Once again, the media seem hell-bent on reducing our national security to a ‘will they/won’t they press the button?’ game of bluff.
And once again it’s being used during a general election campaign as a way to attack Jeremy Corbyn, well-known as a lifelong supporter of CND. The idea seems to be that you have to be willing to kill millions of innocent people to be fit to be prime minister of this country!
Bizarre I know, but that’s the level at which some media and politicians operate. Fortunately others in the public eye, footballer Gary Lineker for one, have more common sense. ‘Nuclear thing is bonkers’ he tweeted, ‘We’re all f**ked if they’re ever used.’
Quite so. And he went on to say – in a twitter debate with TV presenter Piers Morgan – that Trident should be scrapped. Morgan tried to assert the strange logic that because we had them they hadn’t been used. Lineker quite sensibly pointed out that nuclear weapons would not have been used if there were no nuclear weapons.
This is a point we have been making for some time. It reminds me of a debating point made by some pro-nuclear advocates that ‘we have them in order not to use them’. Clearly a silly approach – we could save ourselves £205 billion by not having them in order not to use them!
We have also been treated to a view from the military top brass. On Remembrance Sunday, Chief of the Defence Staff, Sir Nicholas Carter appeared on the Andrew Marr show. Rather than discussing the real security threats we face, he trotted out that tired old chestnut: nuclear weapons are ‘an insurance policy’. Maybe he hasn’t realised that insurance policies don’t prevent the worst happening, they pay out after the worst has happened. The problem is that after a nuclear war, no one will be around to cash in.
These debates show the urgent need to have a genuine debate about nuclear weapons, what they are and what their use would mean. We also need politicians to realise that nuclear weapons are not something to posture wildly about – they are indeed weapons of mass destruction. There will be no life worthy of the name after their use. Survivors will envy the dead.
Politicians also need to realise that nuclear weapons are not popular with the general public. Presumably when they make rash claims about pressing nuclear buttons they think this is what people want to hear – that it will mean votes. But polls have shown over many years that the majority favours the abolition of nuclear weapons.
The Labour Party would do well to grasp this fact. Because in spite of their leader’s personal views, the party still backs Trident replacement. Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry was eager to claim that pressing the button would not be down to Corbyn but would be a collective decision – presumably suggesting that more hawkish people like her would rush to do the deed.
May I politely suggest to Ms Thornberry that the way forward is to listen to Labour Party members, 70% of which wish Trident to be scrapped. There are many ways to make Britain safe, to fit our security for the 21st century. None of them involve being willing to annihilate millions of people.
It strikes me that there is much ignorance out there about nuclear weapons, as well as wilful posturing and rhetoric for effect. So let’s take the opportunity of the general election to engage with our candidates and let them know that what they think about nuclear weapons matters to us. Why not use our online lobbying tool here?
We may even change a few minds.