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Trident debate reopens

Nick Robinson | 12:10 UK time, Tuesday, 17 March 2009

You may have thought that Gordon Brown was too busy trying to save the world's economy to have much time for anything else. Think again.

Gordon BrownToday, the prime minister is offering to cut the number of warheads on our Trident submarines as part of an effort to kick-start the latest round of nuclear non-proliferation talks.

The number of warheads on Trident has halved since Labour came to power and the prime minister says he's ready to look at further cuts.

The numbers involved are likely to be limited. The real prize, for those sceptical about Trident, is to cancel the thing altogether or to reduce the number of submarines from four to a lower number. That would involve co-operation with the old enemy. No, not Russia. I'm talking about France.

There is no sign of that - but, in days when people are looking for more money to be saved for the public coffers, when there is a new atmosphere in the world thanks to the arrival of President Obama and when the Russian bear shows some signs of being tamed, perhaps this will be a moment when the debate about Trident reopens once again.

UPDATE, 14:18: There is little new in today's offer of a "grand global bargain" except the context and, as someone once said, context is all.

The 2006 defence White Paper [pdf] in which the government said they would renew Trident said:

"In this White Paper we are announcing a further 20% cut in our operationally available warheads. This leaves the deterrent fully functioning, with fewer than 160 warheads, but it means Britain continues to set an example for others to follow in our commitment to work towards a peaceful, fairer and safer world without nuclear weapons."

However, the arrival of Obama and the softening of Russia means that there is a new optimism about the possibility of renewing the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

One other bit of context. The fight is on for soft liberal votes. David Cameron pitches for them by protesting about torture whilst Gordon Brown does it by outlining a more progressive foreign policy.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Oh well there's a surprise! Our Gordon wakes up to the blindingly obvious. Trident is a total waste of public money, cannot be afforded and the upgrade should not even be contemplated. But why bin a bad policy on the basis of economic prudence when, with a bit of imagination, you can dress it up as a magnanimous gesture to the wider world and boost your image as a global saviour?

  • Comment number 2.

    The whole issue re Trident missile submarines is so obfuscated by the past that we must go back to the 1950s to discover why we are lumbered with this archaic unusable system.

    The whole arguement was raised by the RAF who wanted to use "v" bombers to deliver nuclear bombs, the SSBN was used by the RN as a riposte to this.

    So this is in fact the tail wagging the RN dog.
    We will never use this awful weapon it does not help soldiers in the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan. It does not help RAF defence of the UK as we have less true air defence capability than ever before and it does not help the RN as we have less Strategic power projection than before.

    The nuclear deterent is a throwback to the dark days of the cold war. It did not prevent Argentina invading the Falklands, in fact it was John Notts defence cutbacks that led the Argentinians to think we would not fight for those barren rocks.
    Would 1000 men have lost their lives if instead of scrapping Ark Royal and Hermes and selling Invincible to the Australians, he had mothballed the Resolution class ssbn.

    The nuclear deterent is a complete failure and its only a misguided sense of over inflated ego that prevents doing the sensible thing and scrapping it immediately and replacing it with more and better equipped conventional defensive forces.

  • Comment number 3.

    Probably looking to save money whilst ostensibly giving out a moral directive to the rest of the world.

  • Comment number 4.

    Well since the economy has been devastated by Labour, why not try something else?

    Distract the electorate.

    We need a new government.

    Will they get a pension for failure too?

  • Comment number 5.

    Another utterly transparent attempt by Gordon Brown to create some dividing lines between themselves and the tories.

    Doomed to fall spectacularly on its face like every other initiative this bungling oaf announces.

    Doubtless he has forgotten to consult with the relevant authorities and it will soon be unearthed as ill thought through, unaffordable or just plain daft.

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 6.

    Oh my God, will someone just put this party out of it's misery. Maybe Gordon wants to get on the front cover of a Marvel comic. The Joker, the Riddler anyone will do. I am sick to death of all of this playing to the crowd stuff. He drives me nuts. Roll on the election.

  • Comment number 7.

    Trident's retention is just as important now as it was twenty years ago. There is now a greater threat than ever with fundementalist Islam gradually taking hold across the globe. Iran will soon have nuclear weapons in spite of their protestations of innocence and Pakistan, who have nuclear weapons, is now on the verge of losing any semblence of democracy and falling into the hands of the Taleban. In the far east , N.Korea is still a danger to the region while it's failing government is capable of any kind of irrational act to hang on to power. China also which governs only by the power and size of it's army cannot be considered anything other than a threat to the rest of the world,it could at any time tear itself and it's neighbours apart in bloody revolution, especially now when they may be hit by the depression gripping the rest of the world. The deterrent of Trident and it's submarines is a guarantee of our safety and sovereignty and must be retained whatever the loony left think.

  • Comment number 8.

    Is there no 'pie' which Crash can't get his fingers into and mess about in!

    I'm half expecting him to be in my shed at the bottom of the garden throwing stuff about to make it look like he's doing something useful!

  • Comment number 9.

    We can't afford it. Send that message out and we would believe him more.

