Friday 23 April 2010

The Lib Dems are Wrong on Trident

Trident came up up again in the Leaders Debate last night, with Nick Clegg (and Menzies Campbell later on Question Time) starting to sound like the new Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) - but without any substance.

Some people are calling for Britain to be a "shining example" in the world by becoming the first to disarm completely. Whilst, that is a lovely sentiment, its also completely bonkers. There is still a viable threat from the likes of Iran and North Korea - and while that is the case, then we must have a way to defend ourselves.

There simply isn't a cheaper,effective alternative either. For example, using cruise missiles instead isn't an option, because they have a much shorter range and are much easier to shoot down. Trident is a ballistic missile, with a range of 7,500 miles and therefore offers a real deterrent. Launching missiles from long range aircraft is not really a good idea either - aircraft can be shot down. If we chose a cruise missile system, we would have to develop the missile programme and therefore pay all of the associated costs of research and development. That would create a bill at least as expensive as Trident. Oh, and there isn't a hypersonic long-range cruise on the market - meaning we would have to develop one at massive expense too.

No one is denying Trident is expensive. It is estimated that it will cost around £2bn a year over its expected life time of 40 years. That amounts to 5% of the annual defence budget on today's figures.

What all this means is, the Lib Dems are right, there are alternatives to Trident. But crucially, they are not necessarily cheaper and they are not as effective as Trident. The defence experts are telling us that Trident is the most viable option if we are to remain a nuclear power. We might not want to be a nuclear power ideally, but as Winston Churchill once said:
"sometimes it is not enough to do your best, sometimes you have to do what is required"