Clegg: Lib Dems won't replace Trident

by Stephen Tall on June 16, 2009

From The Guardian:

The Liberal Democrats today become the first mainstream party to declare they will not renew Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent system with an equivalent modernised system, as parliament agreed in 2007. Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, told the Guardian he was making the move because of the rapidly deteriorating public finances and because the case for such a powerful nuclear deterrent in the post-cold war world was “a complete fiction”.

Figures in the cabinet and the shadow cabinet have been privately pressing for their parties to renounce a replacement for Trident, but have not been able to persuade their leaders. This means Clegg is the first big figure to argue openly against a full-scale Trident replacement.

Clegg said: “New leadership in Russia, new leadership obviously in the White House and a wider geostrategic appreciation means that a cold war missile system designed to penetrate Soviet defences and land in Moscow and St Petersburg at any time, in any weather, from any location anywhere round the planet, is not our foremost security challenge now. We have got to be grown-up and honest about it.

“Given that we need to ask ourselves big questions about what our priorities are, we have arrived at the view that a like-for-like Trident replacement is not the right thing to do.”

Until now the Lib Dems have called for a 50% cut in nuclear warheads, but left open the possibility that in the next parliament they would support like-for-like replacement for Trident when it needs to be renewed in 2024. …

Clegg said his new position represented a radical change. “I have grappled with this, because it is not where I started in my leadership. But the world has changed, the facts have changed, you’ve got to change with them. So like-for-like replacement for Trident is just not right.”

Full story HERE. Discuss…

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That’s not fair! Don’t tease us like that, just come out and say it!

by Caron on June 16, 2009 at 9:31 pm. Reply #

How did that happen?

I posted that comment and then the whole story appeared.

Well, I have to say I am jumping up and down with joy. I was very uncomfortable with the line we accepted at Harrogate and I totally agree with this policy.

Whether I totally agree that this policy should have been made without reference to conference is of course another matter…..

by Caron on June 16, 2009 at 9:34 pm. Reply #

Caron – as I understand it, the policy will need to be approved by conference in the autumn. My guess is the leadership won’t have a fight on their hands with this one.

(And sorry for the earlier teasing headline, now overwritten – thought it was embargoed til 10pm, so was curious to see what LDV readers would guess the announcment might be!)

by Stephen Tall on June 16, 2009 at 9:36 pm. Reply #

A very practical and pragmatic position as well as being environmentally and morally right; it certainly seems Nick has changed stance (before he said we could only encourage others to disarm if we retained the threat and dismissed disarming unilaterally).

by Andrew Tennant on June 16, 2009 at 9:48 pm. Reply #

Completely agree. Never supported Trident, never will.

We cannot lecture countries like Iran on nuclear weapons, whilst continuing to develop our own. It’s counter-productive, and will do nothing to achieve de-nuclearisation globally.

Glad Nick Clegg has finally turned a corner on this.

by Matt Wood on June 16, 2009 at 9:51 pm. Reply #

As I have pretty much just blogged:-)

by Caron on June 16, 2009 at 9:55 pm. Reply #

This is great news and when this goes to conference I hope this gets the okay.

Now all that needs to happen to make me truly happy is for the Party to adopt a more non-interventionist foreign policy, starting by bringing home all troops and shutting down all UK military involvement abroad.

by Gavin Webb on June 16, 2009 at 9:56 pm. Reply #

Sound and sensible move.

by cogload on June 16, 2009 at 10:24 pm. Reply #

Sounds good to me. I find myself moving in line with party policy for once (having been wavering last time this came up to opposition to Trident now)

by Tristan on June 16, 2009 at 10:39 pm. Reply #

great news and just the sort of bold leadership we need. When the facts change so should we – vindication of those who argued this way during conference and the last leadership election.

by Will on June 16, 2009 at 10:41 pm. Reply #

Replacing Trident was always an absurd waste of money, £20 billion worth of dick-waving on the international stage.

by Costigan Quist on June 16, 2009 at 10:42 pm. Reply #

Excellent news, though we were only a few conference votes away from having this position two years ago.

by Nick on June 16, 2009 at 10:44 pm. Reply #

This is fantastic news, I am glad Nick Clegg has cone round to this conclusion.

