The result of this will be a surprise, won’t it?

Ken Livingstone, the former London mayor, is to take charge of Labour’s decision-making on Trident renewal position

Can’t imagine what his recommendation might be.

74 thoughts on “The result of this will be a surprise, won’t it?”

  1. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    Sorry. I’m just loving the 1980’s student union theme Labour is going with. That should keep them out of power for another decade.

    Bring back Red Wedge.

  2. Arnald – glib answer: because it’s pretty hard to nuke people without a delivery system.

    Less glib answer: because we can’t uninvent atomic weapons. They’re here to stay, we may yet again face an unfriendly regime which is armed with them, so it would be foolish for us not to have nukes.

  3. Think Arnald asked a very pertinent question, there. It’s not about whether the UK needs a nuclear capability. It’s whether it needs Trident as a delivery system for one.
    My own view would be that Trident has bugger all to do with giving the UK nuclear capability. It’s a way of providing outdoor relief for the UK defense industry & a lot of blokes in dark blue uniforms, with gold braid on, jobs. Not to mention their oppos at MoD.
    I’m not sure whether a SLIBNM ever had a useful role in UK defense policy. It does for the US because it’s a high rung on a threat ladder has some rungs below it. Unlike the US, the UK couldn’t survive a limited nuclear exchange. Too small. Too densely populated. So nuclear’s a binary, use/not use choice.

  4. “If a nuke was launched at the UK, what would happen?”

    Depends on who’s in power. Were it Thatch the country that launched it would find themselves a smoking hole in the ground. Corbyn on the other hand would probably make a hippy circle and sing Kumbaya or something.

  5. When Corbyn became Labour leader I gladly joined in the general hilarity. It was blindingly obvious it would all end in tears.

    What has shocked me though, is just how quickly all the far-left idiots that suddenly find themselves listened to by the media are turning on one another – vid. Livingstone’s remarks about Jones’ mental health. They can’t even keep themselves in check for a few weeks.

    Nasty people, being nasty to one another.

  6. Depends on how many nukes detonated, their yield and the location. The explosive difference between a small bomb and the biggest is several magnitudes. Hiroshima size one would take out a few city blocks, the Tsar bomb would take out East Anglia.

    The whole point of Trident is as a deterrent, as you already know. I’d agree that with Corbyn as our leader it would be utterly pointless as he’ll tell everyone he’d never use it anyway. Which is yet another reason why he would be insane to chose as a leader.

  7. “Arnald

    If a nuke was launched at the UK, what would happen?”

    A sophisticated and top secret defence system would divert them to Guernsey.

    Or to a shed in Downham Market.

  8. “The whole point of Trident is as a deterrent”
    Deterring what?
    Trident is a counterstrike weapon. Top rung on the MAD ladder. Except in a USSR context, UK Trident couldn’t deliver the MA. Just the D.
    There is a nuclear scenario, in European Ground War, sees low yield nuclear neutralising UK based military assets. But the UK would be under the NATO (meaning US) nuclear shield in that scenario. Not unilaterally ramping up to full MAD.

  9. less chance of being nuked if the “nuker” can also be a “nukee”.

    Agree it sounds pointless, it was not called mad for nothing.

    Si vis pacem, para bellum and all that.

  10. Bloke in Spain – It’s whether it needs Trident as a delivery system for one

    So, we need nukes. If we have nukes, we need a delivery system for those nukes. There are three major options here:

    * Land-based
    * Sea-based
    * Air-based

    We don’t want land-based nukes because they’re too easy to see and knock out with a first strike.

    Same with air-launched nukes, which have the additional downside of requiring a fleet of sophisticated heavy bomber planes that we just don’t have. (We could launch small tactical nukes from our planes, but we’re talking strategic deterrence here)

    So we put them at sea.

    We could mount them on surface vessels, but that means every Tom, Dick and Ivan with a spy sat or just a bloke sitting on the Portsmouth seaside can see where our strategic weapons are, which makes them as vulnerable as ground-based systems.

    Subs are better, because they’re a lot harder to track.

