Thursday, February 08, 2007

Trident..........Ming please don't make this a test of your leadership

Like many party members I came home last night to a message from Ming about Harrogate. I was particularly struck by the following extract:

"Conference will be asked to set a new Liberal Democrat policy to reduce significantly Britain's nuclear weapons by 50% - bringing Britain's warheads down to a maximum of 100. If approved these proposals mean that the Liberal Democrats would be pressing for a radical reduction in the size of the British nuclear deterrent so that Britain can take the lead in kick-starting the stalled international disarmament talks.

We are all committed to nuclear disarmament. Working towards global elimination of nuclear weapons is a central principle of our international and defence policies. By cutting Britain's nuclear weapons by 50% and keeping our seat at the table, Britain has the best chance of driving forward the disarmament agenda.
The proposals are not only progressive, they are responsible too. They recognise the delicate situation that the world finds itself in 2007 with regards to proliferation. We must recognise the danger over the next decade of states such as Iran developing nuclear weapons, and the pressure this will place on other powers in their regions to acquire nuclear weapons themselves. Such proliferation could lead in the longer term to one or more such states possibly posing a threat to Britain, its neighbours or allies.

So disarming completely now - just as the security situation looks more potentially alarming than for many years, when we have an effective deterrent with many years life left in it and when the need to take a final decision to replace Trident is some years away - would I believe be the wrong course to take at this time.
In reality, Britain doesn't need to take a final decision on replacing Trident until well into the next decade. Tony Blair has jumped the gun on this because he wants the decision made while he is still Prime Minister. Liberal Democrats should not fall into his trap and be bounced into accepting his flawed logic. Scheduling the final decision for a more realistic date in the next decade would give Britain a number of years to try to create the circumstances in which replacing Trident could prove strategically unnecessary.

If Britain used all its influence to spearhead a renewed drive towards disarmament, and with a better American administration post-George Bush, we could encourage other countries considering nuclear development to sit down and discuss a non-nuclear future. This means keeping Britain's options open for as long as we are able."

Whatever our views on Trident I have to say I do not approve of the way any contentious issue which the leadership is afraid of losing get this sort of treatment, one day and that day may be almost upon us, that approach will come back and bite them in the bottom! The use of the words "responsible" and "progressive" imply that those of us who take a contrary view are by nature irresponsible and unprogressive. Actually what would be very responsible and very progressive would be for Ming to heed the advice in the letter which has been sent to him by the mayor of Hiroshima,Tadatoshi Akiba. Conference should not be subject to the constant emotional blackmail of having their every decision interpreted as support or not for the leader. To do this makes a mockery of the notion that what distinguishes us from the other two main parties is that our members make policy. We are a grown up party well able to debate the issues in a grown up way.......please can we be allowed to get on and do so.

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