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.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Nigel Griffiths resigns

Nigel Griffiths just resigned as Deputy Leader of the Commons over Trident replacement.

Why now when this has been known to be the Government position for ages - indeed, was in the Manifesto?

Maybe they could replace him with John Mann who as Tom Watson's post today showed, has rather sounder views on this and ought to have been a Minister years ago.

I see this as a touchstone issue - it really sorts out the people who are serious moderates from those who haven't done the thinking on security issues - or have and have come to the wrong conclusions.


Blogger Chris Paul said...

Voting 'yes' now WAS NOT in the Manifesto. And you know it Luke.

Maintaining a so-called independent deterrent was in the manifesto. How these weasel words got there is a good question though as Trident is industriously kept off the party agenda at all significant levels.

It is not necessary to vote now or to vote for Trident renewal to maintain the deterrent. Or to honour the weaselly mainfesto, in which this is one of several insertions without proper process.

If the proposal is three subs the retirement date of the fourth one is irrelevant. There are at least five years available for this decision to be taken.

The subs with Trident vs other configurations has not been had.

The relevance of these weapons to the real politik has not been established.

The relationship of this proposed vote to support for nuclear non-proliferation is difficult to see.

But Purleease Luke. Saying voting yes now is in the manifesto is crude fibbing worthy of a Lib Dem.

1:12 pm, March 12, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would that be the Luke Akehurst who is a :

Public Affairs consultant (specialising in advising defence and aerospace companies)

And seeking the nomination of a hitherto proudly left constituency to boot?

1:15 pm, March 12, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke, I think it also shows something is seriously wrong when the government may well have to rely on Tory support to get its policy through parliament. Does that not worry you in the slightest?

1:24 pm, March 12, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Anonymous, yes it would the same Luke Akehurst be on both counts. My mission is to turn
"proudly left constituencies" into proudly moderate ones. I'm almost there in Hackney North so I thought I'd offer my services on the other side of the river Lea.

1:48 pm, March 12, 2007

Anonymous tim f said...

Luke, you seem as obsessed with Trident as many of the people you oppose. Seemingly half of your recent posts have been about the issue. Isn't it the obsession with Trident over more important issues like housing, pensions and the NHS that turns people off the Labour Party, not what position is taken on it?

2:08 pm, March 12, 2007

Anonymous Duncan said...

I'm sorry to repeat myself but this was not in the manifesto. The government did not put renewing Trident in the manifesto, so this is completely new.

2:13 pm, March 12, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


a) blogs are about generating a debate - there's not much point posting stuff that everyone in the Labour Party agrees about

b) they are also personal to the person writing them, and defence happens to be the policy area I have the greatest personal interest in

c) get national security wrong and you end up dead and the finest pension, health service and housing will not be much use to you

d) I am unaware that the debate on this issue has turned anyone off the Labour Party whereas failiure to debate it might indicate a lack of seriousness about the security of the country our party is the government of

2:15 pm, March 12, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


it said "We are also committed to retaining the independent nuclear deterrent"

If you don't order the new submarines then you can't retain the independent deterrent.

2:19 pm, March 12, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke: "whereas failiure to debate it might indicate a lack of seriousness about the security of the country our party is the government of"

Me: So you are saying that Labour should debate the Trident issue more before the government makes a decision? Perhaps conference should have a say?

2:30 pm, March 12, 2007

Blogger Chris Paul said...

Luke: There is NO need to have a yes vote now to meet the weaselly and undemocratic manifesto commitment.

Deal with that honestly.

Luke: Can you explain why all the people in countries say in Scandanavia and Northern, Western and Southern Europe, and South America, and Africa, and so on and so forth aren't "dead" as you dramatically predict for a UK without Trident?

Deal with that honestly.

It's pitiful and illogical. This "argument" of yours.

How about trying this instead :
"I've got a hunch it's important, at least in getting votes from white van people if not in saving my world, and besides these arms dealer wallers wave big cheques and pay my bills."

Perhaps we could all end up red rather than dead?

2:39 pm, March 12, 2007

Blogger Owen said...

Don't worry Luke, you've got absolutely nothing to worry about. With the help of the "serious moderates" of the Conservative Party, New Labour is guaranteed to smash opposition in the Labour party.

In a choice between the Labour party and the Blair-Cameron Alliance, I know which side I'd rather be on...

3:08 pm, March 12, 2007

Blogger grimupnorth said...

At least Ramsay McBrown's friend and colleague has some principles - also I understand a very small majority.Scotland will trash labour for this Trident folly in May.