    Given that we want submarine-based nukes, our options are:

    1) Trident.
    2) We spend many billions more building our own rockets to replace Trident.
    3) We buy/lease the French equivalent of Trident.

    Of these, Trident offers the most boom for our buck.

  11. Arnald – one could argue that the existence of nuclear capabilities ensured that the cold war stayed cold given that there were enough gung-ho idealistic nut jobs in positions of power on both sides. Perhaps the net result of our nuclear deterrent was relative peace and security since the end of WW2.

  12. This would be Ken Livingstone, walking political disaster area.

    Someone questions his appointment, so he responds by sneering that they are mad and that the query was ‘offensive’.

    Truly, the Nasty Party.

  13. Arnold. If the UK ever gets nuked we know deterrence has failed. The job of Trident is to stop people nuking us or being able to threaten us with nukes.

    Everyday the UK isn’t nuked deterrence has worked. Since you can’t prove a negative I can’t demonstrate the mushroom clouds prevented but you can’t show it didn’t stop any.

    There are enough countries out there with a historic grudge against Britain that would gain huge domestic kudos humbling us with nuclear blackmail. Trident is our insurance and is the cheapest around.

    What I don’t get with the isolationit left is that they want to give up Trident AND the US alliance. Yet without one the other is more important.

    The other thing is just days after saying on TV he won’t shoot terrorists even if they were in the act, Corbyn reinforces his weak on national security credentials by putting Livingston on this review. Couldn’t it have waited?

  14. Arnald: Compared to socialism–which the whole world would be better off without and better still had it never existed–nukes are good.

    Also–in regard of the cowardly bollocks about what would happen if the UK got nuked. A LOT OF PEOPLE WOULD DIE OR BE HORRIBLY INJURED. There –does that answer your faux question?. Cos the only thing worse than that would be just that but nothing happens to the twats who nuked us cos socialist traitors and cowards had disarmed us.

  15. @ Steve
    Can you explain what likely threat to the UK, in 2015, the required response would be a megatonne range sea launched ICBM? Remember. If the adversary has a detect & engage capability comparable to what you’ve outlined above, that’s a full inventory launch of muliple MIRV capable weapons. Because you won’t have a second strike option available for that boat. Post launch, you won’t have a boat.

  16. Arnald,

    Your logic is that if we got nuked then we’d be nuked regardless. That’s a pretty pointless argument.

    The MAD argument is that it prevents the nuking and total war. We cannot prove it because we don’t have a parallel universe against which we can compare but given history it seems to have worked.

  17. So has this responsibility been taken away from Maria Eagle because she’s a woman, or because she might come up with the ‘wrong’ answer?

  18. Isn’t it odd that while the UK, the US and Israel are frequently castigated for their possession of nuclear weapons, France never is? I even know of one person who was astonished that France actually possessed any. Yet it has a huge arsenal. In France it barely registers as a political issue.

    Maybe it is the standard French cringe of the middle class English Left, I don’t know. Still, odd.

  19. @BiS,

    The problem is not what the threat is in 2015, but if there could be a return to a Soviet-style threat, or even an entirely new and unforseen threat between now and 2035 or even longer.

    And once you’ve given up a capability like that, it’s very hard to get it back.

    I suspect that should Isis or any other similar nutters get their mitts on a nuke and detonate it in a nuclear-equipped country that a SLBL in the megaton range could indeed be an appropriate response.

  20. there are lots of ex-generals and the like who are against renewing Trident. And people like Max Hastings. It’s not all lefties who think it’s a waste of money.

    (not convinced some of the above commentators have an entirely consistent position on desirability of massive centralised state tax funded spending)

  21. Bloke in Spain – Can you explain what likely threat to the UK, in 2015, the required response would be a megatonne range sea launched ICBM?

    Sure, but I don’t know what the likely threat would be in 2025 or 2035.

    In 2015 the threat would be a nuclear-armed state like Russia going to war in western Europe.