  • Comment number 10.

    Oh the irony.

    Gordon Brown trying to save the Worlds Economy.

    Wasn't he part of the Old order who caused this?

    Come on Nick these sublimal messages they are not working.

    Call an Election

  • Comment number 11.

    Yes trident is waste of money. But can we trust the government to spend any savings on the best kit our troops deserve and on sensible programs like the delayed Navy carriers - plus the jets to go on them. All we have seen is the armed forces sent to do Blair's and Brown's dirty work. On what basis did we go into Iraq; 45 mins to launch weapons of mass destruction.. ah remember those promises of 1997 a new way, open government, no cover-ups

  • Comment number 12.

    Brown is a desparate man. He has nothing to lose. This is a very dangerous state of affairs.

    The current figures being thrown around for trident are (I understand) for the replacement of the submarines only - the current missiles are fine and will just be moved on to them.

    I don't understand how you can say that Russia has been tamed -- polomium poisionings, held to ransom over gas... things are looking shakier in russia than at any time since gladnost.

    Brown (at the end of his useless premiership) is not the man to be making these decisions. His judgement has finally been revealed as totally flawed ever since he became chancellor.

    His meddling intervention even managed to screw up the one aparantly good move of giving the bank of england independance.

    Brown is just keeping the PMs seat warm - he should behave like the lame duck that he is, and keep away from stewardship questions like nuclear defence.

  • Comment number 13.

    Will someone pleeeeease put Gordon out of our misery!

  • Comment number 14.

    Today, the prime minister is offering to cut the number of warheads on our Trident submarines as part of an effort to kick-start the latest round of nuclear non-proliferation talks.


    Kick-start the latest round of nuclear non-proliferation *rse!

    GB needs the cash to get him out of the financial mess he helped create elsewhere by borrowing recklessly.

    I am not even going to entertain you with your smoke screen coverage of whether trident is good or trident is bad.

    The fact is, GB cannot afford to continue to commit to it!

  • Comment number 15.

    In the safe of each Trident submarine is a sealed letter from the Prime Minister.

    In the event that the submarine can no longer contact Blighty, on the assumption that we no longer exist due to a nuclear holocaust, then the captain must open the letter and follow the instructions therein.

    I have no idea what those instructions are, but rationally, they would probably say 'just head for any place where there might still be our people alive e.g. Australia or New Zealand, and decommission yourselves'.

    In my opinion, this specific nuclear game is something that has been kept going mainly by 'British' politicians who desire a 'big stick' to wield at the top political tables.

    It is probably far too expensive for this country to maintain as a so-called 'independent' deterrent, which almost certainly needs American permission to launch anyway.

    We should amalgamate the whole thing with the French and bring it under EU Governmental control and funding.

    But political rationality never seems to surface in the nuclear weapons debate.

  • Comment number 16.

    If he really wants rid of Trident, I can think of a nice place he can stick it. Preferably somewhere where the sun don't shine.

  • Comment number 17.

    What a load of hogwash.

    This has nothing to do with arms reduction and everything to do with Britain being Broke.

    The USSR did the same thing as the union fell bankrupt and unable to keep up with the USA arms spend

  • Comment number 18.

    Furthermore, nuclear weapons are no guarantee whatsoever against people who 'love death' as we love life.

    For example, Islamo-fascists.

    Launching these nuclear weapons could only occur after the deterrent has failed, therefore they will not be used.

    So, in reality, they do not actually need to exist, except as an illusion for any potential 'enemies'.

    Would save an awful lot of time, energy and money for more productive uses.

  • Comment number 19.

    What can't he see the light about other pet projects e.g. ID Cards, IT in Health which cost a fortune and have an extremely dubious business case!

  • Comment number 20.

    Kaybraes, can you please explain rationally how having a force of 4 trident SSBN will protect the UK against an ill use the countries you have listed,
    Iran, Pakistan, N.Korea and China.

    Iran if its going to nuke anyone would attack Israel first, rather than the uk.
    Pakistan will attack India.
    N.Korea would attack S.korea
    oh and Chinas major weapon is her economic strength, do you not know that the army has an economic warfare department, in any planned attack they would buy shares in commodities that would rise in value using shell companies etc.

    Nuclear weapons are rubbish, so c20th.

  • Comment number 21.

    Is Mr Brown playing politics with our nuclear deterance now? If he is making an earnest attempt at reducing the number of warheads in the world then good on him. However I really do worry if he is merely doing this as a stunt to recover in domestic polls- saving the world banking system at G20, now time for the nuclear bomb. Mr Brown saves the day again.. please doing a good thing for the wrong motives invariably results in it backfiring. Karma, my friends karma.


    Yes, I agree Trident is a large waiste of money being spent on technologies that we will never really use in the event of the type of warfare we now face fighting. However, so long as our global rivals have bombs we need them as well, not because they may attack, but because we need the leverage in non-proliferation talks.

  • Comment number 22.

    Dear Nick,

    Big news would be the proposed cut in Trident to save money, but GB has to have a possitive spin of 'World Hero'!

