Corbyn was smeared for rejecting the use of nuclear weapons – but he was right

It's time to smash the narrative that using nuclear weapons is 'patriotic'.

A recurrent trope in the post-election analysis has been Jeremy Corbyn’s supposed lack of patriotism. It’s worth examining.

Rather than arriving at this conclusion by demonstrating that Corbyn doesn’t love his country – for which there is no evidence whatsoever – it seems largely to be based on his unwillingness to commit to killing millions of innocent civilians at the touch of a button.

The media seemed hell-bent on pushing this approach during the election (and it’s resurfacing in the leadership debate). Fortunately others in the public eye, footballer Gary Lineker for one, have more common sense. ‘Nuclear thing is bonkers’ he tweeted, ‘We’re all f**ked if they’re ever used.’

Quite so. And he went on to say – in a twitter debate with TV presenter Piers Morgan – that Trident should be scrapped. Morgan tried to assert the strange logic that because we had them they hadn’t been used. Lineker quite sensibly pointed out that nuclear weapons would not have been used if there were no nuclear weapons.

This is a point we have been making for some time. It reminds me of a debating point made by some pro-nuclear advocates that ‘we have them in order not to use them’. Clearly a silly approach – we could save ourselves £205 billion by not having them in order not to use them!

But having blighted the election with a knee-jerk prime ministerial virility test this is now resurfacing during the Labour leadership contest. Candidates – most notably and recently, Rebecca Long Bailey on Tuesday’s Today programme – are again being asked their position on the use of nukes.  Because willingness to press the button has come to falsely symbolise strong leadership, patriotism and a commitment to Britain’s status in the world, who is going to say no?

Nothing could show more clearly the urgent need to have a genuine debate about nuclear weapons, what they are and what their use would mean. We also need politicians to realise that nuclear weapons are not something to posture wildly about – they are indeed weapons of mass destruction. There will be no life worthy of the name after their use. Survivors will envy the dead.

Most concerning is the fact that unquestioning attachment to a totemic but anachronistic weapons system prevents a real assessment of what is needed to meet our security needs in the 21st century – and what we need to spend our defence budget on.

It is an open secret that the MoD is overcommitted on ‘big ticket’ projects. Yet no one seems to dare to question Trident, presumably on the grounds that they would be immediately characterised as a lily-livered traitor.

National security strategies since 2010 have identified cyber warfare, terrorism, climate change, pandemics and organised crime as some of the key contemporary threats we face. Nuclear threats have actually been downgraded in risk level but nevertheless Trident replacement is proceeding – with significant opportunity cost to other higher level defence priorities.

Even former advocates of nuclear weapons, like Lord Des Browne, are speaking out. He was the Defence Secretary who pushed the decision on Trident replacement through parliament in the Blair years. Now he has raised serious concerns about the impact of new technology on Trident and its replacement.

When Trident was launched in the 1990s it was the gold standard of nuclear weapons, undetectable under the waters, 24/7.  Now, he states, the replacement will be obsolete before it’s launched: the rapid development of underwater drone technology will render subs fully detectable and advanced hacking skills will jeopardise the security of targeting and missile use.

So this is the problem with reducing serious questions about our national security to the level of a ‘will they/won’t they press the button?’ game show, trapping politicians in a ridiculous zero-sum game where actually everyone loses. Our real security needs are ignored and underfunded. It’s time for change – rethinking our security is well overdue.

Kate Hudson is General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

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16 Responses to “Corbyn was smeared for rejecting the use of nuclear weapons – but he was right”

  1. steve

    Disappointing to see RLB confirm her willingness to press the button.

    Weapons corporations and the war machine generally will be feeling very comfortable with our two-parties-both-the-same governance.

  2. Labour's Filthy Hospitals

    Rebecca Long-Bailey for Labour leader and Richard Burgon for her deputy please

  3. Joe

    Corbyn cannot even bring himself to condemn islamofascist terrorists !!!

  4. Tom Sacold

    “Rebecca Long-Bailey for Labour leader and Richard Burgon for her deputy please”

    Yep. That’s who I’ll be voting for.

    Real Labour Party socialists.

  5. Still Flaming

    This is a good article on how nuclear weapons are now obsolete.

    So potential Labour leaders might announce boldly that they would “push the button” as much as they like. In the next five minutes if we like! It wouldn’t make any difference as the submarine will have already been sunk. Or the weapons system destroyed by cyber means. Better to waste money on a system that doesn’t work than spend it on troops and small arms who would be used as mercenaries for Trump’s America. (Sorry. “Mercenaries” is the wrong word. They are called “Defence Contractors ” now.)

  6. Julia Gibb

    The Labour Party STILL supports spending 200 Billion Pounds replacing Trident?

    An obscene weapon and an obscene waste of money when such critical services need funding.
    The support Aircraft carriers and Astute long range nuclear submarines. These are weapons of Force Projection. They are political tools to maintain the illusion of an Empire.

    This is one example of why Scotland rejected Labour. They have been sucked into the myth of maintaining the “Global Power Status”.

    Scotland is “allocated” a cost of 4Billion pounds a year as our “share” of Defence spend. Similar sized nations spend 1.5Billion and they actually have ships in their waters. Scotland has nearly 70percent of the U.K. Waters and not one long range aircraft that can maintain long range recon.

