Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The great Trident debate

Yesterday the House of Commons debated the renewal of Trident. It was entirely predictable that the House would vote to renew the weapons of mass destruction. And it was entirely predictable that most Labour MPs would use the occasion as an opportunity for attacking their own party leader instead of opposing the Tories.
(Here's a gem from Pro-Trident Labour MP Jamie Reed describing Corbyn as "reckless, juvenile and narcissic").
It wasn’t really a debate of course. Debates imply that some participants are open to changing their minds. But then the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent is neither independent nor a deterrent, so a pretend debate on a pretend independent deterrent was perfectly appropriate.

Westminster politicians talked a lot about certainty. Well, we can be certain that the second rate politicians who lead the Tory party will happily spend £200 billion as an ego boost so they don’t have to come to terms with the fact that the UK is a second rate power. We can be certain that the Labour party is as effective in protecting the nation as the uselessly expensive Trident missiles that they’re so fond of. And we can be certain that the rest of us are going to get screwed over.

Our caring sharing new Prime Minister, the one who wants to represent the human and humane face of Conservatism, didn’t hesitate to say Yes when asked whether she’d press the nuclear button and condemn millions of civilians to evaporation, and millions more to long painful lingering deaths. No caveats, no nuances, no qualifiers - just "yes". Hooray, Thatcher's spirit arises from the grave to save us.
The impression beloved of Westminster politicians that the UK is a world power is as laughable as the idea that Boris Johnson is a serious Foreign Secretary. Labour MPs took it in turn to stand up and interrupt their own leader’s speech against Trident renewal to side with the Tories. What about the jobs? They cried. As though a ruinously expensive weapon of mass destruction was really a job creation scheme. Because the most effective and useful way of spending over £200 billion of taxpayers’ money on creating employment is to spend it on missiles that can blow up half the planet and render the other half as much of a desolate wasteland as a Michael Gove reinstatement supporters’ rally.  Yes, Trident is a job creation scheme, it’s just that it’s a job creation scheme for former defence secretaries, directors of defence companies and the boards of the banks who loan the money and profit from the weapons’ construction.

Labour’s Vernon Coaker told the House that threats like ISIS are a reason why the UK needs its nuclear deterrent. Because if some madman decides to drive a lorry into a crowd of people the best way to stop him is with a nuclear missile fired from a submarine. Vernon thinks that renewing Trident is so important that it’s worth any cuts to public services it might cause. One after another Labour’s discredited MPs stood up to mouth their nonsense, supporting the Tories instead of supporting their constituents.

The independent nuclear deterrent of the United Kingdom is a ruinous fantasy. The UK keeps paying through the nose for its expensive nuclear medicine to stave off the harsh reality that it is going nowhere and has no future except one of decay and irrelevance. Trident is a 20th century weapons system designed to counter a 20th century threat. The world has moved on, but the British state hasn’t. It’s still desperately clinging on to the glory days of the early and mid 20th century when the UK was still a player on the world stage and not an embarrassing and xenophobic little island perched off the north west coast of Europe: a would-be USA without the weather, the resources or the clout. A country that can’t afford to be in Europe. A country that can’t afford to cooperate with our neighbours. But a country which can afford the weaponry to blow them off the face of the Earth.

If you want to know why so many of us hold Westminster in such utter contempt you don’t need to look further than yesterday's Trident debate. Cobblers substituted for fact. Idiocy took the place of reason. Simple minded platitudes were proffered as profundities. One after another Tories and Labour politicians got up and spoke of the need to spend hundreds of billions on a useless weapons system and whose sole purpose is to make those self-same politicians feel important. As SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie put it "Trident is about status and not about safety. There is no genuine security argument for the UK to spend this vast money on weapons that can never be used." Yet another thing about which I say "not in my name".

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