    Now what about KV and his letter? Any response from you or is it not in 'party' intrested?

  • Comment number 23.


    "We should amalgamate the whole thing with the French and bring it under EU Governmental control and funding."

    Absolutely, we need to integrate our mutual nuclear deterence in the way you outline. It will help carry foward the European ideal of no more war in Europe, but also it will reduce the financial burden on each member state.

    I am deeply pleased to hear that John, thats a great sugestion!

  • Comment number 24.

    This is not about the welfare of our country or the an effort to de-nuclearise the world as GB has tried to dress it up as. This is a cost cutting measure.

    Once again spin has got the better of GB. How can Trident be 'right' decision for this country last year, but a watered down version this. I wish this bunch would just tell the truth. If it is to save money then say so.

    If Crash is trying to save money then scrap ID cards as well. That'll save another 20billion of our hard earned (or is it borrowed?) cash.

  • Comment number 25.

    How can this man stubbornly refuse to call an election when he knows that the people he professess to serve despise him utterly.

    It should be a criminal offence for him to be putting his self interest above the interest of the country.

    We are entitled to chose our Prime Minister, AND OUR CHOSEN PRIME MINISTER IS NOT THAT USELESS, ARROGANT FOOL.

    Call an election. I am on the point of marchign down the street to Westminster in protest, by myself if need be. This man has no right to continue damaging the country.

  • Comment number 26.

    It is so embarrassing to see Brown trying to do this Obama stuff. He doesn't quite get it does he. He is the past. Now let me repeat that (just because I want to) He is the past. There is nothing, he or his party can do to alter that. Where does he get off imagining that he can all of a sudden muscle-in on what Obama's crowd is trying to do with Russia? Does he have any sense of shame? He is a nobody, a spent force, a has-been, a shambles, a disgrace, a bumbling fool in the company of other bumbling fools. New Labour have run out of ideas, (not that they ever had any decent ones to start with) they have run out of steam, they are bankrupt, clumsy and a laughing stock.

  • Comment number 27.

    #2 Very true! It was the Atlee government which made the decision to go nuclear in the 1940's mainly for reason of national machismo. By the early 1960's it was obvious that the cost of being a strategic nucelar power was becoming too great for Britain to develop indigenous weapon systems so the only option was to buy American. Originally the Macmillan government wanted to buy the Skybolt air launched missile but JFK cancelled that project leaving the option as Polaris. SLBM's are very expensive to develop and need a huge support infrastructure, in hindsight Macmillan should have perhaps reduced Britain's nuclear capability to tactical nuclear systems as the West Germans and the Italians at the time had, but again national machismo won the day!

    Polaris came with a very hefty price tag and this expenditure was one of the reasons cited by Denis Healy for the cancellation of the RN's CVA-01 full size carriers in the mid 1960's. Had we had 2 of them in 1982 as had been planned , the Falklands would either never have happened or would have been a much more clear cut affair! (How ironic that if Healy hadn't taken that decision then Thatcher may never have had the Falklands factor to campaign on in 1983, she would probably still have won the election but with a lesser majority, but that's a debate for another day!) Staying in the strategic nuclear game has distorted our defence policy and denied our front line of badly needed resources.

    I do believe that it is right to have a nuclear deterrent but I don't believe that it should be a case of Trident or nothing. There are other options such as cruise missiles, the RAF's Storm Shadow and the RN's Tomahawk missiles could be adapted. These would be significantly cheaper to operate, would have non-nuclear versions for use in other conflicts and would be appropriate to the level of threat that we now face. Does anyone really think we would be facing a unilateral nuclear war with Iran or North Korea?

    And as for Gordon's posturing today? No one will take any notice!

  • Comment number 28.

    Someone should start a new online petition to see Brown call an election. i believe the last one in 2007 attracted quite a few thousand signatures, I expect a new one would attract a few hundred thousand. Then he would no longer be able to hide.

    I would do it myself if only I knew how.

  • Comment number 29.


    "Nuclear weapons are rubbish, so c20th."

    I agree. They are a relic of MAD (see doc strange love.. stanley Kubrick was a genius).

    Again, we should make a step towards non-proliferation by doing as JohnConstable said. Amalgamate nuclear policies at an EU level. Then get an EU foreign policy rep. to represent the whole of the EU in non-proliferation discussions. It is easier to get consensus and agreement when you reduce the number of players at the discussion table.

  • Comment number 30.


    Any chance he'll do the same with the ID card scheme, an equally pointless waste of billions of pounds of OUR money which won't achieve any of its ostensible aims?

    Or is the bonanza for consultancy firms too large for the Government to contemplate scrapping them?

  • Comment number 31.


    "Trident's retention is just as important now as it was twenty years ago."

    i.e. not at all!

  • Comment number 32.

    Reducing the number of warheads will have little tangible effect in fact it will make each warhead more expensive to produce....

    The Submarine that carry;s them and the rocket they are mounted on make up the vast majority of the costs......

