What Lib Dem party members think of Trident

by Stephen Tall on September 21, 2010

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of the early race for the party presidency, the London mayoral selection, Trident, and the Labour leadership. Over 400 party members have responded, and we’re currently publishing the full results.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, the Lib Dem conference will be debating an emergency motion on Trident, which states that: “The exclusion of Trident from the Strategic Defence and Security Review is now untenable; it should be included and receive the scrutiny which strategic, political and financial circumstances demand.”

Our members’ survey asked identical questions to those posed in a YouGov survey we reported last week in order to test the views of our sample of Lib Dem party members. Here’s what we found…

Question: As you may know, there is currently debate about whether or not the UK should replace its Trident nuclear weapons system. Current policy is to replace the Trident submarines with a new fleet of boats, and to replace the ballistic nuclear missiles they carry at a later date. Which of the following options would you favour most?

  • 3% – Replace Trident with a broadly comparable system
  • 40% – Replace Trident with a cheaper system
  • 57% – Not renew Trident and give up nuclear weapons altogether
  • (Excluding Don’t knows, 4%)

Interestingly, the figure of 57% is identical to that which YouGov found when asking its sample of Lib Dem party members. That suggests a clear majority in favour of the UK ditching nuclear weapons, but with a sizeable minority, 43%, in favour still of retaining a nuclear deterrent of some sort.

Next we asked: As you may know, the UK government is planning to build a replacement for the Trident nuclear weapons system. Do you support or oppose plans to replace Trident with a ‘like-for-like’ system?

    1% – Strongly support
    5% – Tend to support

  • 6% – Total support
  • 4% – Neither support nor oppose
  • 33% – Tend to oppose
    57% – Strongly oppose

  • 90% – Total oppose
  • (Excluding Don’t know, 1%.)

The message here could not be clearer: an overwhelming 90% of party members oppose like-for-like replacement of Trident, and a clear majority strongly oppose it. Just 6% support it, while only 4% are undecided. Again these figures are broadly similar to YouGov’s findings, though seem to suggest even harder opposition among our sample of party members to like-for-like Trident replacement.

Finally: The Government are currently undertaking a Strategic Defence and Security Review to assess the country’s future defence priorities and review expenditure on all major defence projects and activities. Some argue that the review should include a reassessment of Britain’s nuclear weapons policy and all alternatives to Trident replacement. Others however claim that this is unnecessary as Parliament voted to replace Trident back in 2007. Which of the following comes closest to your view?

  • 95% – The Strategic Defence and Security Review should look at alternatives to the replacement of Trident
  • 5% – The Strategic Defence and Security Review should NOT look at alternatives to the replacement of Trident
  • (Excluding Don’t knows, 3%).

I think this is what might be termed fairly overwhelming: 19 in every 20 party members, according to our survey, believe the SDSR should look at alternatives to the replacement of Trident, with just a 5% hard-core of party members opposing this. Interestingly, this was the one question where the Lib Dem Voice sample of party members showed different results to YouGov’s, where the split was a slightly more even 80%-14%.

You can access the results of all LibDemVoice.org’s surveys of party members here.