Skip to main content

The new ban-the-bombists

Credit: Tony French
I am old enough to remember CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) marches, and generally speaking was always a bit wary of ban-the-bombists, particularly because there was a tendency to lump nuclear weapons in with nuclear power - I'm all in favour of a power source with very little impact on climate change - but the thought of nuclear weapons terrified my when I was younger and the threat seemed greater, and they still fill me with horror.

After watching the leaders' debate on Thursday with interest, it struck me that the Labour party was missing out on a serious trick - something emphasised in today's quick defence of the nuclear deterrent after the Conservative attacks on the subject. After all, senior Labour figures have been ban-the-bombists in the past, and I think Labour should seriously consider adding not renewing Trident and scrapping the current 'nuclear deterrent' ASAP. There are several potential benefits:
  • Huge savings - while I'm suspicious of the £100 billion figure, it's certainly a hell of a lot
  • Win over lots of young undecided voters - young people, generally speaking, I suspect would support this move
  • Clearly distinguish Labour in a way that didn’t happen in the debate - it was very much the big three versus the littlies in the debate. A 'get rid of Trident' Labour position would really differentiate them
  • Reduce SNP’s leverage - without the nuclear submarines on the Clyde, the SNP would have less of a stick to wave at Westminster
Of course you might argue that there's a cost to put against my benefits: reducing our security. This morning on the radio, the defence secretary called Trident our most important expenditure, more important it seems than the NHS or the conventional army. But is it really true that losing Trident would put a terrible dent in our security?

The whole concept of deterrence is questionable, but it is only of any value against a rational superpower opposition. If, for instance, ISIS got a nuclear weapon, our weapons have no deterrent effect, as the unhinged are quite happy to sacrifice everything to wipe out those that they believe their religion opposes. The fact is, the threats we face are not the kind where nuclear weapons are any use, and even if Putin started to rampage across Europe, there are others with nuclear triggers to hand. Let's be realists. Germany, the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries, etc. etc. all get along fine without a nuclear weapon capability. It is perfectly possible to argue that we are clinging onto a past glory that we can no longer afford nor justify.

I sent this suggestion with my bullet points above on Saturday to both Ed Miliband (in the cringe-making 'Ask Ed' feature on the Labour website) and the Labour candidate for my ward, Mark Dempsey. (There didn't seem a lot of point sending them to the Conservatives, who seem more ideologically dependent on nuclear weapons.)  Dempsey's campaign has been largely on local issues, so I thought it would be interesting to see how he responded to a big picture question.

As yet neither has responded, but if they did, I suspect it wouldn't be an enthusiastic one. Apart from anything else, the Conservative intervention today pretty well ensures Labour can't back down. But for the future, maybe this is something they should consider.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Which idiot came up with percentage-based gradient signs

Rant warning: the contents of this post could sound like something produced by UKIP. I wish to make it clear that I do not in any way support or endorse that political party. In fact it gives me the creeps. Once upon a time, the signs for a steep hill on British roads displayed the gradient in a simple, easy-to-understand form. If the hill went up, say, one yard for every three yards forward it said '1 in 3'. Then some bureaucrat came along and decided that it would be a good idea to state the slope as a percentage. So now the sign for (say) a 1 in 10 slope says 10% (I think). That 'I think' is because the percentage-based slope is so unnatural. There are two ways we conventionally measure slopes. Either on X/Y coordiates (as in 1 in 4) or using degrees - say at a 15° angle. We don't measure them in percentages. It's easy to visualize a 1 in 3 slope, or a 30 degree angle. Much less obvious what a 33.333 recurring percent slope is. And what's a 100% slope