Wednesday, 29 April 2015

You can't have your cake and eat it.

I'm not in favour of Trident renewal.

The rationale of a continuously at sea Submarine launched ballistic missile system (to use the technical term) is rooted in the era of mutual assured destruction. If anybody (actually only the Soviet Union) was tempted to launch a nuclear attack on the United Kingdom the logic is/was that we could promise such a devastating response that they wouldn't try in the first place.

Whether by accident or design, that theory worked. The Soviet Union is no more and thankfully no alternative player would have the slightest intention or even capacity to launch a strategic nuclear attack on the UK.

So who or what would a strategic deterrent be deterring?

Some rogue regime yet to be invented? For it certainly wouldn't deter the various rogue regimes in actual existence. Those "in love with death" are hardly likely to be put off by the thought of .......dying. Mutual assured destruction presumed an element of rational calculation on both sides. That cannot now be presumed to exist among our modern enemies.

Now, that having been said, I am no pacifist and I can see the case for the Nation to have the potential to launch a devastating counter punch in (admittedly) pretty unlikely circumstance but more importantly not to leave itself open to nuclear blackmail. It seems to me however that there are various other, cheaper, delivery systems by which this blow could be delivered.

So, I am not in favour of Trident renewal.

All very conventional thinking by a member of the Labour Party, widely shared by others. Even shared by many Lib-Dems and even a few Tories

But what has any of this got to do with my usual subject of discourse, the constitutional debate in Scotland?

In the course of a twitter discussion last night I replied to @RossMcCaff thus

The odd thing is that, without the need to defy the SNP, we'd probably not renew Trident.

This appears to have led to complete apoplexy on the part of the cybernats who seem to think I was suggesting Labour would purchase a weapons system just to spite them.

It seems to me however that they fundamentally misunderstand the nature of their own Party.

For all they are posturing at this election as little more than a slightly more left wing version of the Labour Party, even conceding that, improbably, to be true, the SNP is fundamentally something more than that. It is a Party which is in favour of Scottish Independence and, as such, is hostile to the very idea of the "United Kingdom".

Nonetheless, the SNP maintain that they would be happy to lend their support to a Labour Westminster regime and expect everybody else in the Country to be too polite to mention the Nats more fundamental goal.

What they fail to understand is that that hostility to the United Kingdom inevitably has a consequence for any Party relying on them for support in the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Labour is scarred by the experience of the 1980s when we paid a heavy price for being seen to be weak on the defence of the Country. So any straightforward Labour majority administration would have to proceed cautiously in the area of the "abandonment" of the nation's strategic nuclear defence. However one legacy of Blair is that it is difficult now to argue that we are not willing to use military force in pursuit of our perceived interests. Some, myself included, might say possibly even seen in some quarters as too willing to fight or at least too willing to perceive these interests.

Given that legacy it would be more difficult to criticise an uncircumscribed decision not to renew Trident as being other than based on the rational, military case I myself start off with. Certainly a lot more difficult than it would have been in the 1980s.

But, of course, a decision made by a Labour administration reliant on SNP support would not be seen as an uncircumscribed decision. It would be seen as a decision taken by the government of the United Kingdom to appease a Party hostile to the very existence of the United Kingdom.

Frankly, if you take off tartan spectacles for two minutes, you appreciate that this would be political suicide in the rest of the Country.

And this is indicative of the wider difficulty that the predicted SNP landslide causes for Scotland. 

That landslide, if it happens, will undoubtedly deserve a response from the rest of the Country. But that response would need to be a collective response. It couldn't conceivably be seen as the self interested response of one Party seeking to secure the support of those hostile to the Country's very existence. If Labour voters in England and Wales gained the impression that the Labour Party is selling out the interests of the Country to secure the temporary, but essential,  support of those who don't even want to be in the Country then it wouldn't be long before they took their electoral support elsewhere.

That's what the Nats don't seem to grasp. Or perhaps, despite their surface rhetoric, they do. For nothing better would suit the interests of Scottish Nationalism than the emergence of a significant English Nationalism.

That's also why, perfectly logically, a Labour Party that had not won the election in England and Wales could not conceivably take office based on the support of the SNP. Not spite, or pique, or contempt for the views of "Scotland". Simple electoral calculation.

The decision on Trident renewal is only one obvious example to demonstrate that.

If Labour is the largest Party we will take power. If we are not, but the Tories can't construct a Commons majority, there will have to be another election. And if we get a repeat result? It would be up to the Unionist Parties to devise a solution.

The SNP can be a British left social democratic Party or an anti British separatist Party but if it remains the latter it can hardly expect to be an essential pillar of the "British" government. The key is in the title.

You can't have your cake and eat it. Even in today's Scotland.



  1. Not accepting the support of the SNP as a confidence and supply arrangement assists in the breakup of the UK. Labour should be able to accept the support with no deal or concessions from the Labour side, and pursue their own programme of government - so long as such a minority administration commands the confidence of the house.
    I agree with the various reasons why Labour will have reservations about the situation, but it is not beyond them to politically manage this.
    Offer no terms whatsoever to the Nats, but accept the mantle of government. Lets say Lab get 275 and SNP get 50 - there will be 325 constituencies, at least, that want change and that democratic will or voice should be respected.

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