Clegg would not disarm Britain’s nukes….
Bob Ainsworth has this morning given us a masterclass in how not to deal with the Liberal Democrat poll surge. He branded the Liberal Democrat policy not to seek a ‘like for like’ replacement for Trident as ‘ridicolous’. It isn’t; it’s grounded in reasoned, rational arguments. Arguments that Ainsworth can’t seem to deal with without resorting to puerile attacks. Resorting to the politics of fear as both Ainsworth and the Conservatives seem determined to do simply won’t work because there is more to fear from actually keeping the world awash with nuclear weapons.
Ainsworth is however on firmer ground when it comes criticising Clegg on the grounds that his opposition to Trident is purely on the grounds of cost. The Liberal Democrat manifesto vaguely refers to seeking ‘alternatives’ to Trident and then craftily moves on to say they favour multilateral disarmament as if one leads to the other when it doesn’t. Clegg would not unilaterally disarm Britain; that is why he makes cost-based not principled based arguments against Trident.
However, Ainsworth’s critique of Clegg on this issue loses any moral authority it could have because of his first comments which flounder to justify Britain maintaining an independent nuclear deterrent. Were Labour to be committed to unilateral disarmament (as it should be) his words would have alot more purchase. Those who roll their eyes and say ‘remember 1983’ forget that the world has moved on since 1983 by alot. For one thing the prospect of a terrorist ‘dirty bomb’ exercises a much firmer grip on the public imagination than a now non-existant ‘red menace’. Iran is too far away to scare people and frankly, the notion that Iran will nuke Britain is fantastical.
Terrorism and the potential for a nuclear terrorist attack has made people much more aware of the dangers of nuclear weapons and how, crucially, their very possession can be turned against their possessors. If Ainsworth bothered to think these issues through he would realise there is merit in the arguments being put forward but the real problem with the Liberal Democrats is not the fundamental premise in this case but the lack of a clear, principled promise to deliver.