Trident: what the Lib Dem blogosphere’s been saying

by Stephen Tall on October 29, 2007

Chris Huhne has lit the touchpaper with his announcement that he would seek to re-open the decision agreed (by a slender margin) at the Lib Dems’ 2007 spring conference to take no decision on renewing Trident until after the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty talks.

Speaking to The Observer, Chris confirmed:

he favoured a less powerful, ‘minimal’ deterrent, even if that meant it would be ‘more vulnerable’ to attack by other nuclear powers.

The old Cold War presumption of a threatened Soviet first strike no longer made any sense, he argued. The current threats came from ‘rogue states’ or ‘terrorists’ and did not require a system like Trident to provide a deterrent.

‘It would be ridiculous to replace the system with something of equivalent power, strength and lack of vulnerability. It will also make us dependent for decades to come on the US for maintenance,’ he said.

This position is further clarified on the LibDems4Chris website:

… for the record, Chris is not a doctrinaire unilateralist; he thinks Trident is a poor purchase for Britain on cost and benefit and that it will squeeze the resources available to conventional forces. A smaller independent deterrent could be in the frame.

The Lib Dem blogosphere has been positively aglow since Chris’s intervention: reactions range from enthusiastic agreement to total opposition. Here, in chronological order, are those who have responded so far:

Duncan Borrowman;
James Graham;
Matt Davies;
LibDems4Chris: here, here, and here;
Andy Mayer;
Linda Jack: here, here, and here;
Antony Hook;
Edis Bevan;
Iain Rubie Dale;
Jonathan Calder;
Mark Valladares;
Charlotte Gore.

If I’ve missed any, please use the comments to provide the links.

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but………is he seeking to reverse the decision? My reading is that he is still looking to wait post 2010 and then looking at a minime type Trident!

by Linda Jack on October 29, 2007 at 9:01 pm. Reply #

Fair point, Linda. I’ve amended it to ‘re-open the decision’.

by Stephen Tall on October 29, 2007 at 10:09 pm. Reply #

Quite impressed with what I’ve seen of Nick Clegg’s Welsh launch today. He’s even got the speech up in Welsh on his main site:

Perhaps more interesting that he chose to launch in Swansea rather than Cardiff – and he does seem to have the bulk of the AMs backing him, so Wales looks pretty good for Clegg.

Anyone got a feel for how the candidates are going down in Scotland?

by Dominic on October 30, 2007 at 12:41 am. Reply #

I don’t understand how the question of what form our nuclear deterrant takes is significant.

It’s of course a massive decision as to whether we’re a party which believes the UK should have a nuclear option or not, but both candidates think that the UK should do.

I can see the argument for submarine-launched nukes, but I can also see the argument for aircraft or silo-launched. Isn’t this a technicality? I’m no military expert, but I’d probably have stronger opinions on how many aircraft carriers we should have.

by Peter Bancroft on October 30, 2007 at 12:56 am. Reply #

Dominic says: “and he does seem to have the bulk of the AMs backing him, so Wales looks pretty good for Clegg.”

Two of the four Welsh MPs are backing Chris Huhne. Remind me how many are backing Nick Clegg?

Chris has made is very clear what his position is with regard to our relationship with the United States – an ally but not a satellite. What is Nick’s position?

What would Nick do if there was a hung Parliament, he was a minister in a coalition cabinet, and Cheney (or Cheney’s successor) demanded UK support for war with Iran?

I think I know what Chris would do, and I am pretty certain what Ming would do. What would Nick do?

by Angus Huck on October 30, 2007 at 1:22 am. Reply #


I really think you need to speak to Nick’s campaign or read his website. You obviously have a lot of questions and are surely not just trying to suggest things!

For the record, I very much doubt that there’s a great degree of difference in the positions of either leadership candidate on the UK’s position in the world and vis a vis the US.

