Huhne: is Trident the right issue?

Chris Huhne clearly believes the Trident issue is key to his success and yesterday I was sent an email from Duncan Brack, Chair of the Federal Conference Committee, endorsing him specifically for this reason. They may well be right and they are certainly right that our current policy of sitting squarely on the fence in the hope that we never have to make a difficult decision is unsustainable. I certainly don’t share Linda Jack’s cynicism – if you are a senior cabinet member you must choose your battles carefully, especially when you have a vulnerable leader and rivals who are alert to any sign of disloyalty (if it is such a major issue of conscience, Linda, why didn’t you resign from the FPC? And why are you backing Clegg?).

Good internal politics it may be, but is it good external politics? There are certainly people out there who feel strongly about nuclear disarmament, but they are relatively few in number. For all my criticisms of Clegg for demanding the party move out of its comfort zone and reaching out beyond our supporter base and then not doing so, I agree with the sentiment. Kickstarting a debate about Trident doesn’t do either, although it does at least address one of my major concerns which is that our policy ceases to face both ways.

It is good that Huhne is looking for dividing lines, just as he did in 2006; apart from anything else it will make the contest more interesting in what was looking increasingly likely to turn into a snore-fest. But if the public perceive that the contest was fought on largely emic party obsessions and not on the issues that matter to them, whoever wins will struggle to hit the ground running in December. He should turn to bread and butter issues as we get closer to the day when the ballot papers are sent out.


  1. As it involves over £15bn+ of taxpayers money it certainly is a bread and butter issue. I think many who will support Chris on this do so on practical grounds rather than a natural unilateralist impulse. Is Trident the right weapon for the 21st C and could some of this money be more usefully spent re-equipping our troops on the ground for example.

    A vibrant third party really must be prepared to question the cosy Tory/New Lab consensus.

  2. I’m not saying I disagree with Huhne’s stance, but I cannot accept that this will ever be one of the main policies the party fights a general election over.

  3. James, I didn’t resign from FPC because I didn’t need to, I was free to speak out on and vote against the FPC policy and there is no collective responsibility on FPC, I knew when I was elected that I was elected by a certain element of the party and that I would probably often find myself a lone voice on FPC, which has proved to be the case. Yes, of course, we all have to choose our battles carefully, but this was a key battle. But it may be understandable given that his position doesn’t appear to be that different from our current policy, or Nick’s. So why am I supporting Nick? Frankly because I am not a one trick pony. If my favoured candidate had stood, he too supported the current party policy. I am supporting Nick for a mixture of pragmatic and personal reasons – will elaborate more on my blog!

  4. Fair enough – but you appear to be setting a much tougher standard for Chris Huhne than you do for yourself. Is it not just possible that he isn’t a one trick pony either?

  5. To be honest Huhne going for the Trident vote in the party is exactly the same as David Davies going for the ‘hang ’em and flog ’em’ vote in the Tory Party.

    I’m getting scared now that Huhne is going to take us in an increasingly minority direction. :S

    Detail from Huhne has been promised soon though, so we’ll wait and see..

  6. Oh James!! Thank goodness!!

    I have just lifted my head up from repeatedly banging it on my desk to find your v sensible question!!

    £15bn may well be spent on it but it is not interesting to the majority of voters, it just isn’t! When are we going to start getting our head around the fact that half the people in the Uk who consider themselves liberal don’t actually vote for us! And why, because we spend half our time talking about the things that we may find fascinating but the voters don’t.

    Please, please can we not shoot ourselves in the foot by having a big old barny about something that we dealt with less than a year ago and see if we can’t find something of interest to say to the 25% of the population who should be voting for us but aren’t!!

    Thank you for raising your eyeborws and asking the question before we misuse this perfect opportunity to appar relevant to voters!

  7. Chris is certainly right to start a debate on the Nuclear Deterent issue – and right to point out that it isnt a simple yea or no debate but one with several options. Frankly, the current party policy is a nonesense.

    This isn’t the only policy difference – for instance look at what they say on crime.

    Come off it Linda – the best thing for anyone frontbencher to do who wanted to change the policy on Trident was to hold on and then make it party of the leadership campaign we all knew would happen sooner or later, which is exactly what Chris did.

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