Senior Tory MP Crispin Blunt: Government support for Trident is a 'political weapon' against Labour
A senior Conservative MP has said his Government’s support for Trident renewal rests on its political potency against the Labour party rather than its contribution to the UK’s security.
Crispin Blunt, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said he would be opposing the Commons motion supporting four new nuclear submarines when MPs vote this evening.
Describing Trident as a “political weapon”, he argued the costs of the project – currently estimated at £31bn with a £10bn contingency fund set aside – made it the “most egregious act of self-harm to our conventional defence”.
In an opinion piece for PoliticsHome, he wrote: “Britain’s independent possession of nuclear weapons has been turned into a political touch-stone for commitment to national defence. But this is an illusion.
“The truth is that this is a political weapon, effectively aimed against the Labour party, whose justification rests on the defence economics, the politics, and the strategic situation of over three decades ago.
“But it is of less relevant to the defence of the UK today and certainly surplus to the needs of Nato...
“Rather like the weapon system, this debate is about politics rather than the substance of security. If we were applying any rational application of available resources to meet threats to the UK we wouldn’t be going down this route.”
The Government has denied that its motives behind bringing today’s motion were to expose again the splits in the Labour party on this issue.
“Absolutely not,” Defence Secretary Michael Fallon protested when that idea was put to him on the Today programme.
He said failing to renew the weapons system was “a gamble we simply can’t afford to take”.
But Mr Blunt argued that technological improvements would make Trident more and more vulnerable to cyber attacks and detection.
He stressed that he was not in favour of unilateral disarmament, but said the decision to renew Trident had been based on “incomprehensible assumptions”.
“We should be considering alternatives, such as deploying modernised free-fall bombs on the new F35 jets,” he said.
“Such a system would be a significant contribution to Nato’s nuclear posture, tailored to the type of threats Nato could face in the worst conceivable scenarios, at a fraction of the cost.”