I’m a fan of Timothy Garton Ash’s “Free World” – I suspect that our Lib Dem foreign policy will stay in that general direction for the forseeable future.

by Peter Bancroft on October 30, 2007 at 1:26 am. Reply #

Err, nice try Angus! I know the media are desperate to find some policy differences between Nick & Chris but trying to imply that Nick would somehow diverge from our current approach to the US (which is what Chris has summed up) is pretty creative even by their standards 🙂

I have no doubt Nick would oppose war with Iran just as strongly as Chris but if you’re really interested in that, rather than just setting up a straw man, perhaps you should ask him!

by Dominic on October 30, 2007 at 6:48 am. Reply #

Six of our 12 Scottish MPs have endorsed Nick and none, yet, for Chris.
Five of our 16 MSPs have backed Chris and none, yet, for Nick.
MEP still to declare.

by Iain Rubie Dale on October 30, 2007 at 1:47 pm. Reply #

I think Angus if Nick as leader supported a war in Iraq we’d be heading for (yet another) leadership election!

by Hywel Morgan on October 30, 2007 at 2:15 pm. Reply #

Sorry, Iran that should have been.

by Hywel Morgan on October 30, 2007 at 2:16 pm. Reply #

@3. Nick has the “backing of the bulk of AMs”.

Is this true? His listing shows only Peter Black and Kirsty Williams.

That’s 2 out of 6.

by crewegwyn on October 30, 2007 at 2:23 pm. Reply #

Hywel, answer me this. Why have the media been promoting Nick so strongly? Ditto, Paddy Ashdown (an enthusiastic cheerleader for US foreign policy)?

As Matthew Huntbach has pointed out, the media don’t have a history of supporting the weakest candidates for leadership of anti-establishment parties, they go for those most likely to promote the establishment cause if elected.

Mark Oaten would have backed war with Iraq (consider his answer to Bernard Jenkin on “Question Time”), and as leader would have sold the party (and the country) down the river.

Nick is no Mark Oaten (more of a management consultant than an insurance salesman). But he is uncomfortably vague on policy, and we know little of his thoughts on international affairs.

by Angus Huck on October 30, 2007 at 2:48 pm. Reply #

Angus 13. “Why have the media been promoting Nick so strongly?”

It’s a double bluff to get you to vote for Chris.

by Joe Otten on October 30, 2007 at 3:16 pm. Reply #

I am pleased that all Lib Dem MPs voted against the war in Iraq, and given the spectacular failure of policy there, I think the party now on will be very wary of how it’s foreign policy should relate to the US. I think that applies regardless of who leads the party. With the benefit of hindsight Paddy Ashdown admitted at a fringe meeting at Lib Dem conference that he was wrong to back the war in Iraq, so I would be amazed if any Lib Dem MP would hint that he is travelling the other way.
I do sense that Nick Clegg is being vague about what he stands for, but it is early days and hopefully that will change over the next month.
Personally I am backing Chris for many reasons, one of which is that he seems to know what he believes already.

by Geoffrey Payne on October 30, 2007 at 3:53 pm. Reply #

I similarly would like to hear Nick spell out more of an agenda on this issue.

Like it or not, despite what the media may think, Iraq and our approach to foreign policy and the US, remains an issue of fundamental importance to millions of people including many who may have voted for us in 2005 and may do so again.

This is far from being an ‘inward-looking’ issue.

by Gareth Epps on October 30, 2007 at 4:27 pm. Reply #

>> Why have the media been promoting Nick so strongly? Ditto, Paddy Ashdown (an enthusiastic cheerleader for US foreign policy)?
Presumably it’s because The Media (which we all know to be controlled by a single shadowy figure) are running a coordinated campaign a) to ensure that the UK invades Iran b) they think Lib Dem support of such a policy is vital. I expect it’s the same people as were behind murdering Princess Diana 🙄

Or perhaps you’re stretching your argument a teensy-weensy bit? 😉

by Dominic on October 31, 2007 at 12:05 am. Reply #

BBC Question time tonight – Huhne by a street. Calm, unflappable, competent and quite prepared to get the knife in – albeit in the most polite way. It’s a contest for heaven’s sake!

by Denis on November 15, 2007 at 11:43 pm. Reply #

Dominic at 17: Oh, so you know who murdered Princess Diana? Perhaps you should speak to the coroner as a matter of urgency.

by Angus J Huck on November 15, 2007 at 11:50 pm. Reply #

I’ll leave that to you Angus – as the conspiracy theory meister!

by Dominic on November 15, 2007 at 11:52 pm. Reply #

You’re the one whon said it, Dominic. A warning to smart Alecs like you. Some people take jokes seriously (and I don’t mean you).

by Angus Huck on November 16, 2007 at 9:54 am. Reply #

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