UKIP candidate rejects Nigel Farage's support for Trident renewal

By staff writers
April 22, 2015

A candidate for the UK Independence Party (UKIP) has departed from his party’s position on nuclear weapons, saying he is unconvinced by the argument for renewing the Trident weapons system.

Steven Brookes, UKIP candidate for Birmingham Selly Oak, made the comments at a hustings event in the constituency this evening (22 April).

His view contrasts with that of UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who has championed a traditional right-wing line on “defence” issues. Parliament is due to make a decision on Trident renewal in 2016.

Anti-Trident campaigners are likely to view the comments as evidence that opposition to Trident is growing even on the political right.

Asked about Trident by a member of the audience, Steven Brookes looked rather uncomfortable as he said that the renewal of Trident was “the party’s policy” but added, “It’s one I’m not entirely convinced about myself”.

Trident has become increasingly central to the general election debate, with the Conservative Party accusing Labour of being prepared to abandon Trident when making deals in the event of a hung Parliament. While Labour leader Ed Miliband backs Trident, a survey suggests that three-quarters of Labour candidates oppose it.

It is estimated that Trident renewal will cost up to £100bn.

Steven Brookes adhered to UKIP policy on other issues during the hustings, calling for the Ministry of Defence budget to be kept above two percent of GDP. He also backed heavy cuts to immigration, withdrawal from the EU and an end to measures to tackle climate change.

Labour candidate Steve McCabe – who has served as Selly Oak’s MP for the last five years – expressed his support for Trident renewal, as did Conservative candidate Alex Boulter. For the Liberal Democrats, Colin Green backed a cheaper nuclear system to replace Trident. The Greens’ Clare Thomas rejected nuclear weapons outright, insisting that there are “more important things” to spend money on.

Steven Brookes’ comments on Trident were welcomed by Christian peace campaigner and writer Symon Hill, an associate of the Ekklesia thinktank, who was in the audience.

“At one time, I would have been very surprised to hear a UKIP candidate rejecting Trident,” he said. “But no longer. We’ve seen opposition to Trident spreading so far that even someone as right-wing as Steven Brookes cannot give it his support. He looked almost embarrassed as he recited UKIP policy on nuclear weapons before saying he wasn’t convinced by it.”

Hill added, “Mainstream politicians seem determined to ignore the reality of opinion polls that consistently show a majority of the British public to be opposed to Trident renewal, especially at a time of heavy cuts to public services.”

The hustings event in Birmingham Selly Oak constituency was organised by Churches Together in B30.

[Ekk/1]

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