David Cameron sees reds under the bed

David Cameron entered a diplomatic row last night as he equated the future threat from China with that from Iran. David Miliband was quick to condemn the remarks.

David Cameron entered a diplomatic row during the leaders’ debate last night as he equated the future threat from China with that from Iran. Foreign Secretary David Miliband was quick to condemn the move.

During the debate, speaking in defence of the Conservative party policy to “renew britain’s submarine-based nuclear deterrent, based on the Trident missile system”, David Cameron said:

“Are we really happy to say that we’d give up our independent nuclear deterrent when we don’t know what is going to happen with Iran, we can’t be certain of the future in China?”

Watch it:

Foreign Secretary David Miliband was quick to condemn Cameron’s words:

“To put China and Iran in the same bracket is an insult to a follow permanent member of the UN security council and to a country with whom we have just announced a close strategic relationship. David Cameron should withdraw this slur now.”

The Conservatives issued a statement: “David Cameron was demonstrating the extent of uncertainties in the world, not saying China is a threat to the U.K.”

Scrapping Trident would not mean losing an independent nuclear deterrent. As Nick Clegg made clear on the Today programme last week, “you could equip the Astute submarine”. Left Foot Forward has estimated that £45 billion could be saved through this approach.

UPDATE 12.55:

Anna Chen writes for Labour List:

“Is Cameron seriously equating China with “rogue state” Iran? May I ask you in your saner moments, David (assuming you have any): with all the money they’re pouring into saving our sorry skint skins, why would China want to nuke its own investment?”

UPDATE 19.04:

Mike Ion has an interesting take on why “the scrapping of Trident could end up being a vote winner and not a vote loser.”

33 Responses to “David Cameron sees reds under the bed”

  1. AnyoneButCameron

    RT @leftfootfwd: David Cameron sees reds under the bed http://bit.ly/buX92X

  2. Political Animal

    RT @wdjstraw: VIDEO >> RT @leftfootfwd: David Cameron sees reds under the bed equating risk from China & Iran http://bit.ly/bZrtZB

  3. Will Straw

    VIDEO >> RT @leftfootfwd: David Cameron sees reds under the bed equating risk from China & Iran http://bit.ly/bZrtZB

  4. Matthew Rhodes

    RT @leftfootfwd David Cameron sees reds under the bed equating risk from China & Iran http://bit.ly/bZrtZB > a Palinesque gaffe from DC?

  5. JamesLyons

    RT @leftfootfwd: David Cameron sees reds under the bed equating risk from China & Iran http://bit.ly/bZrtZB

  6. NewLeftProject

    RT @leftfootfwd: David Cameron sees reds under the bed equating risk from China & Iran http://bit.ly/bZrtZB

  7. Cameron's fear of Beijing wide of the mark | Left Foot Forward

    […] “of the future in China” as a reason for maintain Trident and comparing China to Iran; see this post on Left Foot Forward for a video of Cameron’s […]

  8. John Banks

    David Cameron must be the flimsiest Opposition Leader ever!

  9. DevonChap

    Oh dear. Do you really think China will take offence? Is it offensive to Russia, America and India that China has a nuclear deterrent? No, though that is who it is aimed at. They understand then long lead times in nuclear weapons; we are making decisions for the next 50 years. China is clearly a growing power, we hope they will develop peacefully but history shows that it is rare for the rise of a great power to be totally peaceful (just look at Germany and Japan in the 19th and 20th centuries). The Chinese are great historians; they understand we need insurance for national self determination. It is hardly a slur to say we don’t know how China and the UK will be politically in 50 years.

    Trident renewal is aimed at Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, India, Russia and China. All are nuclear states, or attempting to become such, whose history with the UK hasn’t always been peaceful and whose political direction over the next 50 years is unclear. You could say replacing Trident is a slur against them and we should accept assurances none will threaten our interests in the next half century. But then you would sound naive.

  10. Anon E Mouse

    Will – Divide the cost of Trident by the length of time it lasts and the yearly interest alone on Gordon Browns reckless spending would buy Trident four times over.

    Furthermore after serving seven years on it’s forerunner Polaris I can tell you we really need a nuclear deterrent.

    This is old Labour CND type political suggestion and Nick Clegg needs to grow up – he may hold the balance of power in three weeks.

  11. Alan W

    DevonChap – You’re missing the point. Whether or not China could conceivably become a hostile power at some point in the future is irrelevant.

    It’s all very well for think-tanks and MoD analysts to quietly speculate along those lines, but Cameron could be PM in less than a month’s time. As such he should not be making statements that risk pointlessly antagonising a country as politically and economically important as China. As a statesman it’s usually a bad idea to blurt out what you think.

    In any case I have a suspiscion he probably intended to say North Korea rather than China, and just slipped up. Presumably his campaign advisers reckon it would be more embarrassing to admit their man got his countries mixed up, than to issue a backtracking clarification.

  12. Jonathan Taylor

    Cameron's scaremongering about the threat posed by China shows he'd be a liability on the world stage.. #SameOldTories http://bit.ly/br2viW

  13. Political Scrapbook

    The two big gaffes from Dave last night –> Reds under the bed http://is.gd/bvrRj & Dodgy cancer stats http://is.gd/bvrUl (via @leftfootfwd)

  14. David Feller

    RT @Jon2aylor: Cameron's scaremongering about the threat posed by China shows he'd be a liability on the world stage http://bit.ly/br2viW

  15. Jonathan Taylor

    Cameron's scaremongering about the threat posed by China shows he'd be a liability on the world stage. http://bit.ly/br2viW @DMiliband

  16. Chris Paul

    RT @psbook: The two big gaffes from Dave last night –> Reds under the bed http://is.gd/bvrRj & Dodgy cancer stats http://is.gd/bvrUl

  17. Will Straw

    Anon – I disagree with you here, mate. This is not CND redux, it’s about keeping Britain safe and getting value for money in the 21st century.

