THERE remains an air of abstraction around talk of Britain's “independent” nuclear deterrent.
This consists of four ageing submarines due to be replaced at a staggering cost of £40 billion while upgrading the missile system will push the total cost to £250bn.
No-one is exactly sure who it is to defend us against. The government identifies the main threats to Britain as variously climate change, terrorism and cyber-attacks – but even faced with these dangers a willingness to press the button and ensure any adversary joins us in a nuclear graveyard is seen as a test of suitability for high office.
Jeremy Corbyn thought the question daft and declined to give an answer which satisfied the testosterone tendency. Rebecca Long Bailey’s recent response highlighted the idiocy of the whole issue. Anyone facing a decision to press the button has to take into account that we would be “facing nuclear annihilation right across the whole world” she said.
The whole utility of a deterrent is that it deters. If our so far unidentified nuclear adversary decides to launch a nuclear strike against Britain this very expensive deterrent will at that point be redundant.
The provision, supply, maintenance and command and control of these ridiculous Trident missiles lies with the United States so the very notion of of our “independent” nuclear deterrent is itself compromised.
Legend has it that our four heroic submarine commanders would need to surface to see if BBC Radio Four’s early morning programme is still on air before deciding to fire off their Tridents and thus invite our mysterious enemy to rain a further shower of missiles on their submersible tombs.
Perhaps our nuclear adversary’s most effective counter strike tactic might be to lay in a stock of John Humphrys rants and broadcast them round the clock.
The Labour leadership contest is shaping up as careful war of position around the Corbyn heritage. Jeremy Corbyn still walks among us and remains a rallying point for his personal brand of political principle and socialist politics. This holds enormous attractive power to the hosts of Labour returners and new members who make up the electorate. All the runners and riders in this race – irrespective of their actual politics – calibrate their appeal and fine tune their language to take this reality into consideration.
In making our decisions there are some obvious lessons to absorb. The ambitious sweep of Labour’s manifesto – taken with the crippling ambiguity of its Brexit positioning – became a credibility issue during the election campaign and this was relayed back by voters, and amplified by the media, as a problem of leadership.
This rather demonstrated that despite the effective mobilisation of activists to key locations during the election that Labour’s year all-round campaigning and mobilising presence in working-class communities is still very weak.
One test of the candidates for both leader and deputy leader is whether they play these factors as reasons to weaken Labour’s radicalism and dilute its collectivist policies or whether they seek to renew the challenge to austerity and neoliberal economics and rearm Labour’s local representatives as tribunes of the people.
The Tory tactic to steal some of Labour’s clothes, pretend an end to austerity and attend to the Britain’s lop-sided economy can be read as a concession on domestic policies.
That this is for cynical electoral reasons rather than political principle is no secret. But Dominic Raab’s clear signal that Tory Britain is “on the same page” as Donald Trump means foreign and defence policy is an arena where compromise is impossible and where Labour’s leadership hopefuls need clear principles.
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