    Far fetched? Thankfully, yes – Russia is unlikely to attack us. But defence posture shouldn’t be based on a potential adversary’s intentions, it should be based on his capabilities. Intentions can change overnight.

    As long as the Russkies and others have the capability to strike the UK with nukes, we should retain a credible deterrent.

  22. there are lots of ex-generals and the like who are against renewing Trident.

    They’d rather the money was spent on army stuff.

  23. What would be the disadvantage of replacing Trident with a fleet of attack submarines that [i]also[/i] carried nuclear warhead cruise missiles…?

    A sort of BOGOF approach…?

    PS I miss the preview facility too…

  24. Luis: (not convinced some of the above commentators have an entirely consistent position on desirability of massive centralised state tax funded spending)

    As far as I’m concerned, the government has two main jobs that trump all others. Justice/Law and Defence. The fact that we spend so little of our cash on these and so much on other useless stuff is what annoys me (although some of the spending on defence seems to be a bit questionable).

  25. Bloke in Costa Rica

    bis: Trident warheads are in the hundred of kilotons class. The RN’s missiles are capable of being MIRVed but currently are not in general (one warhead per missile). Any adversary capable of detecting the launch position of a submarine and then delivering either an immediate counterstrike or having sufficient ASW assets in the area to sink it is going to be on a very short list of possibles (currently numbering either zero or one, I am not sure).

  26. BiS,

    One case where it’s rumoured with good confidence that deterrence worked, was 1991: Saddam Hussein very definitely had a lot of working chemical weapons at that point. He was, it’s said, politely informed that if he used “weapons of mass effect” (usually assumed to mean CBRN – only the ‘N’ actually does serious destruction) then that would invite retaliation in kind: he starts throwing nerve and vesicant agents around, and some of his high-value facilities and targets get buckets of instant sunshine dumped onto them in return. Did it work? Well, he had the chemical weapons but he didn’t use them…

    Trident is a moderately inflexible beast, but the UK boats’ loadout is described as about 48 warheads, averaging three per missile (the D5 missiles can carry eight) with a variety of yields; so there’s the option for anything from a single strike of a few kilotons upwards; and it has the great advantage of being effectively unstoppable by anything except the ABM complex around metropolitan Moscow.

  27. Bloke in Cyprus,

    Three drawbacks to nuclear-armed cruise missiles. Firstly, they’re significantly easier to shoot down en route than ICBMs, reducing your confidence in the deterrent.

    Secondly, they’re problematic under arms control treaties (from memory the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty): the US withdrew TLAM-N in its various flavours in 1991 for that reason.

    Thirdly, and linked to #2, they’re escalatory in the same way that the mooted conventionally-armed ICBMs are – if a weapon launch is a “possible nuclear…” then there’s severe tension and pressure. Life is simpler when surface-launched cruise missiles are conventional and ICBMs are nuclear.

  28. On the basis of current known knowns, balance of probabilities, Trident appears superfluous to requirements. But then when we ordered the two carriers in an effort to keep the denizens of Rosyth in employment I thought the same there too. Now it looks as though at least one of the carriers will spend a fair amount of its service life on manoeuvres in the middle-east and offshore Africa and may well turn out to have been a sound investment. In 20 years’ time we will doubtless think the same about Trident. And anyway, as boys’ toys go Trident’s the biz – I’d buy one.

  29. but if there could be a return to a Soviet-style threat,

    What do you mean “return to”, have you not noticed that under Putin the desire to invade neighboring countries and convert them to the Russian cause has not perceptively diminished?

    Nukes will stop Putin bothering us.

    Admittedly I doubt they’ll stop Iran, but once we get ABMs back under development then we’ll have to stick with what we’ve got.

    The question should be why we still have tanks (although we have more horses than tanks nowadays).

  30. It’s sort of like the question of whether we really need prisons. The theory is that prisons deter crime, but if some guy tries to murder your granny, does the existence of prisons somehow prevent him?

    No, obviously not. So we don’t need prisons, and can get rid of them all forthwith.

    It is this sort of thinking that made the British Left what it is.

