Trident: It’s ideological Tory cuts that are putting Britain at risk

It isn't Ed Miliband 'fighting his own brother for the leadership' that will put Britain at risk, it's ideological Tory cuts


Whatever you think about the renewal of Trident, Labour are firmly committed to it. As the shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker has unequivocally put it, ” We support renewal of Trident along with a renewed focus on multilateral disarmament”.

This is a long way from the Labour party of the early 1980s which was advocating unilateral disarmament.

And so the Conservative accusations today that Ed Miliband plans to scrap Trident in a deal with the SNP are plainly false. Or more accurately, they are a smear. It’s also a rather crude and personal one, focusing as it does (bizarrely) on Ed’s relationship with his brother David.

Labour should take heart from this. As the late Christopher Hitchens put it, “I always think it’s a sign of victory when they move on to ad hominem”.

Defence is a serious issue, but Tory claims of Labour ‘weakness’ display an astounding level of hypocrisy when the former have cut the military so severely in the past five years. Under current plans, by 2020 the Army will lose 20,000 soldiers, the Navy 6,000 personnel and the RAF 5,000. We are drastically winding down Britain’s defences based on the Tory mania for deficit reduction at any cost.

As the ex-US defence secretary Robert Gates put it last year:

“With the fairly substantial reductions in defence spending in Great Britain, what we’re finding is that it won’t have full spectrum capabilities and the ability to be a full partner as they have been in the past.”

Or closer to home, as the chief of the defence staff general Sir Nicholas Houghton put it in 2013:

“Unattended, our current course leads to a strategically incoherent force structure: exquisite equipment, but insufficient resources to man that equipment or train on it.

“This is what the Americans call the spectre of the hollow-force. We are not there yet; but across defence I would identify the Royal Navy as being perilously close to its critical mass in manpower terms.”

To be clear then: it isn’t Ed Miliband ‘fighting his own brother for the leadership’ that will put Britain at risk; it’s ideological Tory cuts.

James Bloodworth is the editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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