Opponents of Trident urge Miliband to back abolition

By staff writers
April 9, 2015

Opponents of the Trident nuclear weapons system have urged Ed Miliband to have the courage to commit Labour to abolishing Trident. The calls came as the Labour leader pledged his support for Trident following a Conservative attack.

Writing in the Times, Conservative Defence Secretary Michael Fallon suggested that a minority Labour government would abandon its support for Trident in return for support from the Scottish National Party (SNP). He also made personal comments about Ed Miliband, using his history of political rivalry with his brother to cast doubts on his loyalty and integrity.

Labour has hit back with a strong defence of Miliband and an insistence that Labour supports the renewal of Trident, with the caveat that they would renew the details of it.

In contrast, the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Green Party and Plaid Cymru all issued statements pledging that their MPs will resist renewal of Trident after the election. Parliament is due to make a decision on Trident renewal in 2016.

SNP Defence Spokesperson Angus Robertson pointed out a New Statesman survey showing that three quarters of Labour candidates oppose Trident.

“There is no question that there is a majority which can be assembled in the House of Commons against Trident,” he insisted.

Describing Trident as “unusable and indefensible”, Robertson insisted that “if we deliver a strong team of SNP MPs at the general election, an absolute priority will be getting Trident renewal halted.”

He added, “Trident is a red line issue for the SNP”.

The statement was welcomed by critics of Trident, although some are continuing to push the SNP to be clearer about what they mean by a “red line”.

It is not clear if this means that the SNP would not contemplate any deal with a minority Labour government if Trident were renewed, or simply whether they would make deals on other issues but not Trident.

In the latter case, a minority Labour government might rely on Conservative votes to get Trident renewal through Parliament. This in turn might depend on how many Labour MPs were prepared to vote against their party’s leadership.

However, Robertson was using strong language today, mocking the discussion over whether Labour would reduce the number of Trident submarines from four to three.

He said, "Trident is utterly irrelevant to the defence and security challenges we face in the twenty-first century and therefore the appropriate number of Trident submarines isn't four or three - it is zero.”

Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood urged all candidates in Wales to oppose Trident renewal.

She said, “Failure to do so will see vast amounts of money wasted on weapons of mass destruction while our health, education and transport systems are being stripped of cash”.

The Green Party of England and Wales responded to the controversy by attacking both Labour and the Conservatives.

“This latest round of Tory speculation doesn't conceal the fact that the Labour Party is committed to renewing our multibillion pound nuclear weapons system,” said Green leader Natalie Bennett.

She added, “The truth is that the Labour leadership has made it clear that they will prioritise spending £100 billion on a cold war relic – rather than investing in the schools and hospitals that this country so desperately needs.”

Bennett described the Greens as the only party that is “standing up to Trident across the UK”.

The response from the Liberal Democrats was ambiguous, calling for a “grown-up conversation” on nuclear policy. The party declared that they would “take a step down the nuclear ladder” by reducing Trident’s capacity while retaining a nuclear weapons system in some form.

Most of the UK's largest Christian churches – including the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain – are firmly opposed to Trident renewal. However, few of them have commented on the issue today, possibly out of fear of being seen as party-political in the run-up to the general election.

* More on the issues in the 2015 General Election from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/generalelection2015

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