Despite the Conservative electoral slogan being ‘It’s time for a change’, there is no change in their manifesto on Trident. Although it makes much of the changed international security context, shaped in part by climate change and terrorism, there is no reconsideration of the security case for nuclear weapons. This is another manifesto, following Labour’s yesterday, where the nuclear section is well and truly stuck in the Cold War.
To be exact, what they say is ‘We support the decision to renew Britain’s submarine-based nuclear deterrent, based on the Trident missile system.’ And apart from a couple of passing references to the dangers of proliferation, that’s it. Nothing about any of the global intiatives on nuclear disarmament, the new START, or our NPT commitments! In fact, it completely avoids the fact that there are clearly diverse views on nukes within the Conservative Party.
General Dannatt, now a Tory party advisor, recently cast doubt over the future of Trident. William Hague has spoken eloquently on the subject of multilateral disarmament. Michael Ancram and other Tories of similar standing have been leading lights in high level lobbying to that end. But no doubt the nuclear hard-liners will cling on to nuclear policy control to the bitter end.
For good news, though, let’s turn to Plaid Cymru – the Welsh nationalist party. Their manifesto, also launched today, opposes Trident replacement and supports a phased exit strategy from Afghanistan by 2011. This is more like it. It will be interesting to see how their proposed Westminster parliamentary cooperation with the Scottish National Party – equally anti-Trident – pans out after the election.