    Whether we need a deterant or not is a moot point but while it has been in place there has been no willingness for escallation to nuclear war to take place,but the balance of power is shifting and the people who are now likely to get there hands on and use nuclear weapons are not the old school countries but the up and coming ones who openly defy treatys and make there own rules for the game.

    IMO this is just about getting a few voters nothing to do with saving money,the labour party fought tooth and nail against the nuclear industry holding it back for years and leaving us at the mercy of the energy companies,Nulabour are untrustworthy on any all long term policies and have been shown to be unable to regulate to provide a better country for all of us....the sooner the election comes the better, its dithering about that costs money OUR money !!

    I have this feeling that if nuclear weapons were heading for our country at this minute,we have a PM incapable of making a decision about what we should do,and he would have to set up a quango to discuss options.......well Gordon that would be a little too late !!!!

  • Comment number 33.

    This decision is going to be extremely difficult because we have fudged so many other issues that should have been faced a long time ago. We've not upheld the NPT, and have allowed Israel to develop nuclear weapons.

    We should have progressed and developed the ideals of the UN - instead we've allowed it to become a cynical instrument of the US/UK. There was a golden opportunity after Russia dismantled the Warsaw Pact. Russia is just about to commit itself to a new nuclear programme - no doubt prompted by the expansion of NATO borders. We should have decided whether we are 'in' or 'out' of a European Union as well.

    One option would have been to sign up to the European Union, giving up our place on the UN Security Council, along with France, thus allowing an EU seat and an EU nuclear deterrent. Unfortunately, we've decided to remain 'in bed' with the Americans, and as the recent past has shown, crackpots like Bush and Cheney can lead you into all sorts of conflicts. Bush has taught the world some important lessons.

    I understand the current Trident fleet of four submarines will start 'conking-out' from around 2020. The replacement progamme will take 12-15 years. So there's the possibility of having no nuclear deterrent for a short while whatever is decided.

  • Comment number 34.

    Four is the minimum number of boats required to maintain a continuous at sea deterrent, so there is no point trying to reduce the number of hulls and keep Trident.

    If we want to maintain an independent deterrent without Trident then we are in the business of having a bomb we must get ready to deploy when we need it. In that scenario there is the grave danger of inflaming the situation that you have decided to prepare it for, whether you intend to use it or not.

    The argument for retaining it is far more complex than political egos or hypothetical aggressors, but with Medvedevs recent sabre rattling the situation that evolved in the Cold War is obviously not dead and buried.

    As far as cost is concerned the Trident programme is a mere blip compared to the burgeoning welfare state bill or Bank bailouts. Reducing the number of warheads will not trim the cost much either but gives you a slightly better argument where non proliferation is concerned.

    Seems more like a vote/dividing line gambit to me.

  • Comment number 35.

    Spending cuts!

  • Comment number 36.

    I blogged on this very topic here back in January.

    Thanks to Grodon Brown frittering away our money we simply can't afford Trident any more.

    We are not setting out to meet a sophisticated militery threat so we don't need subs circling the polar ice caps.

    Istead we can save money by downgrading to cheaper methods of nuclear weapon delivery.

    Our attack submarines can launch cruise missiles which can be nuclear armed, so why not downsize to that system instead?

  • Comment number 37.

    Spending cuts!

    The country is broke so we're cutting spending!

  • Comment number 38.

    18 & 23

    In principle, absolutely.

    In practise, do you see any possibility of Europe managing to agree on something as contentious as Nuclear weaponry.

  • Comment number 39.

    Spending cuts!

    The country is broke so we're cutting spending!

    Wait a second... why don't we just sell these nuclear weapons to Iran? Not only would we save money, we'd make it.

    Gordon Brown, arms dealer to the Middle East. That has a nice ring to it.

  • Comment number 40.

    Cameron on the BBC, Brown on the Trident.
    Everyone looking to cut costs without getting into the real or unpopular issues.
    Nuclear disarmament? Convenient, but in reality HMG can't afford their upkeep. Have to find more money for the Chinook c*ckup and decent APVs to prevent our troops from getting blown up. Not to mention the new £1.5bn over-budget destroyers.

  • Comment number 41.

    Don't lose them, Gordon, use them.

    People haven't bought the global "financial crisis" line.

    But, they'll buy the global "nuclear armageddon" line, oh yes!

    No need for an election now, nuclear armageddon is on it's way!

    Three cheers for Gordon, may he never face the electorate!

    Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!

  • Comment number 42.

    Never mind Trident, he'll be needing Steradent if half the people on here meet him!

    On the other hand, have we not reduced the number of warheads to a puny level anyway? What we need is more of them.

    What with the old nuclear winter scenario, perhaps the beardies would welcome a limited off in the ME, to save the polar bear like.

    If GB has said sort of sorry, like Fred, will he now resign to spend more time with the voices in his head?

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 44.

    Britain needs to be able to defend itself. Trident is that defence.

    If Brown doesn't get it, he should leave and let someone else do the job.

    You can't trust the cheese eating surrender monkeys.

  • Comment number 45.

    Sod it, scrap our entire military.