3:41 pm, March 12, 2007

Anonymous tim f said...

grimupnorth - quite. I really don't think scheduling the Trident vote before the Scottish elections - making a fuss over a divisive issue a month before elections we're all very concerned about - is particularly clever. When I said drive people away from the Labour Party I don't mean people resigning over the issue (anyone doing that should get a sense of perspective, as should junior ministers who resign over this of all issues), I mean people not voting for us because we appear to be more interested in Trident than things that affect their lives. It's the same bullshit as the 1980s all over again.

If you really think the deterrent is necessary to keep us alive, I can see why you get so excised about it(!) But I don't think that's the predominant argument within the Labour party for renewing it.

If we're going to renew this thing (I don't think we should, I'm sure you'd guessed that, would rather we spent the money on something we can campaign on like schools) we should do it quietly and not create a fuss over it a month before important elections - that's a criticism of both sides of the debate.

4:10 pm, March 12, 2007

Anonymous Peter kenyon said...

Dear Luke

You had some delightfully creative statistics in answer to my last posting on the Trident issue to demonstrate how Blair was not going to have to rely on the Tories in the week's Commons vote.

According to Nottingham University professor Philip Cowley, an expert on political rebellions, said: ‘’You only need 34 Labour MPs to rebel for the Government to have to rely on the Tories.’’

Could you take us back through your fantasy again to justify your previous assertion?

In the meantime, it's good to watch you go on, and on.....Hari Krishna style repeating the mantra, "It was in the Manifesto."

Keep up the good work.

PS I still have an open mind on the substantive issues, just in case you were wondering. Trident renewal is exactly the sort of issue Labour ought to be promoting as a genuine opportunity for debate. I'm for taking maximising the post-Blair democractic dividend asap.

4:18 pm, March 12, 2007

Blogger Sham said...

"In a choice between the Labour party and the Blair-Cameron Alliance, I know which side I'd rather be on..."

Perennially on the opposition benches?

Btw, you managed to make it into double figures yet? :)

4:23 pm, March 12, 2007

Blogger Owen said...

We're well past half way now Sham! Thanks for the support as ever.

4:34 pm, March 12, 2007

Anonymous duncan said...

Luke - you and I aren't the best people to be debating this as we both have thoroughly entrenched and inalienable views on the subject: I want to scrap Trident and did during the Cold War too; you are in favour of us having nuclear weapons. The issue is really about the mainstream of the party who may have opted for a multi-lateralist approach in the late 80s and have maintained it, but want to have a proper debate (at the proper time and in the proper place) about whether renewing Trident is a necessary part of that in the current international climate.

The manifesto committed us not to pass legislation scrapping Trident, but certainly did not commit us to renewing it at this time. Let's be clear about it: we don't need to take this decision now; we don't need to make junior ministers feel they have to resign now; we don't need to make PPSs feel they have to resign now; we don't need to make backbenches rebel now: this vote is completely unecessary. The timing of this vote is appalling.

4:38 pm, March 12, 2007

Blogger el tom said...

"Perennially on the opposition benches?"

And would you join him in solidarity Sham? Where would you be?

4:55 pm, March 12, 2007

Blogger Sham said...

Tom, just to clear things up, I've been accused of laying into you on the previous thread. Lies.

Re: Opposition, if it happens, I won't be leaving the party; it'll be more important than ever to stay, to say "I told you so" to Owen et al and for us moderates to make the Labour party electable once more.

5:03 pm, March 12, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure about that Luke. I consider myself a moderniser and up until now have shared your views on most things including the one and only Hazel! But for me Trident has not been thought about properly. Exactly, who is it going to protect us from? I am all for increases in defence spending but I would like to see the money we are proposing to be spent on replacing faulty equipment for our troops or on developing new technology to combat 'friendly fire' or on a whole multitude of other defence and intelligence related factors. In addition, it would be inconceivable should the worst case scenario happen that the United States would not act to defend Britain either. Effectively we fall under its nuclear umbrella anyway. As for the Minister who resigned, I think that does show some courage and integrity over the issue. As Hazel said, "loyalty is an underestimated quality" and I agree with her but unblinding, unquestioning loyalty doesn't get us very far and helps to contribute to policy failures that in the long run will neither be beneficial for the Labour Party or more importantly the country.

LSE Student

6:49 pm, March 12, 2007

Blogger Owen said...

Sham - given polls show that a majority oppose replacement of Trident, I don't really know why refusing to waste tens of billions of pounds on completely useless WMDs (instead on - call me crazy - health, education or combatting poverty) would consign Labour to Opposition.

Out of interest, what exactly are your objections to a Cameron government? Policy-wise, that is?

7:22 pm, March 12, 2007

Blogger Sham said...

