Document:A Conundrum for Corbyn
A Conundrum for Corbyn
"The optimist thinks this is the best of all possible worlds. The pessimist fears it is true."
Assuming he gets on the ballot (he will), Jeremy Corbyn will almost immediately face arguably his trickiest political challenge as Leader of the Labour Party - Trident. The U.K.’s (not so) independent nuclear ‘deterrent’ is the wedge the Blairites hope to gleefully use to separate Corbyn and his supporters - and it is entirely up to those supporters if they let the Blairites succeed.
The shameless Blairites won’t give a thought to the twisted irony that is their ilk attacking a leader over his policy on WMD. Whichever way he goes on the issue, by their Mandelsonian estimation, it will lose Corbyn a substantial chunk of his base.
Get rid of the UK's nuclear deterrent, and he risks losing the Unions. Renew Trident, and he will lose his following in the CND-inspired elements of the left who oppose nuclear weapons. After this debate the Blairites hope Corbyn will have alienated one or both of these groups, and it is then that we will see the true Blairite leadership contender rise. Angela Eagle is just a stalking horse (our money is on Dan Jarvis).
All of the Blairite scheming from the time Corbyn was elected until the build up to the May 5th elections was skirmishing - pre war scouting. They upped their game hoping to force him to go after May 5th, and have been increasing the pitch of their pressure since then, hoping, expecting, to topple Corbyn at every turn - and growing increasingly frustrated that they keep failing.
The peak of their efforts will come when the Blairites hope to demonstrate that, unlike Clement Attlee, Corbyn can’t do defence policy (hence their choice of Jarvis). Those who supposedly “can do” defence policy say we need nukes - but even accepting that logic - it does not follow that we necessarily need Trident, just as the fact we need more train lines doesn’t mean we necessarily need HS2.
The reason we don’t need Trident, even if we do need nukes, is that Trident was designed during the Cold War to, if need be, destroy Russia & half of Europe before or after they destroyed us. It sounds crazy, but it was just good ol’ M.A.D. however the days of Mutually Assured Destruction are over. All of the Assurances have disappeared, and we are left only with the potential Mutual Destruction.
A nuclear device big enough to wipe out a munitions producing site spreading a square mile is the top end of what could conceivably be needed or used in 21st century warfare, with the constraints placed on it by international law, the media and the fact that there is now a ‘global community’ - a global community that began the moment we were all united in horror in the aftermath of the Hiroshima & Nagasaki bombings that ended World War II, and that no one ever dwells on much.
The U.S.A. shall carry the stain of Hiroshima & Nagasaki for as long as there is a country known as the U.S.A. - this very fact points to the simple truth : the idea of Trident being used in any war is a nonsense, as the moment we did so we would become a pariah state, because the dropping of such a device would be seen as a war crime. With Trident we're talking about renewing a world ruining arsenal from the Cold War which we do not need - not in any hypothetical situation, at all. The only remotely sensible need for one of these demonic nuclear devices is the much vaunted logic of the ‘Nuclear Deterrent’.
Next Prime Minister
Had we stayed in the European Union and pooled our nuclear capabilities with France as some sort of a unified E.U. Nuke the British public might, just might, have accepted not having their own bomb. Post Brexit, it is obvious that a scrapping of the independent nuclear capabilities of the independent UK would be flatly rejected by a majority of the British people - in times of uncertainty, defence becomes important in the minds of the electorate - but even pro-nuke advocates accept Trident just wouldn’t be useful in the 21st century, even as a deterrent.
Where most see only a disastrous choice between the unions and the grassroots for Jeremy Corbyn, there is in fact a chance to steal a tactic of Tony Blair and forge a ‘third way’ - in real terms, a fudge. Jeremy Corbyn wants to get rid of nuclear weapons, and personally, this writer is with him - but if we want to get pro-nuke campaigners and voters to accept reduction, we must remember that Politics is the Art of the Possible.
This could be Corbyn's much more collegiate equivalent of Blair’s “Clause 4” moment, instead of facing off and bullying his party, he could bring them all together under the banner of nuclear reduction - and if he gets it right, he will almost certainly be the next Prime Minister.
If he gets it right it will show the unions and the hawks of the British political spectrum that he will take on board their concerns on defence and facilitate a compromise option that answers those concerns. It will show that a left wing leader can be effective: the world will see the U.K. leading on getting rid of the ultra destructive nuclear weapons systems left over from the cold war, whilst retaining the idea of the so called ‘big stick’ that the hawks say a nuclear weapon represents in the diplomatic sphere of international politics. If he gets it right he will also show his base, the CND and those others who have been right in their quest to rid our precious planet of these world ruining devices, that he will make strides to further their goals - once weapons capacity is reduced it cannot be increased under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Much less expensive
The magic solution? In short, if, as Clement Atlee’s Foreign Secretary Ernie Bevin said:
“We've got to have this thing over here....and We've got to have the bloody Union Jack on top of it”
then for heavens sake lets make it a cheap, small one - and not of the world destroying capacity that is Trident.
Corbyn should declare that he is going to ‘let Trident run its course’ and then not renew Trident. He should then announce the start of a policy tendering process that maps out a much-reduced nuclear device, retaining the UK's ‘deterrent’ whilst getting rid of the horrendously expensive and dangerous Trident system. Hundreds of unnecessary, expensive, immorally retained nuclear devices will be scrapped as a result.
Any talk from our side of the debate about the non-renewal of the gargantuan nuclear arsenal that is Trident - to keep the majority of the country and the unions on side - should come with the discussion of the option of retaining our so called 'deterrent' in the form of something much less expensive, large and potentially apocalyptic as the almost unimaginably expensive and destructive Trident.
He should then announce a plan to funnel the billions in saved tax revenues into public services like the NHS, pay increases for the rank & file in the Armed Forces, plus an increase in the numbers of both the Armed Forces, and the support staff to those Armed Forces, thus making sure that the employment levels from the Trident support system are retained and refitted into our new defence strategy.
In one fell swoop Corbyn will have committed the UK to a future with a vastly reduced capacity for nuclear destruction for his anti war supporters (and once said capacity is reduced, under international proliferation laws, they cannot be increased), retained the UK’s nuclear deterrent for the hawks and right wing of UK politics (and by decoupling it from the American Trident system, made it truly ‘independent’), given the armed service rank & file a much needed pay rise which would go down well with everyone, and kept the unions on side to boot.
All whilst turning the issue the Blairites would use to destroy him as sure-fire proof that he is a PM-in-waiting, a Clement Attlee of the 21st century. Even cunning Clem would have been impressed.
- "A Conundrum for Corbyn" written by Conrad Sumer for Nye Bevan News, 12 July 2016