Sunday, 26 November 2006

More nuclear nonsense from Peter Hain

Yesterday I wrote that Peter Hain was reported as having shifted from card-carrying member of CND to a supporter of Trident on the grounds that unilateralism had cost Labour votes in the past.

Today, on Sunday AM, he gave Andrew Marr a different reason for his U-turn. Rather than crass opportunism, as it appeared on Friday, he now says that "...since we are where we are, and the history of having an independent nuclear deterrent, I do not think that people in Britain will accept us giving that up." So basically, the reason for replacing Trident is because it is there. One is reminded of the World War One song "#We're here because we're here because we're here because we're here...#"

Saying that he had been a CND member in the past and "I don't apologise for that" (hardly a ringing endorsement!) he then expressed shock and irritation that Marr would suggest that Parliament should have a free vote. No vote on conscience over whether to develop the most massive of all weapons of mass destruction at a cost of tens of billions of pounds; "You couldn't expect a serious government, in charge of one of the world's global powers - Britain - making a recommendation to Parliament and just say 'you can do what you like, chaps' ."

Hain repeatedly mentioned that "this is a serious government", as though by reiterating the mantra he could give the government more credibility, but he was also clear that the Labour Party members would be whipped through the lobbies.

In fact, the Northern Ireland Secretary is wrong. There is absolutely no reason why Parliament could not vote on its conscience on this matter, except that the parties might reasonably argue that if retaining the deterrent were in the 2005 manifestos then everyone who stood on that manifesto has committed already to upholding it.

On the general principle that no serious government in charge of a global power would allow a free vote, one cannot help but note that the United States Senate and Congress are not bound to follow their Government's line. If the worlds' superpower can have a free vote on its tens of thousands of warheads, can the UK not have a free vote on replacing the system for delivering its 64?

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