The Problem with Trident

By March 31, 2016


Photo Credit: Jacqui Burke

Photo Credit: Jacqui Burke

It’s my personal opinion that the possession of nuclear weapons is absolutely abhorrent. At their very core they are weapons of mass destruction, which indiscriminately kill untold numbers of innocent civilians. The UK’s nuclear missile programme Trident is a vanity project, and a desperate attempt to cling on to a colonial era when we could still kid ourselves we were a super power. Current estimates put the cost of renewal at up to 180 billion pounds, and I don’t know about you, but I can think of far better places to put that money.

The main argument you will hear for why we should renew Trident is that it we need an “independent nuclear deterrent”. Firstly, Trident is not independent. These missiles are leased from the USA, and we need American compliance in order to launch, as they control systems such as navigation and weather monitoring. Their effectiveness as a deterrent is also questionable, with senior military figures describing them as “militarily useless.” The possession of nuclear weapons did not stop America going to war with Vietnam, nor has it prevented countless other wars since. Hundreds of conflicts have taken place across the world, including in Europe, over the last seventy years, and we’ve been dangerously close to nuclear war on at least 25 known occasions. Robert McNamara, the United States Secretary of State for Defence during the Cuban Missile Crisis, said “We have been very lucky”. This luck will not last forever.

Another issue is the loss of jobs, something that we should rightly be concerned about. Research suggests approximately 7,000 jobs would be lost, but many of these are military personnel who would be deployed elsewhere, and many others are skilled engineers who could be retrained and relocated in sectors such as green energy, for a fraction of the cost of Trident renewal. If we look at it another way, if the money spent annually on maintaining Trident was spent in the housing sector, that would generate 62,000 jobs.

The UK has signed and ratified the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Isn’t it time we lived up to our responsibilities and strived for nuclear disarmament? As Emily Thornbury, the shadow defence secretary, said on the 14th September 2014, “I don’t think that being against nuclear weapons is that zany… Would we ever want to use them? They are the ultimate weapons of mass destruction and we will be killing women and children if we did. And if we wouldn’t use them, why would we spend £100bn on them?”

If you feel the same, or are just interested in finding out more, there’s a lot going on in Manchester to get involved in. On the 10th and 11th of May there’s a performance in the Contact Theatre by Jenna Watt, who grew up near the Trident base in Faslane. Drawing on interviews conducted with people on both side of the debate, including MOD personnel and anti-nuclear activists, the piece promises to provide a unique and enlightening take on the current nuclear debate.

The Greater Manchester Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) are also doing a lot of work. They’ve held conferences and demonstrations, as well as many fascinating talks on the issue, and are currently mobilising an anti-Trident bloc for the Health, Homes, Jobs and Education march in London as well as working closely with Nuclear Free Local Authorities. For those interested in getting involved, there will be a CND coordinating meeting on 20th April as well as a Labour CND meeting on 12th May. On the student front, the University of Manchester Student Union (alongside other Student Unions) has brought an anti-Trident motion to the NUS, and at some point in the near future Manchester Labour Students will be holding a debate on the issue, so keep your eyes open for that!

Whatever your personal opinion about Trident, this is a conversation that we need to be having. Renewal is coming up for debate in parliament very soon, and the result will affect us for the rest of our lives.