    I'm pretty sure we can take the rest of the world on trust to act in our best interest anyway.

    I mean, it worked with the banks didn't it?

  • Comment number 46.


    Thanks gareth, i could not remember what the RAF missle system was going to be called. Kudos to you for better knowledge or at least better research.

    I have to agree regarding tactical nukes, after all, our attack subs could be retrofitted to fire tomahawks with nuclear warheads ( if they dont have this capability already).

    I maintain i would rather have 1 squadron of typhoons, or another battalion of challanger 2s or even another batch of frigates or destroyers rather than Trident.

    Its a question of priorities and this government, with its love of commiting British troops to more and more war zones has got them all wrong.

  • Comment number 47.

    I hope the Americans have been told.

    By the way, what happens if Tom McKillop decides to sue Lord Myners for being accused of concocting an "elaborate ruse" to allow Fred Goodwin to resign with a massively inflated pension? Will Myners have to resign while he defends himself, and who will pay his legal expenses?

    Any idea Nick?

  • Comment number 48.


    This is a somewhat strange posting.

    "the Russian bear shows signs of being tamed"

    Is this the same Russian bear that has announced it's rearmament plan today on the BBC world news page?

    I'm also puzzled by what you mean by your reference to "the old enemy"France ? Are you suggesting that the trident nuclear deterent is to protect us from the French ???

    As for Gordon Brown, it is a well acknowledged aspect of his personality that he can only really think about one thing at a time. He's simply looking to save money to fund the save the world debt tidal wave.

  • Comment number 49.

    If Gordon Brown is looking at reducing military commitments to raise money, perhaps he could privatise the army - or float the navy !

  • Comment number 50.

    The root of the problem centres around this.

    The MOD needs to be reformed root and branch from the very top to the very bottom.

    A decision such as this needs to be taken as part of an all encompassing defence review as to exactly what threats we face, exactly what commitments we have around the world to sovereign dependant territories and to NATO and whether we wish to retain our position in the UNSC as a permanent member, the world greatest paper tiger.

    In the old days of the cold war the decision was easy. Throw money at it, of course we've got to have it.

    Those days are gone. Following the end of the cold war, the peace dividend was managed about as well as RBS under Fred Goodwin. Each of the Service Cheifs was told by the Defence Secretary of the day "cut x amount from your budget. Dont care how you do it, just do it".

    So they did. We lost defence housing, sold off to the Japanese, we lost defence medical services and the four defence hospitals (phased out, staff made redundant) we lost aircraft and marine engineering (outsourced to BAe, tradesmen made redundant), aicraft squadrons cut, radar stations closed, kit allowed to grow old and not replaced.

    But we didnt lose any overseas commitments, in fact we gained some. Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq, Afghanistan, not to mention filling in for striking firemen and heaven knows who else. Army cut to 99000, RAF to 44000, a pale shadow of its former self and the Navy to about 37000. MOD Civil Servants outnumber troops by at least 3 to 1, we have more admirals than ships... its ridiculous and has to stop.

    And what did Gordon give us? A part time Sec Def who was also SecState for Scotland! Idiot....

    Gordon does not have the first clue about defence, nor does he want to. All Gordon cares about is Gordon's re-election to King Of The World.

    The solution is simple. Bin Trident, its another one of the single service chiefs obsessions with big shiny toys to polish their egos. We dont need SSBN's, we need a multi-layered defence capbility to protect the UK... or if our friends north of the border have their way... just England.

    We already have a nuclear deterrent capacity with the TLAM equipped subs and there are more of them. So they cant be used as strategic weapons. Big Deal. We're not players on that kind of scale any more.

    Cut the number of Flag Officers of 1-star rank and above by AT LEAST 60% at a stroke. We do not need them. That would save tens of millions, every year. Cancel the CVA's. Again, we dont need them. What exactly are we going to project and where to? More vessels along the lines of HMS Ocean are required than the carriers.

    Cancel tranche 3 of Eurofighter. Stupendous waste of money. The ones we've bought already cant protect the UK because the Air Defence system has been pruned back beyond measure. See a Sun article about a Tu-160 blackjack getting within 20 miles of Hull before being spotted and turning back. At least two years ago!

    Start bringing the capability to deliver solutions for the forces back INTO the forces rather than outsourcing everything to EDS and civil servants. Train the bloody people in uniform to do it, like they used to. Raise recruitment across all three services.

    And leave the security council. America might still think it is the worlds policeman and has got used to us being its attendant alsatian on a leash... the brain on the chain, so to speak.

    Enough. We're not even a world PCSO. Its not our responsibility any more. The Days of empire are gone. The days of the cold war are gone. If the rest of NATO can think their membership of the organisation is based around hosting the yanks for a few weeks each year and spending the rest of the time loafing around under his nuclear umbrella, then we can do it too.

    As with all government spending, the problem is waste. Not a case of spending more and more and more, but spending what you've got, better.

    And putting people in charge who give a damn and have half a clue about what they are doing, rather than greasy pole climbing yes-men lapdogs who only pee up a politicians leg once they've retired. More Dannatt's, less Stirrup's.