    Two points which I think Clegg has spot on: (i) you cant have a strategic defence review (SDR) and then not include one of our main procurement items (eg Trident); and (ii) Trident does not equate to an independent nuclear capability. If for political reasons you need to outline that you’re not a unilateralist then say you’ll include Trident in the SDR but under the proviso that Britain retains a nuclear deterrent. There are options like Astute which have not been properly examined and which we think could save money.

  18. Rebecca Brown

    RT @psbook: The two big gaffes from Dave last night –> Reds under the bed http://is.gd/bvrRj & Dodgy cancer stats http://is.gd/bvrUl

  19. Helen

    RT @psbook: The two big gaffes from Dave last night –> Reds under the bed http://is.gd/bvrRj & Dodgy cancer stats http://is.gd/bvrUl

  20. Can we trust the Tories on immigration? | Left Foot Forward

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  21. Mr. Sensible

    Will, I am not a defense expert, so cannot comment on which kind of system would be best, but we do need a Nuclear Deterrent.

    And Devon Chap, I might venture to suggest that if Cameron wins that gaff won’t exactly improve relations with China..

  22. S Leong

    China and the UK have a strong relationship that is important to both countries’ economies and cultures. To talk about China – a permanent member of the Security council – in the same breath as a rogue state like Iran is an insult that will not go unnoticed in Beijing. It is offensive and downright insulting.

    To use China as a justification for keeping nuclear weapons sounds like a return to outdated cold war rhetoric. It brings back memories of ‘Cheney’ politics.

    This is the not the sort of language we would expect from a potential Prime Minister. It is offensive to both China and the Chinese community in the UK.

    As Chair of Chinese for Labour, representing the views of the community in th UK, David Cameron should apologise formally for the offence he has caused with his remarks.

  23. El Sid

    Alan W/Mr Sensible – it was no gaffe. Cameron’s comment about Chinese nukes merely shows that he’s in the mainstream of Western military thought. If you Google suitable search terms on site:.mil and/or site:.gov you’ll see that Chinese ICBM capability has been exercising US military planners for over a decade, they’re the only NPT country that are increasing their warhead numbers. To get an overview see this assessment from the USAF :

    http://www.fas.org/irp/threat/missile/naic/NASIC2009.pdf

    Concerns about Chinese nuclear capability have even reached Congress, see this recent resolution calling on Obama not to go overboard on reducing US nuclear forces :

    http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.+Con.+Res.+217:

    I think China can probably Google, and they can certainly take notice of proceedings in Congress!

    Personally I quite like the idea of fitting Astute Block IV (or whatever it will be, technically it’s MUFC) with a couple of SLBMs, it will retain our deterrent whilst using our hard-won design experience of Astute and maximising the number of subs we have on patrol at hopefully a reasonable cost. But I’m not dogmatic on that, I’d want to see what the numbers said.

    However Will I’d be sceptical of a cruise-missile based system because they’re much easier to shoot down. OK, the likes of China are supposedly gaining limited ABM capability with the HQ-9, but I’d still rather send 4 ballistic missiles (even without multiple warheads on each) than 16 cruise missiles against most of the targets we’re likely to want to nuke.

  24. Radical Muslim :: The Political Debate :: April :: 2010

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  26. Anon E Mouse

    Will – I agree that to have a SDR and not include Trident would be madness but to even suggest that we may relinquish our independent deterrent would be even worse.

    On another thread here someone comments that we couldn’t launch without the US involved. Whilst I agree that Polaris required regular testing in the States and I’m sure that Trident (D3 version) has been tested in the same way we certainly had total control over the launches.

    The importance of MAD is just as valid today although with nukes in the hands of radical muslim governments it certainly changes the game.

    (What’s happened here is that Clegg has not made it clear in the debates exactly what his policies are and if Cameron or Brown don’t expose them this week then neither deserve to be PM imo. To just say “They are the old politics” when he is clearly the same is a contradiction and why Cameron didn’t go for him I do not know.)

    Finally current military thinking is that China will pose the greatest threat in the future – Cameron is absolutely right – it’s just that you guys don’t have contacts within the military or if you do they’re not the right ones or if they are then they are not telling. It would take China decades to catch up with the US so no need to worry but in terms to military thinking to suggest that China is not considered the major future threat is simply naive and wrong.

  27. Foetus Cameron

    RT @Jon2aylor: Cameron's scaremongering about the threat posed by China shows he'd be a liability on the world stage. #SameOldTories http://bit.ly/br2viW

  28. Jonathan Taylor

    Cameron's scaremongering about the threat posed by China shows he'd be a liability on the world stage. #SameOldTories http://bit.ly/br2viW

  29. Lisa

    RT @Jon2aylor: Cameron's scaremongering about the threat posed by China shows he'd be a liability on the world stage. #SameOldTories http://bit.ly/br2viW

  30. Vote 2010: An election reflection | Left Foot Forward

    […] voting. The three TV debates have encouraged endless slow motion replays of hand gestures and gaffes. But both main parties have been guilty for running negative […]

  31. Rasputin

    So China is a threat with only 20 icbm . The US has 20000nw on 15 min alert ready to attack. The problem is if the US were to try to totally destroy China’s nw they could be in for a surprise.First the PLA can retaliate and secondly the Chinese may have more than the stated number. Finally the PLA retaliation can consist of more than thirty nm to attack the US.
    Please do not demonize the PLA. They will become a threat if under attack so please don’t tell lies.The US can easily destroy China but will suffer intloreable damage. I am afraid the PLA is more than capable of dishing out more damage if under attack. This is not the opium war era.

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