  31. “Now it looks as though at least one of the carriers will spend a fair amount of its service life on manoeuvres in the middle-east and offshore Africa and may well turn out to have been a sound investment.”
    Except the sort of floating airfield that would suffice for that would correspond to the carriers got scrapped in the sixties in favour of the last lot got scrapped. Big carriers capable of handling fixed wing aircraft. What were needed for the Falklands.
    The new carriers are the answer to a requirement to counter a Soviet threat to the North Atlantic. So they’ll be bombing Toyota pickups with £200m F35 S/VTOL’s at f**k knows how much per flying hour.

  32. Mutters. Bloody ignorance. “What do you mean that it’s all Top Secret?”

    They’re still bloody ignorant. Possibly for a good reason.

    It is a geo-strategic decisIon for HMG whether to play the big-bangs game or not. To date, everybody who had actually had access to the info has agreed to play the game.

    For the UK, if you choose to play the game, small island syndrome makes SLBM the only option. If you choose SLBM, we’re stuck with the Yanks (ie Trident 2 / D5) or the Frogs with M51.

    Personally, it’s not my problem any more. I deal with less discriminatory stuff nowadays.

  33. Bloke in Spain,

    “Trident is a counterstrike weapon. Top rung on the MAD ladder. Except in a USSR context, UK Trident couldn’t deliver the MA. Just the D.”

    I’m a bit ambivalent about Trident. But not for the reasons of Corbyn but just because, well, if Italy or South Korea aren’t bothering to get nukes, why are we keeping them? Are we facing a more imminent threat of attack than South Korea, or closer to home, other NATO members like Italy or Canada? I’d even argue that people like Corbyn are a major reason we still have them – no-one who is a non-peacenik twat wants to even suggest that maybe we don’t need them, because they don’t want to be lumped with the peacenik twats.

    The best case for Trident is that France has nukes and is next door. Or that we are an island and that Trident can act as a deterrent against being blockaded.

    The real reasons we are renewing Trident is, that we’ve always had nukes, that it makes us still feel like a major world power, and as you say, that it keeps defence jobs.

  34. Jim Hacker and Sir Humphrey discussed this decades ago
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyJh3qKjSMk

    It is a pity though that cost is a prime consideration. The affordability of farm subsidies, trident, pensions, a super-duper surface Navy and Army, membership of the EU and foreign aid is not debated on the merits of their benefits to the UK, but whether we can afford them. Because the UK public has to work until the 11th January just to generate enough taxes to pay debt interest for the government, so we’re a little constrained.

  35. Andrew Carey,

    My main reason I don’t mind if have it is that actually, the cost is relatively small – about £5bn a year. And I know people can piss and moan about how many nurses that would buy, but I notice that none of them ever complain about how many nurses the IT Spine would have bought, or how many nurses we could have if we cut the wasteful spending on international aid, or how many nurses Kids Company cost us.

    Trident is about the only time that you’ll get the left talking about cost rather than seeing the state as a magic money tree.

  36. (skipped a lot of comments)

    A better process would be to go through the options.
    Fo we want to make the political decision that we want to have a nuclear deterrent?
    Given that we have decided we want to have a nuclear deterrant, do we want that to be Tridant?
    Given that we have decided we want it to be Tridant, do we want it to be the replacement version of the current Trident?
    etc.

    For instance, the current Tridant is four systems so that one can be operational, one can be refitted, one can be ready for deployment and one spare. There is plenty of argument to say that with modern engineering we can operate with three, refits can be done efficiently enough nowadays that we don’t need the fourth spare, there will always be the “ready for deployment” ready to be deployed when the “active” comes back to base to be relieved.

  37. The reason why the UK has an “independent” nuclear deterrent is that we do not know what the future holds and relying on just the US/NATO shield might not be sensible. Given the lead times on nuke development this is not an unreasonable position.

    This is what has spurred others to develop nukes and why the current nuclear power hang on to theirs. OTOH people seem pretty blase about civil liberties and government snooping – although I suppose the argument is that in the latter case it would be the UK government rather than a hostile foreign one.

