Wheel Stop Trident respond to Labour’s Defence Review

Wheel Stop Trident have responded to the Labour Party’s Defence Policy Review. You will find out submission below. If you agree with our words, why not send it to your local Labour MP?

Find out how to contact them here, and tweet it also using #ScrapTrident.

1. Executive Summary

1.1 The members of Wheel Stop Trident welcome Labour’s Defence Policy Review. It is vital, at a time of numerous threats to the well-being of people and the natural environment both in the UK and worldwide, that political parties examine what ‘defence’ and ‘security’ mean to party members, and other individuals and organisations.

1.2 We respond to the terms of the Labour Defence Policy Review set out in Shadow Defence Secretary Emily Thornberry’s document, in order.  

1.3 We are particularly interested in the question of the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons system, as we strongly believe that Trident is useless and immoral, and that that vast amount of money would be much better spent on reversing cuts to welfare, education and renewable energy, and on diplomacy and other forms of nonviolent peace-building, thus aiding sustainable security.

2. Wheel Stop Trident

2.1 Wheel Stop Trident is a group of around ten young people based in London, who raise the profile of the anti-Trident, pro-welfare, pro-education and pro-renewables movements through creative cycling actions. We have hundreds of supporters online, and close alliances with various anti-Trident, anti-austerity, and pro-sustainability groups. See https://wheelstoptrident.wordpress.com/

3. Britain’s place in the world

3.1 Dialogue and diplomacy should be the primary focus of UK foreign policy, rather than maintaining a world power status (in part through military strength). War is always a failure. Disastrous wars fought by the UK and its allies in recent years, for example in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, have made the world – and UK citizens specifically – less secure, not more secure.

3.3 The Labour Party should make the promotion of human rights, economic equality, non-violent conflict resolution and peace-building, and sustainability the centre of its foreign policy. When next in government, this would allow Labour to help increase security for people in the UK and globally, as well as enhancing the UK’s reputation as a force for good in the world.

4. Threats to Britain’s security

4.1 The key threats to UK security from a conventional perspective are probably climate change (and resulting problems such as natural disasters), and terrorism. The Conservative Government’s 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review only talks in vague terms about the possible risk of the UK being blackmailed or attacked with nuclear weapons, and similarly a conventional military attack on the UK is seen as very unlikely.

4.2 Wheel Stop Trident would add that causal problems such as economic inequality (both globally and in the UK specifically), climate change, and war overseas are driving and exacerbating instability, for example the refugee crisis. Terrorism, like the refugee crisis, is a symptom of other problems (including the global arms trade – which the UK Government has for years upheld recklessly by subsidising arms exports) rather than a fundamental security issue in itself.

4.3 These fundamental security threats cannot be solved by military approaches. Nuclear weapons, in particular, are completely useless (aside from being completely immoral to use or threaten to use).

4.3 In order to address the most pressing security threats, the Labour Party should move away from a militarised conception of defence and security, and instead focus on diplomacy, tackling economic inequality, and addressing climate change. The £183 billion or more that a renewed Trident nuclear weapons system would cost the taxpayer – for example – would be far better spent on reversing the cuts to the welfare, education and renewable energy systems.

5. Britain’s military and security forces

5.1 It is disappointing that the Labour Party Defence Review excludes consideration of the UK’s membership of NATO. NATO membership ties us to spending at least 2% of our GDP on the military. Our position as the sixth-highest military spender in the world is disproportionate, given our GDP and geographical and population size. Numerous politicians, including the former Labour leader Tony Blair, have acknowledged that Trident is mainly a status symbol to try and retain world power status for the UK.

5.2 The Labour Party should commit to reducing UK military expenditure, moving towards a minimal Defence Force, and investing far more in welfare, education, renewable energy, and diplomacy.

5.3 An obvious saving would be decommissioning – rather than renewing – Trident nuclear weapons system. As stated, Trident is useless against the real pressing security threats that we face. It is also unaffordable. Furthermore, and crucially, its effectiveness as a deterrent is a myth; there is no guarantee that we won’t be attacked, and if we were, it would be pointless and immoral to retaliate. The only country in the world to ever be attacked by nuclear weapons – Japan – strikingly chooses not to have them, despite possessing the capability to develop them.

5.4 It is hypocritical of the UK to even consider renewing Trident, given that we are a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The vast majority of countries do not have nuclear weapons, and many of them want to make them internationally-illegal. The UK could become the world leader in decommissioning nuclear warheads, and facilitate the nuclear disarmament of the eight other countries with nuclear weapons.

The Labour Party should commit to UK nuclear disarmament, explaining why it is doing so.

6. Protecting jobs and skills

6.1 As stated, the UK’s military expenditure is hugely excessive. Instead of supporting armed forces and arms industry jobs, the Labour Party should commit to further reducing the size of the armed forces, and facilitate the transition of arms industry production and maintenance to renewable energy and other sectors that relate to our real security needs.

6.2 The renewable energy sector requires similar skill-sets to the arms industry, and is – or can be – located in current arms industry areas. It just needs Government support and investment to realise its potential. Excellent research has been conducted into transitioning from arms development (including around Trident specifically) to renewable energy development, by Campaign Against Arms Trade and others.

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