Scrap Trident nuclear weapons, urge 58% of Lib Dem members

by Stephen Tall on August 8, 2013

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. More than 600 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

58% say scrap Trident, just 26% back leadership line of reduced deterrent

Currently the Trident system has FOUR nuclear armed submarines. This means that at least one nuclear armed submarine can always be on patrol, even if others are undergoing maintenance or training, and therefore the country has a continuous nuclear deterrent. One way of having a less expensive nuclear weapons system would be if a new system only had TWO nuclear armed submarines, meaning there could be times when both submarines were receiving maintenance or training and there was no nuclear armed submarine on patrol. Which would you prefer?

    9% – A more expensive system, where there is always a nuclear armed submarine on patrol

    26% – A less expensive system, where there could be times when there was not a nuclear armed submarine on patrol

    58% – Neither – Britain should not have a system of submarine based nuclear weapons

    5% – Don’t know

A clear majority of Lib Dem members in our survey want the UK to ditch the Trident nuclear weapons system altogether. 58% want it not to be renewed compared to just 26% who back the party’s preferred ‘contingency posture’ of a reduced number of submarines. A smaller minority still (9%) want Trident to be renewed to guarantee ‘continuous at sea deterrence’.

This result will come as a disappointment to the party leadership which has thrown its backing behind The Trident Alternatives Review overseen by Danny Alexander advocating a scaled-down deterrent. This will be the subject of a vote at party conference and judging by these results the party leadership will have to battle hard to avoid defeat.

Here’s a selection of your comments:

We should have a joint deterrent with other countries in the EU.

Britain shouldn’t have and doesn’t need nuclear weapons.

There is no justification for having nuclear weapons, however cheap they are. The financial arguments are good, but the moral ones are better.

The two submarine is a massive copout. I could have accepted it as the result of a compromise between the positions of the members of the coalition, but to adopt it from the start is weak and without principle – and will result in a coalition compromise that looks very much like the current ‘deterant’ at an outlandish cost the country cannot afford.

So far the coalition agreement has been worthless on this. A good hard working Liberal Democrat minister has been axed (Sir Nick Harvey) and Philip Hammond has been able to settle the first tranche of R & D monies. He has also put down £270 million deposit for VSEL to commence work on the hulls of “our” next generation Mk5 Trident submarines….So much for the agreement

The report was a farce. It’s dumb politics to commission a report that makes a mockery of your initial position. Clear decision to be made now: either we renew Trident or we decommission our nukes.

You either have a deterrent or you don’t. There is no point in having one that is only part time. That is not a deterrent.

I’m not entirely sure why we can’t have a Western Europe joint defence. Would share the cost around.

It’s a capability that needs to be 100% if we’re to retain a serious position in global affairs.

It is hypocritical and illogical to try to dictate to countries like Iran that they should NOT have nuclear weapons, if Britain continues to consider them vital to its security. Britain is engaging in the equivalent of bullying.

In the longer term Trident should be abandoned, but we should proceed one step at a time.

Defence of the realm against unforeseeable events in the decades to come is paramount

Time to accept our diminishing role in the world …

We should scrap all nuclear weapons eventually, any measure that sets us on that path is OK. Status quo does not. We should also take nuclear possession out of the qualification for security council.

I do not think a Trident type system is appropriate but if a two sub system of the Trident type is the only accepted solution then it may be that the UK and France could work a mutual four boat system with a potential enemy never knowing which one of the 4 is on patrol.

When I joined the Liberal Party in 1961, the argument was between collective nuclear defence and unilateralism. No one in the Party was in favour of a supposedly independent deterrent, which even Michael Portillo has said is neither independent nor a deterrent, but rather the price to be paid for a seat at the Top Table (whatever that is). The new proposal offers so little in policy or financial terms, we might as well keep all the submarines for their employment and economic benefits. But better to scrap the lot.

I support a scaling down of the Trident deterrent based on the report from Sir Menzies Campbell and the need to divert money allocated to Trident to reduce rising lower taxation/state pensions etc.

I look forward to a world without nuclear weapons but the public don’t support this as yet. But there is surely no justification for spending so much on renewal of a weapons system we simply don’t need any more. Our threats don’t come from massive nuclear powers any more. Trident won’t deter terrorists.

Reducing the scale of the Trident system is a logical step post-cold war. But with posturing from states, including North Korea and Iraq, the case remains to keep a nuclear deterrent.

At some point we have to be ready to make the decision not to be a nuclear power.

This is an “all or nothing” system, we either have a deterrent system, or we don’t and a fudge where we only have it sometimes is meaningless.

There is no potential enemy that would be deterred by nuclear weapons

I’d like to see all nations disarm their nuclear weapons. Whilst we’re still in a military stand-off though, it’s never going to happen. Someone needs to slowly back-away first. That, in itself, would be worthwhile – saving any costs is just a bonus.

I am wholly opposed to any form of nuclear weapons

The arguments made by Danny Alexander have a logical endpoint of no nuclear weapons. If there is any need for these, they should be collectively held by NATO. There never was a case for an independent British deterrent – not that it ever was.

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  • * Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.