    I find it absurd that the likes of CND still exist and that they are not excoriated for their idiotic position during the Cold War. The most generous view of them is stupid gullible morons, the worst that they are traitorous fifth columnists. Corbyn falls somewhere between them.

    Do we need Trident now? No. Is it possible we may need it in the future, possibly. Could we replace it with cruise missile launched weapons? Possibly but it would limit credibility and options.

    Why do generals not like it? Because they would rather have tanks or PBI. Ditto the RAF. Surface navy admirals would prefer destroyers and frigates. In reality the option value of having Trident (or a similar nuclear deterrent) is so large that the UK is likely to continue with it for the forseeable future.

  38. So Much For Subtlety

    The Stigler – “if Italy or South Korea aren’t bothering to get nukes, why are we keeping them? Are we facing a more imminent threat of attack than South Korea”

    South Korea has twice tried to start a nuclear weapons programme. They have twice been stopped by the US.

    “The best case for Trident is that France has nukes and is next door. Or that we are an island and that Trident can act as a deterrent against being blockaded.”

    The French base their nuclear weapons to strike Britain. It is worth keeping in mind.

    “The real reasons we are renewing Trident is, that we’ve always had nukes, that it makes us still feel like a major world power, and as you say, that it keeps defence jobs.”

    And because if we gave them up we would never be allowed to build them again.

  39. So Much For Subtlety

    ken – “Why do generals not like it? Because they would rather have tanks or PBI. Ditto the RAF. Surface navy admirals would prefer destroyers and frigates.”

    Actually the Generals want to spend money on everything but tanks and PBI. Which is why they are abolishing the historic regiments and we now have more Generals (and Brigadiers) than tanks. That is, the Generals are interested in feathering their own nests, not defending the realm. The RAF is no better. And the Navy now has more Admirals than surface ships.

    We need a thorough re-think of defence policy. We should start by firing all the people in charge of it now. Civil and uniform.

  40. SE

    “For the UK, if you choose to play the game, small island syndrome makes SLBM the only option. If you choose SLBM, we’re stuck with the Yanks (ie Trident 2 / D5) or the Frogs with M51.”

    The curious thing for me is why, for the frogs, the M51 was an option … particularly when they still have the forces aérienne stratégiques as well. How do they afford all this for themselves? Unlike some arms projects, they’re not making anything from selling on to foreign customers (though it’s feasible Britain might do some business with them at some point in the future). Do they just shell out loads of cash on this stuff? Would it truly be impossible for the Brits to do their own thing, or is it just that the political and economic logic is against it?

  41. ” Could we replace it (Trident) with cruise missile launched weapons? Possibly but it would limit credibility and options.”

    This what I don’t follow. The Trident system is a final resort weapon. Counterstrike after nuclear attack. It really has no other role. In a confrontation with a capable power, say Russia, it’s full inventory or nothing because post launch the platform’s going to have enough problems evading being sunk to get a second strike away. In a strike against a less capable adversary – say Iran – the missile itself could be launched from the lake in Green Park, with the PM himself pushing the button. The submarine’s just a very expensive way of carrying missile launchers.
    Given that Putin’s Russia is not actually any direct threat to the UK. He’s not going to by-pass the whole of Western Europe to land troops on Brighton Beach. Why are we preparing for a unilateral conflict with it?

  42. Two questions (I don’t know the answers):

    – how long could we keep Trident working for if the US withdrew co-operation?

    – how confident are we that if Cameron pressed the button in defiance of US wishes, the missiles would actually fire?

  43. So Much For Subtlety

    Social Justice Warrior – “– how long could we keep Trident working for if the US withdrew co-operation?”

    That is a fascinating question. Some time probably. Of course the accuracy might be degraded a little. The Iranians are hardly the world’s greatest industrial power, but they managed to keep their F-14s flying.

    “– how confident are we that if Cameron pressed the button in defiance of US wishes, the missiles would actually fire?”

    About 100%. For a long time Britain did not even bother with PALs. Which meant that if the captain wanted to fire them without Cameron’s permission he could have.

