We have a situation where public opinion against Trident is the strongest it has ever been, at the moment when the final decision on replacement is coming up fast. March 2016 is the date that is being trailed, so the MPs that are elected this May will comprise the parliament that decides on the future of Britain’s nuclear weapons system. Many of us are pulling out the stops to lobby our candidates in advance of the election so they know that Trident is an issue in our voting choices. But what about the political parties and their actual policies? It’s all very well individual MPs being against Trident, but it’s the party leaderships that will form the government.
Currently, the Conservative Party supports a full ‘like-for-like’ replacement of the Trident system but it’s worth noting that some dissenting voices are appearing – notably Crispin Blunt, MP for Reigate. He opposes Trident on the basis that it damages conventional military spending and no doubt that is a view that will be supported elsewhere too.
The Labour Party wants to retain an ‘independent nuclear deterrent’ but is also committed to including Trident in a Strategic Defence Review after the election. In the last few days, Ed Balls has said that Labour might reduce the number of subs from 4 to 3. So Labour is beginning to move at the leadership level.
The Lib Dems are well-known for wanting an end to the current system but are looking for something cheaper – maybe fewer subs and an end to continuous at-sea patrol.
The Green Party, Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party are all opposed to Trident and its replacement. In the past this might have been dismissed as what you might expect from fringe parties, but as they have received a surge in support in recent months, it’s possible that these parties might hold the balance of power in a hung parliament. So their policies are actually very significant.
So in terms of post-election outcomes, there are some combinations which could spell a change on nuclear weapons. As it stands currently, only the Conservative Party stands definitively for ‘like-for-like’ replacement. With Labour and Lib Dems looking at fewer subs that could mean a further delay to starting to build any more – and a further opportunity for us to ensure that the building never starts. With three parliamentary parties outright opposed, it is profoundly to be hoped that if they find themselves supporting a minority government they will never pass a budget which includes any Trident spending. That is the very minimum we should expect from them.