by Colin Ross on June 16, 2009 at 11:06 pm. Reply #

Time to inject a note of caution into the discussion. Yes, this is welcome news, but Clegg has left himself a significant amount of wriggle room by only opposing a ‘like-for-like’ replacement for Trident. He is still leaving open the possibility of Britain possessing a scaled-down nuclear weapons system.

by Bernard Salmon on June 16, 2009 at 11:13 pm. Reply #

Much as I agree with this new policy, I can’t help wondering whether there’s still any pretence that policy is decided democratically rather being dictated by the leader.

by Herbert Brown on June 16, 2009 at 11:35 pm. Reply #

I am delighted with this change in policy. I have worked dammed hard for my local party, and now I feel it really has been worthwhile.
Wriggle room? Maybe, but I doubt he will use it. There are too many other priorities to attend to.

by Geoffrey Payne on June 16, 2009 at 11:35 pm. Reply #

Great news! I voted against our current policy in Harrogate and I’m more than happy with this policy shift.

by Chris Lovell on June 16, 2009 at 11:38 pm. Reply #

On the other hand, if it WAS affordable…?

by Andrew Duffield on June 16, 2009 at 11:43 pm. Reply #

“We cannot lecture countries like Iran on nuclear weapons, whilst continuing to develop our own.”

We can as long as it’s run by a nutter who wants to wipe Israel on the map. Let us be blunt – we can be more trusted with nuclear weapons than Iran can.

by Richard on June 16, 2009 at 11:46 pm. Reply #

What Andrew Duffield says.

I’m happy with the outcome, but not happy with the thought process.

If Trident is crucial to Britain’s defence, we should be keeping it. If it is not a necessity, it should be scrapped to show our commitment to non-proliferation. That is the argument. Money doesn’t come into it.

If it only cost 50p or 3 for £1, we should still get rid if we don’t really need it.

And if it cost £1 trillion but we all die without it then it is a sound investment.

by Duncan Stott on June 17, 2009 at 12:44 am. Reply #

“We can as long as it’s run by a nutter who wants to wipe Israel on the map. Let us be blunt – we can be more trusted with nuclear weapons than Iran can.”

Mutually Assured Destruction is just as MAD.

by Alex on June 17, 2009 at 12:51 am. Reply #

To pick up on Bernard’s point the BBC website says:
“The UK still needed a deterrent, he [Clegg] told the BBC, but a “like for like” replacement was out of the question.”

by Hywel on June 17, 2009 at 1:02 am. Reply #

So very pleased – not only because this is a very sensible position to take on a so-called ‘nuclear deterrent’ (which we have no control over firing and which we wouldn’t dare fire anyway), but because it allows Nick to steal a march on the other leaders on an issue that strikes a chord with the public.

Trident embodies NuLab’s technocratic old-world solutions to the troubles we face, getting rid of it makes sense both in the real world and politically – kudos to Nick and his team…!

by Teek on June 17, 2009 at 8:15 am. Reply #

@Bernard Salmon and others: The whole Trident discussion reminds me of the Yes, Prime Minister episode where Hacker discusses it with Sir Humphrey (“but I don’t want to obliterate the whole of Eastern Europe!”).

I agree that there is no justification for having a weapons system mainly designed to murder hundreds of thousands of civilians in one go. But what might make sense is to have nuclear-tipped Tomahawk cruise missiles instead. These are a proven technology and can be launched from our existing fleet submarines (so no need for ballistic missile submarines to replace the Valiant class).

I think we should be ready to scrap Trident now if there is good progress on nuclear disarmament talks (though sadly the French are unlikely to scrap their beloved collective penis ballistic missiles).

by Niklas Smith on June 17, 2009 at 8:34 am. Reply #

Let us be blunt – we can be more trusted with nuclear weapons than Iran can.
I’m not sure that argument holds up, given that the only country to have used nuclear weapons against another was a Western democracy.

by Nick on June 17, 2009 at 8:38 am. Reply #

Here we go again – an excellent news story, being clearly mis-handled. It would have been a top of the agenda story if this had been saved for announcement on a Sunday – instead, it competes for space when Iran and other things are dominating the news agenda. How many of todays papers have given this column inches? Coming out with something bold and distinctive deserves better. Yet again its not the message, its the machine behind it – a dozen press officers, how many have ever worked for a newspaper? Timing is everything, and this was poorly timed.