  • Comment number 51.


    "Russian bear shows some signs of being tamed"???

    I suggest that in your next visit to the pub for a gulp of red, you take that nice lady Defence Correspondant with you.

    And let her brief you on just how the "bear is being tamed"..... you might be in for a bit of a shock, me old china.

  • Comment number 52.

    when people are looking for more money to be saved for the public coffers

    Nick, appears that Brown is dictating the agenda, n'est pas?

    Has he now discovered in his Utopian world that the cupboard is bare?

    Why not save the money on ID cards, or is he saying that they will have a much better effect in the new world order?

    I know choices are tough, but since we've shelved the aircraft carriers (and the aircraft), shall we now dispense with the only part of the Navy left?

    And then cut our armed forces?

    Then we can all wave our little pieces of plastic at invading forces

    Just because we will "give up" does not mean others will. I see in other reports that Russia is once more piling money into her defence forces and we will need to calm the hornet's nest stirred by the "War on Terror"

  • Comment number 53.

    How many other countries are following suit?

  • Comment number 54.

    It is rather strange that we should even consider having a nuclear deterrent in this day and age.

    After all, we no longer face mass invasions from foreign parts, the transfer of our native democracy to a European Central Power and economic ruin from falling prey to a global threat, do we?

    Do we?

  • Comment number 55.

    Well the Labour party will only scrap trident's replacement if and when John Hutton realises that he hasn't a hope in hell of retaining his Barrow and Furness Constituency. Because scrapping the replacement to trident would be the final nail in his coffin here.

  • Comment number 56.

    Ref # 32 Aqualung

    You're correct in your assessment that reducing the number of warheads will have little impact on the overall cost, but Gordon has certainly trumped David Cameron's suggestion of freezing the TV Licence fee for a year, which now seems quite pathetic.

  • Comment number 57.

    Perfect timing - just when Russia anounces it is re-arming. Trident is useless whether its got 160 warheads or 160000 because it needs Americans to operate it so it isn't an independent deterrent.

    Having said that, I always did believe the "yes Minister" sketch line that suggested it was there to deter the French - not the Russians.

  • Comment number 58.

    Of course, GB is after saving some money.

    Perhaps he has a cunning plan.

    Privatise the post office.... more efficient delivery systems etc.
    Get rid of the submarines.....

    Any chance of an off, he will just post the enemy the mother of all letter bombs: Sign here please Ayatollah?

    No, I know its not funny is it. But anyone looking at Foot's longest suicide note in political history.... would have to wonder wouldn't they...?

    Unilateral Disarmament....

    And when was Gordon elected as an M.P.? Errr 1983 Don't say he didn't warn us eh>?

  • Comment number 59.

    Richard SM @56....

    "You're correct in your assessment that reducing the number of warheads will have little impact on the overall cost, but Gordon has certainly trumped David Cameron's suggestion of freezing the TV Licence fee for a year, which now seems quite pathetic."

    I'm sorry,but I don't quite understand your point.If reducing the number of warheads has little (I guess virtually no) impact on cost,how can this little gem from Brown have 'trumped' Cameron?

    Brown is certainly in his death throes as PM..he is an embarrassment to the Country and its People.All he is doing is thrashing around for pathetic announcements in the forlorn hope that the Rest of the World will see him as their saviour.Unfortunately for him,other World leaders are mostly intelligent beings who have already written Brown off as a spent force..they know he will be thrown out of office at the Electorates first opportunity.

  • Comment number 60.


    Fubar..well said. What on earth is the BBC tlking about? The Russian Bear this the saem Russian bear that cut off the gas supply to germany, the Ukraine nd anywhere else they felt like irritating?

    Is this the same Russian bear that tied Mandelson and Osbonre in knots over the summer and managed to wangle a deal on an aluminium contract through the EU.

    Is this the same Russian bear that reneged on property the property rights of the deal done with BP by Lord Browne?

    The Russian bear will never be tamed as its default setting is that of chippy bully.

    Slapdash reporting by the BBC again.

    Cut the licence fee and cut the government subsidy.

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 61.

    We absolutely do not need Trident - not that we could afford it anyway.

    When the UK breaks up, an independent England will have absolutely no need for nuclear weapons. Bring it on.

  • Comment number 62.

    Sounds like he's throwing in the towel.

    He's messed the country up beyond repair so why would we have need of a nuclear deterrent.

    No-one would be interested in us anyway as no-one is interested in his continuous posturing to try to look important. He should leave the talking to the US when it comes to Iran.

    The truth is the country is now so desperate for money he should have just come out and said it. We can't afford a nuclear deterrent any more.

  • Comment number 63.

    Ref # 59 dontneedthegrief

    Because as Nick Robinson suggests, it opens up the whole question of cancelling Trident altogether, saving around £20,000 million, in exchange for risking our future national security, which is bound to spark much debate and controversy. No one is going to get excited over the prospect of saving a £2.60 increase in the licence fee.

  • Comment number 64.

