Disarmament: A Policy Whose Time Has (Finally) Come?

I recently watched a documentary about the 1983 general election. One of the Labour party’s main policies was unilateral nuclear disarmament. With the Cold War long over, it’s perhaps hard to understand the passions of that debate. This was a time of American nuclear missiles being deployed in Britain (how prophetic, then for George Orwell to call Britain “Airstrip One” in his novel Nineteen Eighty Four), of the womens’ protest camp outside the Greenham Common airbase, of CND marches and rampant Thatcherism. You want to use a UK base to launch an attack on Libya Mr President? Feel free. The polarised world, with a fear of nuclear war lurking in the background, fuelled by such TV dramas as Threads. It all seems such a long time ago.

Yet I can’t help but wonder if Unilateral Nuclear Disarmament should be re-visited. The Trident system, bought by Thatcher so controversially in the 1980s, will shortly be due for renewal. The cost for its replacement will number in the tens, maybe hundreds, of billions. In a time of austerity and savage cuts to public services, the fact that the government is even considering this is obscene. We don’t need it, it’s a weapon from a different era. If the Russians really wanted to bring this country to a halt, all they need to do is turn off the gas. Their presence here hasn’t stopped rogue states like North Korea developing their own Bomb, so exactly who or what is it supposed to defend us against?

The fact that we have it is a sad reflection on the mentality of successive British governments since 1945. They seem unable to accept that we are no longer one of the great powers, and having our own Bomb gives us the illusion that we are. The world has moved on, and we need to accept that. Trident should be phased out when it becomes life-expired, and not replaced. We cannot afford it, nor do we need it, if we ever did. Sadly, I can’t see this government or the so-called Labour Party ever doing so.

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