Andrew Marr tried to run rings round Nick Clegg yesterday, on the subject of Trident. Questioning Clegg on his BBC TV show, Marr asked: ‘So if you’re a CND supporter don’t vote LibDem…?’ Nick Clegg answered totally categorically: ‘Do not vote for the Liberal Democrats if you think what we’re advocating is immediate unilateral disarmament. We’re not.’
Let’s be fair to Clegg: he has never claimed otherwise. Some people may have hoped otherwise, and others may have spun it otherwise, but that is not the same thing at all. I will now provide a public service and summarise what the LibDem position actually is, based on a reading of their recent report, authored by Ming Campbell and Nick Harvey, entitled Policy options for the future of the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons.
Firstly, they take the view that Trident must be included in the Strategic Defence Review following the general election. Both Labour and Conservatives rule out discussing Trident. They then go on to outline the options that should be considered by the Defence Review. They are:
- Explore the possibility of extending the life of the existing subs
- Question whether or not to maintain Continuous At-Sea Deterrence patrols
- Consider ‘de-alerting’ the weapons
- That land-based and air-launched missiles appear to be unfeasible due to financial costs and likely opposition from local residents
- Consider modifying Astute submarines and fitting nuclear capable cruise missiles
- Consider a ‘virtual deterrent’ – getting rid of the nukes but keeping the technology so they could be rapidly reintroduced
- Consider eliminating Britain’s nuclear weapons capability altogether
On reading the options one is left with the view that the Astute/cruise option is the most favoured. But as I reported in an earlier blog, that is rendered very difficult and much more expensive by the US retiring its nuclear cruise in its recent US nuclear posture review. As yet I have not heard how Ming plans to deal with that obstacle.