    Yet another recycled, reannounced item from Gordon designed to create headlines and the impression of dynamism and fresh action. A Trident warheads piece which is old news. An offer to Iran on nuclear power which has been on the table for ages.It's pathetic.

    And yet it works.You report the Trident piece and provide an analysis, only to then issue an update telling us the news wasn't news after all. Some update.

    Shouldn't you and your fellow journalists have checked out the vintage BEFORE reporting it as news ??

  • Comment number 65.

    56. At 2:52pm on 17 Mar 2009, Richard_SM wrote

    Ref # 32 Aqualung

    You're correct in your assessment that reducing the number of warheads will have little impact on the overall cost, but Gordon has certainly trumped David Cameron's suggestion of freezing the TV Licence fee for a year, which now seems quite pathetic.

    Whilst the savings may be vastly different I think a freeze on the licence fee would be felt by the general public more in the short term than the cut in Trident. Is GB going to scale back Trident and give everyone a handout of the savings? Thought not.

  • Comment number 66.

    My 2 cents

    Completely outdated system, put them in ships and on land and then save the cash on the submarines. You only need 3 or 4 warheads to wipe out most of the population of any of the major powers. Oh, and one left over for the smaller countries

  • Comment number 67.

    Dear Moderator

    Can you explain to me how my contribution (number 43)violated House Rules?
    Dr David Lowry
    [Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 68.

    There hasn't been a nuclear war yet, which kind of suggests that the Trident programme was actually sucessful.

    Scrap it completely - big mistake. Iran builds up its nuclear programme, arms itself with more advanced weapons and gains more power in the world while we humbly step back and pick up bows and arrows again.

    Typical of a third rate leader trying to turn us into a third world country.

  • Comment number 69.


    "There hasn't been a nuclear war yet, which kind of suggests that the Trident programme was actually sucessful."

    Nothing of the sort. Coincidence is not correlation, correlation is not causation. I sat in a different place from my normal one to watch my footy team last week and this was the first time I have seen them lose this season. Are the two connected...? I think I'll go down to Trafalgar Square and throw some salt over my shoulder to keep the tigers at bay.

    And the idea that Trident is an essential or effective part of some global security blanket is ludicrous. US and Russian warhead numbers make it irrelevant.

  • Comment number 70.

    "There is little new in today's offer of a "grand global bargain" except the context and, as someone once said, context is all."

    So just another attempt to capture the headlines with a refreshed policy announcement. Come on Nick you've been had by Labour party spinning. How about a blog on manipulating the media, the reason; how about Stafford NHS and the early deaths of patients?

  • Comment number 71.

    Refers the update:
    "One other bit of context. The fight is on for soft liberal votes. David Cameron pitches for them by protesting about torture whilst Gordon Brown does it by outlining a more progressive foreign policy." NR

    Nick, do you think complaining about torture or calling for an independent judicial inquiry appeals only to "soft liberals"? Cameron's (and the LibDem's) comments are based on what is morally right and why should the government get away with yet another potential cover-up?
    Brown's "more progressive foreign policy" is fine in theory, but just how relevant is it given the UK's real influence in global politics? Do you think India, Pakistan or Israel are going to be influenced by the UK reducing its number of warheads?

  • Comment number 72.


    This is a really terrible blog. Full of holes as pointed out in many of the contributions above. I suspect that this had to come out to try and distract away from the appalling report about the NHS is Staffs, that caused so many unnecessary deaths:

    I presume that the reduction in warheads is for the new Trident replacement system and not the current trident system. Decommissioning some of the current warheads is an expensive proposition and dangerous

    Russia is rearming, and Putin has visions of returning to the grandeur of the Soviet past. What the BBC does not report is the general hilarity as the Russians view our exploits in Afghanistan - the Russians are also encouraging the former USSR states neighbouring Afghanistan to withdraw their help to the coalition forces.

    Btw, in the picture of Brown above. What did he swallow?

  • Comment number 73.

    I,ve just extracted the entries for RESPONSIBLE/RESPONSIBILITY from the on-line Cambridge dictionary:-

    responsible (BLAME) Show phonetics
    be responsible for sth/doing sth to be the person who caused something to happen, especially something bad:
    Who is responsible for this terrible mess?
    Last month's bad weather was responsible for the crop failure.

    responsibility Show phonetics
    noun [U]
    Terrorists have claimed responsibility for (= stated that they caused) yesterday's bomb attack.
    The minister took/accepted full responsibility for (= admitted that he was to blame for) the disaster and resigned.

    It seems obvious what should be done!!

  • Comment number 74.

    18 & 23

    In principle, absolutely.
    In practise, do you see any possibility of Europe managing to agree on something as contentious as Nuclear weaponry.

    It ought to be possible to reach agreement. After all not every EU member-state actually have them (I'm thiking UK, France... any others?)

    But, a neccessary prelude to such a policy of nuclear integration at an EU level would be the requirement for some provision for an EU foreign policy high representative (foreign minister?. This would make the whole proccess much easier, by allow for a single represenative to represent the EU member-states at non-proliferation meetings.

