The Tory Shadow Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, has today attacked Nick Clegg's criticism of the Trident nuclear weapons system, insisting that Trident renewal is necessary because the country faces “real threats”. He is right that Britain faces real threats – he just hasn't explained how Trident would be useful against any of them.
Take the threat of terrorism. I vividly remember being near Russell Square on the 7 July 2005; terrorism is not something that I underestimate. But what use would Trident be against suicide bombers? What use, for that matter, is a conventional army, navy and air force against those who would blow up tube trains?
International hostility to Britain has been fuelled by the invasion of Iraq, the presence of UK troops in the futile war in Afghanistan and the UK's government subservience to the brutal and corrupt regime in Saudi Arabia. Addressing these realities would do far more to combat the real threat of terrorism than renewing a multibillion pound relic of the Cold War.
But the biggest threat to our security, and to the security of the world, lies in the dangers of climate chaos. Future generations will look back with amazement, asking why, when faced with clear evidence of the severity of climate change, we chose to invest billions in nuclear arms and to put far more money into research and development for the arms industry than into developing environmental solutions.
A structured transfer of research and development money away from the arms industry and towards the development of renewable energy and environmental technology would allow us to use the skills of engineers, scientists and other workers to tackle the real threat of climate change, while providing longer-term economic security than a reliance on multinational arms companies.
Liam Fox said that Clegg's comments reminded him of anti-nuclear campaigners who “we thought we had seen the back of when CND were defeated in the 1980s”. His comments demonstrate his contempt for public opinion. Polls are showing a majority of the population supporting an end to Trident. Far from being defeated, the anti-nuclear movement has more support than ever.
Liam Fox is one of the most ardently pro-military members of the Conservative front bench, though perhaps slightly less gung-ho than his deputy Gerald Howarth, nicknamed the “honourable member for BAE Systems”. As Shadow Defence Secretary, Fox needs to focus on defending the British people from the threats we really face, rather than defending nuclear weapons and the arms industry from their critics.