Monday, October 29, 2007

Like it or not defence policy must be debated again 

Our current so-called ‘Trident’ policy is not a fudge. It is an acid drop, and we need to suck on it. That includes the current leadership candidates.

The implications for our policy are clear. We voted in Parliament to delay Vanguard renewal (and were defeated). We now have an obligation as a party to carry out the clearly implied next stage of the agreed policy. That is, to debate now the position the UK should take at the upcoming negotiations and bring forwards firm recommendations. That is the acid logic of our position.

The treaty reviews are in the year 2010 – and in the meantime in 2009 we are due to have a general election in which nuclear arms policy can hardly fail to be an issue.

We therefore need to revisit this issue in 2008 at the latest, and the current leadership contest is an inevitable part of the introduction to that debate. It would be the height of irresponsibility for any leadership candidate to brush this issue aside.

We should for example:

1 Look at the way the debates on this are put into ‘defining frames’ that shut out important questions and make sure we bring in some neglected frames and themes. Please, no more tribal ‘unilateralist or not’ hot-button posturing.

2 Insist that the whole question of expenditures on AWRE Aldermaston is put in the public domain, at least to equal the public accountability enforced on equivalent establishments in the USA.

3 Insist on a complete review of the way all our weapons procurement policies are managed especially on whether purchasing decision are made to subsidise industries rather than to meet vital defence needs.

4 Make clear the connections between the procurement mess and the corruption allegations about the dealings of BAe and certain foreign customers.

5 Examine the evolution of new non-nuclear high-destruction weapons that may make nuclear devices an expensive obsolescence in the next couple of decades.

6 Above all, insist on a clear strategy for armed forces evolution and for equipping our forces actually to do the jobs we say they must.

The party needs to get on with this and our leadership candidates need to give some indication on how this should be done. The choice of leader WILL frame part of our ongoing debate, there is no escaping that fact.

I have argued some of these points in more detail elsewhere

Framing the debate with link to a paper on ways to do this

Aldermaston costs and hiding facts from the public (with link to a Daily Mail expose)

Procurement polices and problems

Corruption and specifically BAe

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