    The leader of Scottish Labour is a long term member of CND but supports the Trident replacement?

    Faslane and Coulport are both in the Central Belt of Scotland. At Rosyth we have the rotting hulks of “decommissioned” nuclear submarines (reactors still in place)

  7. Rene Gimpel

    Limiting myself to the EU as an example, 26 countries don’t have a nuclear weapon and 26 countries do not feel vulnerable. Why are we so anxious about joining them?

  8. Michael Morrison

    An expensive totem to perpetuate the veneer of “World power” status for what is fast becoming a fourth-world nation.
    I was pro-nuclear weapons back in the Strangelove balance of terror days of the Eighties, but so much has changed since then, and rather than weapons to deter our enemies, shouldn’t we be asking, “Just who are our enemies now, and is global destruct mechanism still the appropriate response?”
    Goodbye Doctor Strangelove!

  9. Dave Roberts

    All her life Kate Hudson was a member of the CPGB and supported Soviet repression of Russia and Eastern Europe. She was in CND and Respect and has never done a real day’s work in her life. A typical left wing parasite and ponce.

  10. Mike

    Trident was de-targeted in 1994 (Major-Yelstin) and ‘several days to launch’ means the hair-trigger has not been operational available for a very long time. At least half the MOD have gone further than CND and Labour on this matter. CND have won a bigger battle than they think but need to focus on closing the war. The ‘D’ in CASD should be at least downgraded to lower case if not removed all together.
    While the ‘Moscow criterion’ might be lurking in some safe, the selection of Dreadnought next target if subject to some civilian control would never happen.
    2016 Trident debate was deeply ill informed – all 8 arguments are fundamentally out of date (Britain place in the world, lesser of two evils, last line of defence, bla…dated by time technology and law. Labour was divided which was the only thing the Conservatives could re-unite around. Being right is one thing, but moving from a minimum deterrent to a minimal deterrent and onward to zero demands more than 1960’s campaign slogans. Labour should if they can agree, be calling for a military and legal review of a Doomsday machine which post Chilcott will be impossible to find a partner to partake in a ‘trusted’ relationship of mutual genocidal suicide.
    The penny might have dropped for Lord Des Browne but he is a signature to the Trident Commission report which ignored the findings in the body of the report.
    This is a good test for a future Labour leader, can they unite their party around a factual review of a system 30 years after the cold war ended.

  11. Ronald Olden

    Corbyn did NOT promise to ‘save’ the £205 Billion. He said he would spend it maintaining and the Nuclear deterrent and upgrading the Trident system. But went on to say he would never use it!!

    That’s about the most stupidest waste of money and most suicidal policy ANYONE can adopt.

    Possession of Nuclear weapons makes you a Nuclear target in the event of War, and saying you won’t retaliate makes you and even bigger one.

  12. Labour's Filthy Hospitals

    “He said he would spend it maintaining and the Nuclear deterrent and upgrading the Trident system. But went on to say he would never use it!!”

    Corbyn has always been about making the world safer for Britain’s enemies.

  13. Doug

    Trident is neither a deterrent nor independent Michael Portillo Tory Defence Minister
    As a NATO member we cannot act independently
    If one is attacked all are attacked and any nuclear response would come from USA
    Trident is surplus to requirements and in the event of armageddon would serve no purpose whatsoever
    £200 billion penis extension
    It is not the sign of a patriot it is the sign of a complete Cockwomble

  14. Charlie Browne

    If two nuclear-armed countries attack each other, then both populations die
    If a nuclear-armed country attacks a country which has no nuclear weapons then at least one population survives

    How many nations have NO nuclear weapons, and do not rely on the nuclear umbrella provided by a super-power?


  15. Robert

    Much is made of the ‘will they/won’t they push the button’ question but little or no attention is given as to what pressing the button actually means in terms of HMG policy for use of Trident. The phrase ‘Last resort’ has a re-assuring ring about it of it only being used in response to a nuclear attack on the UK. In truth the HMG policy of ‘deliberate ambiguity’ has embraced the possibility of first use with a single warhead in support of troops deployed abroad – as a sort of ‘shot across the bows’ – since pre the 2003 Iraq war when Sec of State Geoff Hoon first said this. HMG has resolutely refused to refute or retract this policy. Another truth is that it is the submarine captain who has to make a final and personal decision to fire – not the PM. And why are the submarines continuously on patrol to protect against a ‘bolt from the blue’ attack if no such threat exists – as evidenced by the fact that missiles have been at several days notice to fire (HMG website) since the mid 1990s? I wonder if RBL and other leadership candidates know all these facts?

  16. Michaela

    The assumption under this debate is that nukes in use are the worst fate, but are they?
    Imagine a devastating surprise nuke attack by the sort of people who rule Islamic State and their brothers in Iran/Pakistan/Saud and do on.
    If the choice were living under such bestial perverts and ordering our subs to pay them out in full, what would we choose.
    Personally, I’d go for ubiquitous annihilation and give whatever bacteria remain a chance to see if they can make a better job than we have. Maybe humans are not evolution’s last word.

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