Quite! One might well ask what objections you would have to a Galloway government, seeing as how you agree with him on everything from Trident to Saddam ...

But I digress. In answer to your question, how about DC's deranged attack on air travel? Certainly not something I support. Neither do I back his Euroscepticism (though interestingly enough the Left probably agree with him on Europe, at least in terms of the Euro and the constitution). I could go on and on, but I wouldn't want to bore you!

8:44 pm, March 12, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What happened to the fat car article? Has pressure been applied on the ginger one?

9:16 pm, March 12, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I mean cat smarty pants before you carp on and on

9:17 pm, March 12, 2007

Anonymous Miles said...

This is such a coup for the arms trade.
Billions for a weapon that will never be fired.
If it WAS fired it would be because there was already a nuke on the way to obliterate us - so we never even know if it worked!
And if some loony government does fire a nuke at us I don't want millions of their citizens killed in my name.
For details of anti-Trident protests in Manchester visit:action-without-theory

9:46 pm, March 12, 2007

Blogger Welsh Spin said...

So far as the manifesto goes, the sentence was deliberately vague and can be read both ways. It doesn't mention the platform (i.e. the Vanguard submarines) at all. If you don't renew the subs the deterrent will expire eventually, on the other hand, not renewing will still keep the deterrent well past 2010, which is as long as any manifesto committment can be considered binding.

Labour policy on the deterrent was decided in 1987/8 and remains the Conference policy. That conference has not re-visited it since is an indication of maturity. It is true that the leadership, for understandable reasons is reluctant to prioritise Trident for discussion, but conference is soverign and indeed in Manchester last year there were attempts from the floor to force a debate and vote, which failed to convince Conference to do so.

As one who does not really have a dog in this fight (I have never really believed that any British PM would ever push the button), I do on balance come down with Luke insofar as the intra party question goes.

Unilateralists are welcome to make their case within the Labour party, but if Britain's nuclear power (in the weapons sense) is the key determinant of your vote, clearly it should at the last GE, and the three before, have gone to a unilateralist party such as the Greens.

Finally however, this debate had been closed for nigh on 20 years. I don't see that Nigel should have refused a ministerial job because of his views about nuclear weapons. He is not responsible for the decision coming forward while hew happens to be deputy leader of the house. Now that his conscience dictates that he vote no he's resigning. Fair play to the guy.

10:25 pm, March 12, 2007

Anonymous Duncan said...

I understand Neil Kinnock last night called for the vote to be postponed.

Has he not thought about the issues either, Luke?

8:22 am, March 13, 2007

Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

Tim you are right about the unfortunate timing of the Trident 'push' just ahead of the Scottish elections. I tried before on this blog to warn of the significant damage to the Labour vote in the Scottish heartlands over Trident. Griffith's resignation follows Malcolm Chisholm's from the Scottish Executive Cabinet - a far more significant event in the Scottish context.

And Luke, I honestly think your being disengenious on 'Trident was in the manifesto'. There is no need to debate replacement now - other than as part of Tony Blair's 'legacy'. You know as well as me that the decision on this has been well and truly fixed without any meaningful debate anywhere (in or out of the Labour Cabinet, Government or Party).

I may not go all the way with Anon, but I can see where he's coming from when he said:

"Luke: "whereas failiure to debate it might indicate a lack of seriousness about the security of the country our party is the government of"

Me: So you are saying that Labour should debate the Trident issue more before the government makes a decision? Perhaps conference should have a say?"

10:04 am, March 13, 2007

Blogger Chris Paul said...

Dave Osler / Spart had an interesting line on this HERE making this resignation the sort of thing the people of Walthamstow could expect Luke to get up to in the event of a triangulation opportunity. Very cynical on Dave's Part ... but what's new?

10:10 am, March 13, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


one of the useful things about having a blog is that you can't suddenly develop a radical line on something for selectoral or electoral purposes or you will get caught out.

There is only any point holding elected office if you can use it to try to do what you think is right. What would be the point in being an MP if you had to abandon or hide your principles to do it?

I also very much doubt that the number of people who would not vote Labour because of Trident is high enough to have any electoral impact - the MoD website shows fewer than a 1,000 people nationally bothered objecting to the department about it.

10:33 am, March 13, 2007

Anonymous Andy said...

I wonder what you make of Lord Kinnock's position on this touchstone issue Luke?

4:13 pm, March 13, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I obviously disagree with him. He's not the only person who I disagree with on this but generally hold in extremely high regard - see also Frank Dobson and Doug Naysmith. The nature of politics is that sometimes people you look up to differ from you on individual key issues. I guess the Bevanites felt this way over Nye's pro-nuclear stance.

4:43 pm, March 13, 2007


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