A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Reverting to type

Long forgotten political alignments seem to be bubbling to the surface in certain quarters - see this article in the Times saying Beckett, Hain and H Benn "have all expressed private reservations about extending or replacing the Trident missile system".

I'm prepared to bet quite a bit Ms Harman will also jump on that particular bandwagon.

All helps me decide who not to give my lower preference votes to in the Deputy Leadership election.

And makes me feel very uneasy about what shallow roots the sane Labour project has amongst some parliamentarians. Being pro-nuclear deterrent isn't even after all a Blair era change - unpicking this is going back on a pretty basic policy change enacted by Kinnock as long ago as 1988.

Anyone would have thought some of these characters were actively wanting a period in opposition.


Anonymous Matthew said...

And Dennis Healey?
Lord Healey supports Mr Brown's hopes of becoming prime minister but believes he is wrong on Trident.

"I don't think we need nuclear weapons any longer," he told Straight Talk with Andrew Neil.


1:04 pm, November 22, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Gaitskell went anti-European - just because you think someone is generally a good thing doesn't mean you will agree with them on everything.

1:55 pm, November 22, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed. After decades of being right about everything, Nye Bevan famously got it wrong about the nuclear deterrent in 1959.

2:08 pm, November 22, 2006

Anonymous the anecdotal said...

Are you prepared to go on record stating which defence company you are employed by? We'd really like to know.

3:01 pm, November 22, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Anecdotal I am employed by a public affairs company not "for a defence company" though I would be very glad to work directly for one if the opportunity arose. Some of the clients I work for are defence companies, the majority are not. The website of our trade body (the APPC) lists all of our company's clients over the last 3 months - they are all registered and in the public domain and on the record for exactly the reasons of transparency you are hinting at. Please let me know if you are incapable of using Google.

The other interest I need to declare is being a member of Amicus, the trade union that represents about 100,000 of the people that work in the defence industry.

Oh, and I was parliamentary candidate for Aldershot where the largest employers are the Army, BAE Systems and QinetiQ. My election address said I worked as a consultant to defence companies.

I am not sure why, unless you have a particularly unreconstructed and bonkers political orientation, why you think I would not want to be upfront about my connection to the defence industry.

As I said on a previous post, I wouldn't use this blog to talk about any of the issues I deal with at work for clients because my professional code of conduct says I should keep my political life separate from my work and this blog is a personal/political one.

3:19 pm, November 22, 2006

Anonymous the anecdotal said...

No wonder you stood in a Tory safe seat. There's already one uber-blairite with the charisma of a puddle of vomit and the intellectual capabilities of a gnat in the PLP, (Hazel Blears, anyone?) It hardly requires another.

4:15 pm, November 22, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

P.S. Mr Anecdotal when are you going to declare who you are so we can see if you have any conflicts of interest?

It's not very brave to lurk around anonymously on the internet posting silly insults.

4:27 pm, November 22, 2006

Anonymous the anecdotal said...

Oh god, it's far worse than working for a defence company, it's a public affairs consultancy. You actually lobby the government on behalf of companies including Northrop Grumman, GKN plc, Lockheed Martin and Agusta Westland, and pretend to have objectivity?

I'm not trying to be brave by the way. And I can assure you that I don't have any conflicts of interest.

4:54 pm, November 22, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Just for accuracy the first company you name we only do occasional bits of media relations work for, not government relations.
It would be more accurate to characterise the other 3 as advising the people in those companies that lobby the government.
I think you are getting the chicken and the egg the wrong way round - it isn't that I work for defence companies therefore I have strong views on defence, it's that I was interested in the subject and had strong views on it years before I worked in the sector and deliberately sought a job in a policy area I found interesting & believed in.
If you want the evidence, there is BBC footage of me arguing for Trident as a Labour Students delegate at Party Conference in 1995.

5:17 pm, November 22, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

P.S. Genuinely why not comment under your own name?

5:18 pm, November 22, 2006

Anonymous Stuart King said...

Why not, Luke? Because Anecdotal prefers to remain anonymous and decide her/himself whether s/he has any conflicts of interest, rather than come out of the shadows and let us decide.

I also agree that Deputy Leadership posturing will help inform who gets my vote, 2nd prefs etc.

6:49 pm, November 22, 2006

Blogger Sham said...


the anecdotal's an unprincipled nonentity. No one know's who he is or if he's even in our party.

He obviously doesn't believe what he's saying, hence his refusal to go "on record" under his own name - he can always change his mind later without anyone accusing him of indecisiveness or flip-flopping.

the anecdotal tends to pop-up here and there, liberally sprinkling insults upon anybody who has the temerity to agree with the Prime Minister.

8:20 pm, November 22, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seriously, what is wrong with these people. We need nukes more than we ever have.

I just wish we made them ourselves.

9:52 pm, November 22, 2006

Anonymous the anecdotal said...

Right, nice one. Why do we need more nukes than we ever have? The warfare which we are currently engaged in is apparently against terrorism. Given that it has no state organisation and no identified geographical area, who would we attack with nuclear missiles?

Obviously Luke would potentially like to use them against China and Russia, in the eventuality of a 'struggle for mineral resources'. But if there was a dirty bomb attack by a british born bomber where exactly would we attack? Leeds?

Surely it would be better to invest in intelligence and surveillance?

10:34 pm, November 22, 2006

Blogger Benjamin said...

Interesting that you see this in almost conspiratorial terms, Luke. All this talk about "reverting to type" and concern over the purity of the New Labour project.

