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.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

That vote tomorrow

Tom Watson MP makes the case for voting with the Government on Trident replacement with complete clarity and common sense on his site.

In 50 years time when the very submarines being decided on now are still the basis of our national security we may well have cause to thank him and others for taking a tough political call under a lot of pressure.

At the same time, the integrity of (most) of the MPs voting the other way and the sincerity with which they will argue their case are not in question.

Looking down the list of MP signatories of the rebel amendment I can see Frank Dobson, my boss in my first real job as an Agent, who was kind enough to speak at my adoption meeting at the last General Election; and Doug Naysmith who was my friend and mentor in politics in Bristol when I was a student, and whose campaign in Bristol NW in 1992 was my first - and most painful - General Election campaign. Neither of them would vote lightly on such an important issue - they believe they are doing the right thing.

Unilateralism vs. multilateralism was the key fight that inspired me to start going to Labour Party meetings in 1988 (I hoped I could help Neil Kinnock get his policy review through against CND by turning up to Canterbury Branch LP - I'm not sure I had that much impact).

I know that the Labour MPs voting on this tomorrow will all feel they are doing the right thing, which ever way they vote. I hope the majority of them listen to Tom (and the frontbench) and make the right call. This one is too important to get wrong.


Blogger Owen said...

But Luke, you've got nothing to worry about. All those Labour MPs will be defeated by Blair's alliance with those "serious moderates" on the Tory benches. It'll be a walkover with the support of the likes of George Osborne, Boris Johnson, John Redwood, Gerald Howarth, Julian Brazier,Ian Liddell-Grainger, Edward Leigh, Andrew Rosindell - well, I could go on, couldn't I?

As you say, this is a "touchstone issue - it really sorts out the people who are serious moderates from those who haven't done the thinking on security issues". At least the Tories pass with flying colours, eh?

10:55 pm, March 13, 2007

Anonymous Duncan said...

I fear that Tom's argument is an argument for proliferation: it is an argument that all governments should try to get nuclear weapons, because they can't predict the future.

Luke - could you envisage ever using these weapons? Under any circumstances? Could you use weapons that are designed to kill huge numbers of civilians, some of them quickly, some of them a terrible slow death through disease and poisoning? Can you imagine ever deciding that the right course of action is mass slaughter followed by mass torture? I know you couldn't. And more to the point every government in the world knows that our government wouldn't. We couldn't use them, everybody knows that, therefore having them has not really deterred anybody.

And if you say that it's possible a future government, twenty or thirty years from now, MIGHT use them, then that is all the more reason not to leave that particular legacy to governments in the future.

Obviously my view is pretty entrenched: I've always supported unilateral disarmament. But very many multilateralists are now opposing renewing Trident: because sincere multilateralists did not use the argument of multilateralism as an excuse for no disarmament: it was an argument for disarming in concert, and the Non-Proliferation Treaty is that concert. Rushing through a decision to unilaterally arm in the way proposed in tomorrow's vote goes against all the principles of multilateralism, so I'm very pleased to hear that comrades from both sides of that debate will be voting against the government tomorrow.

12:01 am, March 14, 2007

Blogger grimupnorth said...

Just heard John Denham on Today being decent but basically fudging the issue and trying to get a "hedging our bets" amendment on the table.
We are having an anti-Trident demo in our village tonight which I'll go along to but in truth we know this utterly despicable policy will get through with Tory votes and much bullying by the Labour whips. My MP, Chris McCafferty, has said she will oppose and I hope she stands firm.What I do know is that following tonight's vote Labour will lose yet more votes in my area. Is it any wonder. I'm beginning to ask myself why the "moderates" in the PLP don't just do the decent thing and cross the floor. But I don't suppose the Tories would want Gordon and co in their ranks.Hain should have resigned over this one. But even the Ministers with doubts are all completely spineless.Very depressing.

7:56 am, March 14, 2007

Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

On Tom Watson's arguments and 'complete clarity and common sense'; they are no such thing, they are the same old justifications that have been many times disposed of... not least in some of the responses on his own website. Tom makes much of an uncertain world, and yet look at what two former USA Secretaries of State have written in the Washington Post:

"reliance on nuclear weapons for this purpose is becoming increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective".

The was after the two former Secretaries of State, George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, with former Defence Secretary William Perry and former Armed Services Senate Committee chair Sam Nunn, examined the case for a new generation of nuclear weapons.

And anyway Luke we come back to the real point... why this decision on Trident now! I say again (as inferred by Neil Kinnock) this is all to do with Tony Blair's legacy and nothing to do with the defence, political etc. case

Yep, this touchstone issue of yours sure will sort us 'moderates' out so that all Luke's 'sensible' ones will line up with, and be dependent on, Tory votes.

10:26 am, March 14, 2007

Blogger Hughes Views said...

Speaking of clarity and common sense, before nuclear weapons were developed Europe was regularly ravaged by terrible 'conventional' wars in which millions died horrible deaths. Since ditto there have been none.

