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Thursday, June 22, 2006 

Nuking the "debate".

There's something deeply unpleasant and undemocratic about the way in which Gordon Brown last night more or less said that he supports the replacement of the trident nuclear missile system, or rather in the Newspeak type way in which it is referred to, as "our nuclear deterrent". It says something that rather than expressing his views in an interview, say with a newspaper, or actually in parliament, that he decides that the best place to announce his intentions once he becomes prime minister is in front of a gathering of London businessmen in Mansion House. Not that he actually devoted the speech to his reasons why the British government should write a cheque for up to £25bn for something we'll never use. He starts with a few words about the 7/7 attacks, before reeling off the usual amount of economic guff that his speeches are peppered with. Here's what he said that's relevant:

And I mean not just stability by securing low inflation but stability in our industrial relations, stability through a stable and competitive tax regime, and stability through a predictable and light touch regulatory environment - a stability founded on our strength to make the right long term decisions, the same strength of national purpose we will demonstrate in protecting our security in this Parliament and the long-term - strong in defence in fighting terrorism, upholding NATO, supporting our armed forces at home and abroad, and retaining our independent nuclear deterrent.

In an insecure world we must and will always have the strength to take all necessary long term decisions for stability and security.
6 words then, but six which have predictably caused a storm among the "Labour left", as the Times puts it on its front page. That the Times leads on it itself speaks volumes, as Brown's speech is part of his continuing fawning attempts to woo the Murdoch tiger. You can imagine the outrage of the Sun (Kelvin MacKenzie let the cat out of the bag earlier in the week when he rather absentmindedly said on Newsnight that Rebekah Wade and Brown had recently shared dinner.) if Brown dared even to think that it might be worth waiting a little longer to see if any credible "state" enemy emerges on the scale of the Soviet Union - after all, while the decision supposedly has to be made in this parliament, the submarine system itself isn't scheduled to become the name of this blog until 2024. 18 years is a long time in politics. No, the decision is urgent because it concerns our "stability" and "security".

Like Blair did in front of the CBI just over a month ago, when he said that "nuclear was back with a vengeance", which conjured up visions of Bruce Willis killing terrorists daring to disagree with the concept of nuclear power, what Brown said amounts to pre-emptively dismissing the supposed debate which is meant to occur on the issue. While the Guardian leader talks about being politically naive, it itself is being naive when it states:

This is a big decision. It needs time. It needs debate. And it needs honesty.
All of which are things that those who are in thrall of US power will never allow it to become. While the argument being articulated by those in complete opposition to Trident is that it sends a message to the likes of Iran that while it's perfectly OK for us to upgrade and replace our nukes, the likes of you can't even have them to begin with is reasonably sound and has a point, something few still seem to question is in what situation would we ever use the missiles unless the US ordered us to, or unless we asked the US's permission first. What threat would emerge that threatens us, but not the United States? Aren't we still interdependent, despite the end of the cold war and 20th-century military strategy? In other words, what point do the missiles serve, except looking all shiny and nice and making us look bigger on the world stage than we deserve to? At the amount they cost, they're a hugely expensive way to secure our stability and security.

Not that the government is averse to spending huge amounts of money which will do little to secure our stability and security. In the other Guardian leader of the day, it highlights that ID cards might cost £10bn or even £20bn. That was a decision that was rammed through the House of Commons and House of Lords, which admirably made a stand until it reached a feeble compromise. In the resulting fued triggered by Brown's remarks, Jack Straw has stepped in and pledged that there will be a white paper. Apparently the House of Commons will be shown "proper respect", although what that means is anyone's guess, as Straw stopped short of promising a vote on the matter.

If there's one thing that isn't naive, it's believing that Brown's political ambition knows no limits. The decision has already been made. Thinking anything else is foolish.

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