We all know that the true social democratic heirs of Hugh Gaitstkell would be, and are, opposed to the EU. Less well-known, but no less important, is that they ought to be opposed to nuclear weapons.
Gaitskell’s Campaign for Democratic Socialism explicitly supported the unilateral renunciation of Britain’s nuclear weapons, and the document Policy for Peace, on which Gaitskell eventually won his battle at the 1961 Labour Conference, stated: “Britain should cease the attempt to remain an independent nuclear power, since that neither strengthens the alliance, nor is it now a sensible use of our limited resources.”
Numerous Tories with relevant experience – Anthony Head, Peter Thorneycroft, Nigel Birch, Aubrey Jones – were sceptical about, or downright hostile towards, British nuclear weapons in the 1950s and 1960s. In March 1964, while responsible for Polaris as First Lord of the Admiralty, George Jellicoe suggested that Britain’s nuclear deterrent be pooled with the rest of NATO.
Far from representing national pride or independence, our nuclear weapons programme has only ever represented the wholesale subjugation of Britain’s defence capability to a foreign power. That power maintains no less friendly relations with numerous other countries, almost none of which have nuclear weapons.
Nuclear weapons are morally repugnant simply in themselves. They offer not the slightest defence against a range of loosely knit, if at all connected, terrorist organisations pursuing a range of loosely knit, if at all connected, aims. Where would any other such organisation keep nuclear weapons?
Furthermore, the possession of nuclear weapons serves to convey to terrorists and their supporters that Britain wishes to “play with the big boys”, thereby contributing to making Britain a target for the terrorist activity against which such weapons are defensively useless. We need to grow up. Our permanent seat on the UN Security Council could not be taken away without our consent, and therefore does not depend in any way on our possession of nuclear weapons; on the contrary, the world needs and deserves a non-nuclear permanent member of that Council.
Most European countries do not have nuclear weapons, and nor does Canada, Australia or New Zealand. The London bombings of 7thJuly 2005 were attacks on a country with nuclear weapons, while the attacks of 11thSeptember 2001 were against the country with by far the largest nuclear arsenal in the world. The only nuclear power in the Middle East is Israel. Is Israel the most secure state in the Middle East? What does Iran, which in any case does not have nuclear weapons, have to do with us? How could a missile launched from North Korea possibly reach the United Kingdom?
Diverting enormous sums of money towards the civil nuclear power that is the real nuclear deterrent, towards public services, towards the relief of poverty at home and abroad, and towards paying off our national debt, precisely by reasserting control over our own defence capability, would represent a most significant step towards One Nation politics, with an equal emphasis on the One and on the Nation.
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This post was written by David Lindsay