Whizz, Bang, Weeeeeeeee!: Trident, the wooden hobby horse of Britain’s plastic Wellingtons
There are many reasons why people attempt to justify Britain renewing its Trident nuclear capability, it acts as a deterrent and it provides jobs are chief among them. Opponents of renewing Trident, myself among them, argue that it does not act as a deterrent, we invaded Iraq on the grounds that we faced a 45minute threat from the Iraqi regime and their weapons of mass destruction, it did not stop the attacks of July 7th 2005 or the decades of Republican Irish attacks. The notion that it provides jobs is nonsensical. For the staggering level of investment, it would be cheaper to simply pay the equivalent number of people who have Trident related jobs to do nothing. There is no strategic justification for Trident and job protection is a pathetic alternative reason to maintain it when, obviously, you can simply invest in other sectors that are of more practical value, like renewable energy or housing.
So, if Britain’s Trident capability is so pointless and so expensive, why do so many people protest so much to protect Britain’s colossal spending on it?
First and foremost, British taxpayers provide the money that pays for Trident and companies make £100millions in profits from it over its lifetime. Trident is a golden goose and provides a long term income for those associated with it. The enormous amounts of money associated with Trident provides vast sustaining incomes for companies and those companies can provide avenues of income for the politicians who lobby on their behalf. If someone is lobbying for Trident it is always sensible to ask if they profit from it, even indirectly. Any MP or mouthpiece in the media who lobbies for anything should have to declare any interests they have and it should be clear on the screen or on the page, whether for the nuclear industry or medicine or any other industry. Declare their interest, including the amount of money involved.
But not all supporters of Trident are motivated by money, at least not directly. Trident is a sea ‘based’ platform from which to launch nuclear strikes and that suits the certain curmudgeons of Britain who hanker for the glory days of Empire, when Britain ruled the waves. Trident is a sabre that an element of British society like to shake with their small hands because they convince themselves that Britain are players on the world stage. British taxpayers pay a high price to indulge these fantasists. In smoky clubs and high backed chairs, a certain sticky toffee puddinged breed live out their dreams of the old East India Company, of Empire and colonialism, of Nelson and Wellington; a breed for whom Margaret Thatcher was as much Victoria as she was Nanny. These ‘age of Empire’ types should not be underestimated in their ability to skew British politics, you only have to look at the way a peripheral call for a vote on Britain’s membership of the EU has spiraled so badly out of control.
Trident separates the big boys out from the also-rans. For some, the cost of Trident is a small price to pay to assert their sense of importance on the global stage. Trident is the sports car of Britain’s mid-life crisis. It is something to shake when you have small hands. For the rest of Britain, Trident is not worth diverting resources away from more important areas to fund the indulgence but there are politicians who will profit from it and there are politicians who bally well want to rule over a nuclear power. British taxpayers pay a high price to indulge them.