Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Blair Preserves UK’s Nuclear Deterrent, For Now: Post-Vote Wrap Up on the Trident System

Posted by K.E. White on March 15, 2007

The Bulletin offers excellent coverage of the Trident issue. 

Tony Wins Today, But What About Tomorrow?But here are some highlights of the post-vote coverage. 

From the Bulletin

After Prime Minister Tony Blair relied on Conservative leader David Cameron to force through the white paper on renewing Trident, MPs from several parties joined protesters outside the Houses of Parliament and vowed to continue the campaign to persuade the government to implement its treaty obligations and eliminate Britain’s nuclear arsenal. In rallies in Edinburgh and London, they made clear that this was a long-term security issue, and it would have to be won by long-term, persistent campaigning. Civil resistance at Faslane and Aldermaston is only just getting started, and local and Scottish parliament votes scheduled for May 3 are likely to be viewed as a referendum on Blair’s legacy, including his nuclear proliferation policies.

As predicted, the government’s motion was carried. With both main parties imposing a three-line whip–the strongest level of party instruction–409 voted in favor, with 161 opposed. To the uninitiated, these figures might make Blair’s victory look comfortable: It was not. In a dramatic blow to Blair’s prestige, almost half of Labour’s backbenchers–88 in total–rebelled and joined the Liberal Democrats and others in voting against the white paper.

The Australian pitches the same theme more directly: 

Eighty-seven MPs from Mr Blair’s Labour Party voted yesterday against his plan to spend £15billion to £20billion ($37billion to $49 billion) on new nuclear-armed submarines to replace those due to be decommissioned in about 2024.

It was the biggest revolt against Mr Blair since a 2003 vote backing war in Iraq and the largest on a domestic issue in his decade in power.

The revolt could have overturned Mr Blair’s 67-seat majority in the 646-member lower house of parliament, but backing from the opposition Conservatives helped him secure a 409-161 vote in favour of renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system.

And the Cambridge Evening News portrays a more personal portrayal of the vote, and gives us words from the Conservative leader, David Cameron:

Jim Paice, MP for South East Cambridgeshire, pictured far right, was among those who voted with the Government to ensure it had a majority of 248 in a House of Commons vote.

He voted despite being inconvenienced by a broken leg suffered when he fell off a bale of hay at his smallholding in Hardwick.

David CameronHe said: “We voted with the Government because it was in the national interest. That is part of being a responsible opposition.”

His leader, David Cameron, said:

“In a dangerous and uncertain world, unilateral nuclear disarmament has never been and will never be the right answer.”

And BBC News makes clear that the fate of the Trident System is still far from set in Labour continues to hold Parliament:

Mr Blair’s decision to press ahead with the vote – something he appeared keen to do as part of his legacy – appears to have removed that threat even though the issue is likely to return in a few years’ time.

Few issues can divide Labour so instantly or comprehensively as this one and the party spent much of the 1980s with a unilateralist manifesto which, it is claimed by New Labour politicians, helped keep them out of power.

During the latest debate, party bosses often abandoned attempts to argue the case for and against Trident with rebels, resorting instead to warning them of the dangers of a return to those days.

In the end the opponents were left able to claim the government may have won the vote, but had failed to win the argument.

They will certainly want to ensure this is not the last time they get their say.

While Labour backbenchers may be upset now, Blair’s decision to force the vote may have just secured Gordon Brown as Britain’s next Prime Minister.

Can Labour afford to be seen as ‘weak on defense’ before the next general election? Obviously the Labour party has not decided yet, and it will probably take another general election result to get them to consensus.

But this is for certain: it’s a debate Labour would rather not have as a newly minted opposition party.

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