As you may have noticed, previous Labour policy (that you reference) was formed in the 1980s about the UK's weapons then.

Now, as we run up to the time when they have to be renewed (or not) a new discussion takes place because we are living in changed times and we are dealing with large sums of taxpayers money.

That is natural and democratic, and the party should be able to have a mature discussion about it without silly carping and dark muttering about the purity of the New Labour project and "reverting to type".

Hey, here's a thing: how about having a calm discussion on the issues, rather than automatically trying to smear or pigeonhole folk?

Is that possible?

5:41 am, November 23, 2006

Blogger Benjamin said...


You are quick to insult, of course, but there are legitimate and understandable reasons why folk may want to be anonymous on the internet.

5:43 am, November 23, 2006

Anonymous Gideon said...

I've never understood it, but I can vouch for Luke's longstanding interest in defence issues, long before they were fashionable.

The very first time I met Luke in 1993, when I was a first year at university, and before I even knew the name of the opinionated red haired menance, it took precisely half a beer before hearing his rather forthright views on the Navy, and the need for more battleships. It was quite distinctive.

7:56 am, November 23, 2006

Anonymous Duncan said...

Luke - I would be appalled if any members of the Cabinet did not have reservations about the decision to renew Trident.

You and I can afford entrenched views on the subject, because we don't have to make the decision.

And my entrenched view, rather conveniently, is also a moral one, so even if I were making the decision it would be black and white - having weapons of mass destruction is wrong (before making a cogent and incisive political, economic and diplomatic case against the bomb!)

But the alternative view in the party (even in '88) has - apart from you!!! - been one of multilateralism, and therefore not one of a kneejerk "yes" to nukes at every turn.

Cabinet members would be committing to massive outlay of public money for something that will never be used. They may come to the conclusion that they think it has to be spent anyway, but if they do that without reservations and without rather more than reservations actually, I'd be horrified.

If we do this thing, every time we make a decision that something can't be paid for, this one decision will have massively impacted upon it. Now I could go into my reasons for thinking the thing wrong and pointless here (although a debate with Luke about nukes is not a thrilling prospect!) - but if any minister has made a snap decision in favour of spending this money on hugely dangerous, useless military hardware LIGHTLY, I don't think they should keep their job.

8:45 am, November 23, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Gideon - I think in 1993 I was arguing for a 4th Trident submarine not for "more battleships" which was a political debate in 1906...

9:26 am, November 23, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do think it is good that people are prepared to consider it. It's hardly a small issue.

My problem is with the conclusions that some may need.

The USSR and China are both a lot more, and wwere both a lot more stable and predictable than the nutters in N. Korea and Iran.

And yes, 'nutters' is exactly what they are.

4:25 pm, November 23, 2006

Anonymous Duncan said...

Well I was opposed to having nuclear weapons during the Cold War too.

So we should have nukes because 'nutters' might get them? And 'nutters' want them because we've got them! And neither we, nor the other 'nutters' will use them, and neither will either they or us be deterred from anything we or they want to do: Saddam chucked scuds into Israel without a thought of their nukes; he twice (at least) ignored an ultimatum from an alliance of multiple nuclear states...

And that's just conventional 'nutters': no weapon yet exists that would deter a suicide bomber.

Let's get real about this: the deterrent argument has always been a myth: we want them in order to keep our seat at the 'top table' and in order to give a variety of companies some very profitable orders (indeed, I suspect we're pretty 'relaxed' about a degree of proliferation for the same reasons: of course we are 'appalled' at the notion of Iran or North Korea going nuclear, but there are people rubbing their hands at the prospect of countries we have rather better relations have feeling they need nukes in a world where Iran and North Korea are nuked up: it's a sordid game). The 'independent' bit was even more of a myth. The idea that Trident was independent was absurdist Thatcherite grandstanding.

Having nuclear weapons is extraordinarily dangerous. The threat of accidents (or even some non-state group using our own capabilities against us) is immeasurably higher than the threat of attack if we didn't have the bomb.

Are Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Italy (I'd better not just keep listing all those countries other than the few with bombs or someone might take a contract out on me!) all playing with fire and being mad and extremist in not wasting their money on nuclear weapons? Of course not. The argument is preposterous.

The idea that it is somehow a mad, leftist idea to behave like most civilised countries in the world (and a good deal of countries run by 'nutters' as well!) is a right-wing myth that has been batted out too long.

If we want to have any sort of position of moral leadership in the world, and want to be able to speak with any sort of authority on the issue of nuclear proliferation, we must take this opportunity to go non-nuclear, like most of our friends and allies.

6:07 pm, November 23, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To me, this interesting point here is how the media report a debate.

It strikes me as quite right and proper that the cabinet debate matters such as the expenditure of £60bn and that dissenting arguments are heard, listened to and debated. What's shocking is that the media report this as Blair's Cabinet split from head to toe. Of course, if the Cabinet agreed and nodded it through, the media would report this as Blair's poodles nod through decisions, what has happened to democracy and collective reponsibility etc. Damned if you do and damned if you don't

PS - anonymous as haven't got time to sign up properly....

12:58 pm, November 24, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

the nutters will get them whether we have them or not, because they are nutters...

4:44 pm, November 24, 2006

Anonymous Duncan said...

Well they certainly will if we continue to treat the Non-Proliferation Treaty with such contempt.

This replacement/upgrade would be in out-and-out defiance of Article VI. Not only do we have no moral authority on the issue, we're fast losing the legal authority too.

5:48 pm, November 24, 2006


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