suit and with eight MPs, we are powerless to stop it.  We don't have to be a part of it though.  Let us take this opportunity to stand up and stand against it, here and now.

I urge all those attending conference to support the motion and reject the amendment.

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