  44. We rent the missiles from the US so if they withdrew cooperation they might want their toys back too.

    The ‘how independent is it anyway?’ argument is in my opinion the best argument the anti-Trident crowd have. My response to it never sits well with them mind.

  45. What has shocked me though, is just how quickly all the far-left idiots that suddenly find themselves listened to by the media are turning on one another

    Why? The left always end up eating their own.

    They all want to be The Great Leader, and There Can Be Only One.

    For a long time Britain did not even bother with PALs. Which meant that if the captain wanted to fire them without Cameron’s permission he could have.

    To be fair, reportedly the US military set their launch codes to 0000000 until they were forced to change them in the 1970s. Just in case they had to launch them and couldn’t get the codes from the guy with the briefcase.

  46. Given that Putin’s Russia is not actually any direct threat to the UK. He’s not going to by-pass the whole of Western Europe to land troops on Brighton Beach.

    The issue is that Putin might threaten to do it, and having nukes stops him.

    “Hi Mr British PM, we’re just sending a few thousand troops into Poland (again), and if you intervene we’ll by-pass the whole of Western Europe and land troops on Brighton Beach.”

    You know, because the setting for Russia in Civilization is Expansionist for a reason.

  47. So apparently the geopolitical understanding for this thread’s Trident supporters is being drawn from Yes Prime Minister and Sid Meier’s Civilization series. Great, that makes this Trident supporter feel like he’s in such great company.

  48. Further to SMFS answers:

    how long could we keep Trident working for if the US withdrew co-operation?

    Complete withdrawal and 100% functional? On the order of five years depending on the precise current level of stores. It wouldn’t be the missiles that would be the first thing to go, by a long chalk. But that’s all the comment you get on the inter-tubes.

    how confident are we that if Cameron pressed the button in defiance of US wishes, the missiles would actually fire?

    Cameron wouldn’t have to press anything, and it’s not a button anyway. As SMFS said, it’s 100%. We were pretty sure that we could manage a 16 missile ripple from Polaris in 1996 with the requisite number of thermonuclear bangs at the other end, and the boats were pushing 30 years old then.

  49. > That truth is found in comedy doesn’t make it any less true.

    To be clear, I’m not worried about people referring to the “nuclear weapon that Harrods would sell you” bit, but rather the “we keep nukes because of the French” bit. It’s a funny joke, but sometimes a joke is just a joke: I am pretty certain that neither we nor the French have a nuclear stance fitted to the circumstances of Agincourt.

    (And, to draw across from another thread: if we did, then how would it make us different from IS with its rhetoric that dates back to the Crusades?)

  50. “Hi Mr British PM, we’re just sending a few thousand troops into Poland (again), and if you intervene we’ll by-pass the whole of Western Europe and land troops on Brighton Beach.”

    Sorry, but this is total lunacy. The idea that a British PM is going to unilaterally play nuclear brinkmanship over the security of the Polish border doesn’t bear contemplating. It’s a gamble with no upsides..

  51. So Much For Subtlety

    Philip Walker – “To be clear, I’m not worried about people referring to the “nuclear weapon that Harrods would sell you” bit, but rather the “we keep nukes because of the French” bit.”

    Why do you think it is a joke? The French keep their nuclear missiles at Luxeuil Air Base, Istres Air Base and Avord Air Base. Luxeuil is intended to deter anyone crossing the Fulda Gap. Near the German border. Istres is in the far south and so aimed at France’s former colonies. Avord is in central France, so is a general reserve. They are going to station some a little bit back from the eastern border at Saint-Dizier as well – that is, aimed at Germany.

    However they also keep some at Landivisiau. Which is a convenient five minute flight from London.

    They don’t think it is funny.

  52. We want an independent nuclear deterrent because WWIII isn’t likely to last three years while we wait for the Yanks to join in.
    Admittedly they took less than three years in WWII but that was only because Germany declared war on them so they didn’t have a choice.
    The same reason why France has a nuclear deterrent.
    Ukraine doesn’t have one. Nor did Tibet.

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