by Philip Young on June 17, 2009 at 8:38 am. Reply #

The wonderful conversation about the nuclear deterrent between Hacker and Sir Humphrey is here (6:15 in):

by Niklas Smith on June 17, 2009 at 8:58 am. Reply #

Actually, if you want to go straight to that part watch this:

Hilarious! But also makes a serious point.

by Niklas Smith on June 17, 2009 at 9:04 am. Reply #

Humphrey: “It [Trident] is the nuclear missile Harrod’s would sell you. What more can I say?”
Hacker: “Only that it costs £15 billion and that we don’t need it.”
Humphrey: “Well, you can say that about anything at Harrod’s!”

Hmm. If Trident cost £15 billion in the 1980s, how is it that replacing it will cost “only” £20 billion now, despite inflation?

by Niklas Smith on June 17, 2009 at 9:09 am. Reply #

This is a good news indeed! Funny how it takes a recession to focus peoples’ minds about nuclear weapons…

by Mark Wright on June 17, 2009 at 9:20 am. Reply #

Herbert Brown: Leaders tend to lead. It’s what we elect them to do. But it will still have to go through Conference. Compare and contrast with the other mainstream parties.

by Paul Griffiths on June 17, 2009 at 1:28 pm. Reply #


I realise it will have to be rubber-stamped by conference – though I don’t see any mention even of that formality in the report above – but that’s hardly the same as democratic policy-making.

by Herbert Brown on June 17, 2009 at 1:44 pm. Reply #

I’m delighted with this change of policy by the leadership.

by Nigel Ashton on June 17, 2009 at 2:10 pm. Reply #

Excellent news. Glad to see Nick h as been converted to scrapping Trident. I don’t necessarily agree with those who want to bring all the troops back, but scrapping Trident means funds will be released to make sure he Army is properly
armed and properly protected – we owe them that much. Tories seem to be wavering on this as well – e.g.David Davies last night. So we may end up with Labour the only party supporting Trident and ID cards. What a turn-round!

by Mike Falchikov on June 17, 2009 at 5:04 pm. Reply #

Britain still needs some sort of a deterrent – how about threatening any aggressor nation with the prospect of allowing Brown & Darling to run their economy?

by Martin Land on June 17, 2009 at 7:01 pm. Reply #

Sorry to spoil the party, but isn’t this worse than the last fudge?

Isn’t Nick saying we have decided what we don’t want (trident), but the BBC reports him saying “The UK still needed a deterrent” butwe haven’t decided what we do want (another cheaper system) and so he’s asking Ming Campbell to look at it. Then he says it would be “an unhappy event” if Ming Campbell concludes there is a cheaper option.

The Discussion paper that backed up the last fudgy Trident motion said that they had looked at all the other options and Trident came out as most cost effective, saying the Government White Paper’s costing of the options were a fair assessment.

So this new direction won’t please the banners – we keep the bomb but develop some kind of Trident Lite or Trident Cheap that we have already said doesn’t exist.

Does that mean Nick expects Ming to come back and say ‘sorry mate, can’t do it cheaper’.

Does that mean the ‘unhappy event’ clause comes into effect? Is Nick Clegg now announcing we are unilateralists now?

Looks like we have refudged a fudge to me.

by Juliett on June 17, 2009 at 8:11 pm. Reply #

We should be giving it up multilaterally as per the NPT, not simply unilaterally.

by Simon R. on June 18, 2009 at 3:26 pm. Reply #

The recession isn’t relevant – every government has a duty to defend its citizens and if a British nuclear deterrent were really needed we would have to afford it.

But it isn’t needed. And it isn’t independent (thank goodness – only a maniac would launch against US disapproval).

I guess the Party has been terrifed of losing votes as Labour once did – but the world has moved on and many voters will realise that. What’s important is to use the money saved on our poor bloody conventional forces who are bound to be needed in the future (and I don’t mean for an Iraq style fiasco). And let’s stop subsidising dodgy arms manufacturers with public money – we shouldn’t mind buying American when their equipment is the best as it often is.

by Chris R on June 19, 2009 at 9:45 pm. Reply #

Just a shame that many party members and Nick Clegg himself didn’t vote with their principles at the Harrogate conference when this policy was first past.

by Chris Lovell on June 20, 2009 at 1:31 am. Reply #

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