British Nuclear-Arms Revamp Seen Losing Labor Party Support

Global Security Newswire Staff
Feb. 3, 2014, 9:49 a.m.

Plans to re­place the Brit­ish sub­mar­ine-based nuc­le­ar de­terrent could be los­ing fa­vor among rank-and-file Labor Party law­makers, the Guard­i­an re­ports.

Brit­ish De­fense Sec­ret­ary Philip Ham­mond re­portedly called on de­fense min­is­ters to seek in­creased uni­on pres­sure on Labor le­gis­lat­ors to sup­port the po­ten­tial re­place­ment of all four Van­guard-class sub­mar­ines that carry Tri­dent bal­list­ic mis­siles, the news­pa­per re­por­ted on Sunday. The “like-for-like” mod­ern­iz­a­tion plan has faced res­ist­ance from the Lib­er­al Demo­crats, which led an ex­plor­a­tion of al­tern­at­ives as the ju­ni­or mem­ber in a co­ali­tion gov­ern­ment headed by Ham­mond’s Con­ser­vat­ive Party.

“The [Con­ser­vat­ives] don’t want Labor hav­ing a wobble on this,” one gov­ern­ment in­sider told the Guard­i­an.

A Labor spokes­man said the party re­mains an ad­voc­ate of full Tri­dent mod­ern­iz­a­tion.

Ham­mond, though, pressed for ship-con­struc­tion uni­ons to in­form Labor politi­cians of their back­ing for the re­new­al plan after he re­ceived in­dic­a­tions that cer­tain party mem­bers were seek­ing a more im­par­tial po­s­i­tion.

The de­fense sec­ret­ary re­com­men­ded seek­ing a strong stance in fa­vor of full re­place­ment from Keep our Fu­ture Afloat, a group tied to a key Labor Party fin­an­cial sup­port­er. A fi­nal de­cision on mov­ing for­ward with mod­ern­iz­a­tion is ex­pec­ted after the 2015 gen­er­al elec­tion.

A Con­ser­vat­ive in­sider said: “We are con­fid­ent that Labor is com­mit­ted to re­pla­cing the de­terrent … un­like the Lib­er­al Demo­crats who want some part-time de­terrent with dummy mis­siles, provid­ing Bri­tain with no se­cur­ity.”

One-time Labor Party De­fense Sec­ret­ary Des Browne, though, said the mod­ern­iz­a­tion plan faces grow­ing doubts from “from all parties and in both houses” of Par­lia­ment.

“In an age of aus­ter­ity where pub­lic spend­ing is re­du­cing, they are much more skep­tic­al,” Browne said. “If any­thing, I am sur­prised that it has taken min­is­ters un­til now to wake up to this change. Few­er politi­cians ac­cept the ar­gu­ments for con­tinu­ous at-sea de­terrence without ques­tion than ever did be­fore.”

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