I know life may be hard for well-meaning people who seem think that these dreadful weapons can be un-invented and that if Britain gives them up that this would somehow kick-start this impossible process. But they can't be. It shouldn't be too difficult also to understand that it's only by having them that not using them becomes a (very) effective strategy.

Do the antis really want the only deterrent in the EU to be under the exclusive control of the French? Even a Francophile such as I am can see the flaw in such an approach. Or do they have such faith in the US's policy that they're content to huddle under its umbrella?

11:15 am, March 14, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Why now?

Because if a decision to proceed with new submarines is not taken in the next 6 months the old ones will go out of service before the new ones come in and there will be a gap in the 2020s when we have no deterrent.

There is no dependence on Tory votes because they could abstain and the Government would still beat the combined Lib Dems, rebels and smaller parties.

What about the dependence of the "no" camp on the tainted votes of the Lib Dems, Respect, the SNP and Plaid who we are currently trying to beat in the devolved elections, turncoats like Clare Short ...

And so what? You can't simultaneously rebel, putting the government in the position where it has fewer votes, and then complain about the situation you have created where the Tories are bolstering the government majority.

The Tories could have played games with this but chose to vote with their principles rather than engineer a government defeat. They deserve some credit for that, unlike the Lib Dems whose position is entirely designed to paper over cracks between their peacenik wing and the ex-SDPers.

11:31 am, March 14, 2007

Blogger Owen said...

Exactly, Luke! The Tories deserve some credit for sticking to their principles like the "serious moderates" that they are. At least they can be trusted on a "touchstone" issue.

Just a shame we can't say the same about the Labour benches, isn't it?

1:20 pm, March 14, 2007

Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

But Luke your facts on the timeline for when the decision on a need to replace Trident are spurious an opportunistic (i.e. for many of us they are wrong); the decision does not have to be taken now on the basis that you suggest. Moreover, why are we sticking with an increasingly irrelevant programme?

Just a single point for example, why not look seriously and in a considered and rational way at opting for a far less costly cruise updated technology (Why are David Owen’s attempts to get papers through the Freedom of Information Act to argue this point are being oddly blocked?). This technology would be far more adaptable and feasible than a Trident monolith in imagined future ‘mad-dictator-mad-terrorist’ scenarios. I note that you conveniently just left out any reference to the two USA ex Secretaries… pity since we will never be allowed to use Trident without specific and absolute USA permission.

Your arguments around the Government’s dependency on Tory votes are frankly laughable… the Tories were never, ever going to vote against Trident replacement, especially if that were to cast them in the same light as the other opposition (and the Tories never sought this decision at this time, because it doesn’t need to be made at this time!)… and your point about “There is no dependence on Tory votes because they could abstain…” I’m honestly lost for words on that piece of obtuse, pointless illogic.

It’s interesting, that in amongst your slagging off of everyone who dares differ from your unblinking pro-Trident mantra, you do make a single exception and want to give the Tories credit for voting with their principles. Seemingly if anyone else (Lib, Left or Nat, whatever) votes with their principles they are just ‘tainted’ or ‘turncoats’ or ‘peacenickers’ or ex-SDPers’

As I said before: Yep, this touchstone issue of yours sure will sort us 'moderates' out so that all Luke's 'sensible' ones will line up with, and be dependent on, Tory votes.

1:28 pm, March 14, 2007

Blogger Chris Paul said...

This one is too important to get wrong. It is also too politically sensitive to do eight weeks before elections in Scotland - simply to give Blair another line on his CV. Pathetic!

I notice Dale saying that Kinnock N will be in his cabinet and note that kinnock N wants the vote delayed and to follow a proper debate. Not some blokes blogging across each other.

3:06 pm, March 14, 2007

Blogger Chris Paul said...

Oh Luke. the next six months or we're toast argument is sooooooooo silly. You have excelled yourself there matey.

3:09 pm, March 14, 2007

Blogger Chris Paul said...

Er, not Dale's cabinet, Brown's ... not sure what McDonnell thinks on the Kinnock question though.

3:10 pm, March 14, 2007

Blogger Sham said...

"simply to give Blair another line on his CV. Pathetic!"

Now who's resorting to petty personal insults and failing to address the issues?

"Just a shame we can't say the same about the Labour benches, isn't it?"

Owen, surely even you are able to perform simple arithmetic. There are currently 352 Labour MPs. Assuming 70 rebel, that still leaves 282 Labour Members of Parliament voting in favour of Trident, over 80% of the PLP. It'll also mean 86 more Labour MPs voting for Trident than Tory MPs, of which there are 196.

Even taking account of the "payroll vote", ie. those in Government, this is still a majority of Labour backbenchers, by a factor in excess of 2 to 1.

It seems the "serious moderates" on the Labour benches will do their duty for Britain tonight, rightly so!

4:01 pm, March 14, 2007


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