Posted in Comment 3, 27/11/19


Getting rid of our nuclear weapons


Thank you to the Pope for his call to the world to renounce the use of nuclear weapons. And thank you Nicola Sturgeon for declaring your total opposition to them on moral grounds. It was a timely conjunction.


There is no reason why the leader of the Catholic Church and the leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party should not have the same beliefs on this issue. Just as there is no reason why politicians and voters from across the political spectrum should not unite in their opposition to our country retaining an independent nuclear deterrent.


I remain committed to the view that nuclear weapons are the greatest folly of humankind and that as a nation we should begin the process of dispensing with them as soon as possible. We should also be unwavering in our endeavours to persuade other nuclear powers to do the same.


I accept that possessing a nuclear deterrent might make it more unlikely that a hostile state would be willing to use nuclear weapons against us but there can be no certainty they would not be used. And if a nuclear attack were to happen the theory of deterrence would have failed and would result in tragic consequences for us all.


The loss of life and individual suffering would be unimaginable but at this point what would be the purpose of the prime minister of the day ordering our own nuclear weapons to be fired? They would not have fulfilled their intended purpose and deploying them would result in millions more deaths and horrific injuries.


I do not believe that human beings have any desire whatsoever to inflict such appalling torment on each other. It would be completely immoral. Which clearly means we must do everything in our power to ensure there is never any possibility of nuclear weapons being used. And the only way to do this is to get rid of them altogether. 


We should remember that the vast majority of countries in the world do not possess a nuclear deterrent – Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia and Canada, for example, and 183 others. If all these countries do not believe their security is jeopardised without them I cannot understand why we should feel so vulnerable.   


It is disappointing that so far, apart from Nicola Sturgeon’s comment and Jo Swinson saying she would be prepared to press the nuclear button, the issue of our independent nuclear deterrent has so far not made the headlines during the election campaign. This is incredible as nuclear weapons represent such a colossal threat to all our lives, possibly more so than global warming.


The Conservative and Labour parties are both committed to retaining Trident but I wonder how much public support there really is for this policy. I suggest that after the election we should have a national debate on the issue and hold a mandatory referendum on whether or not to keep our nuclear weapons.


I hope the vote would be a resounding No. This would be a statement of intent that we are embarking on a new role on the world stage. A post-Brexit role in which we cast aside any yearnings to be a strong military player and exchange them for a role in which we become a global force for peace.



Plus see Quercus Manifesto (Defence section) for more thoughts on defence policy.