    I think that given France and UK (and any others, if any in Europe) are signatories to the non-proliferation treaty they will agree on the basic points of disarmament (i.e. not unilaterally, again broad consensus ought to be found). So, its very possible, we just need my estimed party leader D.C. to stop scaremongering about the EU and get behind the community. (I'm refering to his 'judgement' over withdrawing our MEPs fro EPP-ED coalition in the Parliament).

  • Comment number 75.

    @72 my exact thoughts

    Especially since the situation would now appear to be endemic within those trusts who had debts.

    Some have been bailed out, others have not. Where is the investigation into that situation? We need to ensure that gerrimandering hasn't occurred.

    How about dragging out that slogan..."we only have 24 hours to save the NHS"...failed GP contracts, failed Trusts...and where is all the money?

    The people in Mid Staffs were allowed to resign, not sacked. Will they collect their pensions? No reward for failure.

  • Comment number 76.

    On the subject of the government saving money, it is reported that Peter Mandelsons department spend £500 a week on flowers. This is part of around £780,000 on flowers in the past four years by government departments.

    Is this part of the governments "floral stimulus" policy ?

  • Comment number 77.

    Im just surprised that Crash Gordon isnt selling Trident of to some dictatorship at a knocked down price ! Still time yet.

    Call an election !

  • Comment number 78.

    However, the arrival of Obama and the softening of Russia means that there is a new optimism about the possibility of renewing the Non-Proliferation Treaty

    Nick, the whole non-proliferation process will not get anywhere until there is a reduced number of players at the top table, as its fiar to conclude that the more members that all need to agree the harder it is to reach a consensus.
    So lets reduce the numbers of representatives at the top table by having an harmonised common foreign EU policy in regards to nuclear non-proliferation. This wya a single EU foreign policy comissioner could represent and agree on behalf of the the EU member-states. This would speed up any onon-proliferation discussions but also act to reduce the financial burden on individual EU member-states of sustaining an out of date-out of time nuclear deterance.

    So, I thnk your rather missing the point by talking about the Russian Federation, they'l agree to further non-proliferation if everyone else does. They'l probably be wholly behind the idea given that their economy will be exceptionally hard hit over the course of the downturn and they could do with the reduction in GDP expenditure on the deterence. This is the best time to pursude Nuclear harmonisation at an EU level and a non-profliferation programme at an international level.

    We should not miss it.

  • Comment number 79.



  • Comment number 80.

    12 instead of 16. Not at all a desperate attempt to reverse his standing in the polls.

    * * *



  • Comment number 81.

    #18.JohnConstable wrote:

    Furthermore, nuclear weapons are no guarantee whatsoever against people who 'love death' as we love life.

    Like the Japanese in WWII?

    Their prisoners of war working and starving in the jungles would disagree, for 4 years they heard all this death and honour stuff and how ashamed they should be for surrendering... funny how when the bombs went off how their captors' attitude underwent a marked change.

  • Comment number 82.

    A provocation, adependency upon America, a waste of stacks of money, and Scotland wants no part of it, so ditch it and spend the money on useful stuff, like green infrastructure.


  • Comment number 83.

    #50 Fubar

    Excellent blog.

    I would also add that it's not just the MOD that needs reforming top to bottom.

    Any future government of any political colour who is willing to tackle this task would go down in history as one of the best ever elected. As for this current one, it'll just go down.

    And it's suddenly dawned on me that while there are far more important news stories out there such as the hospital in Staffordshire, one has to realise that as political editor, Nick is joined at the hip to our Leader of the World.

    GB just has to go to a school and say 'free jelly all round' and Nick will be back with another story saying something like 'Dave Cameron threatening to make kids eat jelly with fork'.

    It's so bloody pathetic!

    Go find a real scoop; there are so many that if you only ignore GB and his pointless utterings, they would slap you in the face as they do the long suffering public which is the next electorate who will send this lot packing.

  • Comment number 84.

    "The fight is on for soft liberal votes. David Cameron pitches for them by protesting about torture whilst Gordon Brown does it by outlining a more progressive foreign policy".

    Should we take this as a sign that the soft liberal vote is no longer interested in the Liberal party or are they busy pursuing the hard illiberal voters who are abandoning the other parties?

  • Comment number 85.

    I wouldn't trust the EU to administer a nuclear deterrent.

    However maybe we can agree that dipatching the missiles directly to the EU (brussles and strasbourg) may be doing every one a favour.

    BTW: Nick is this the photo you took just after you asked brown what he liked most about dolly parton?

  • Comment number 86.

    Well this might keep the rump of CND in Zanulabour off his back for a while.

  • Comment number 87.

    TalleyHo @ 81

    From the admittedly little I know about Islamo-Fascism, I have no doubt that if the adherents to this creed manage to procure nuclear device(s), then they will use them.

    It was inevitable that one day, nuclear weapons would fall into the hands of unpredictable entities.

    Unfortunately they cannot be uninvented.

    So it appears to be a rather grotesque race against time as to whether the human race can 'elevate' itself above self-destructive tendencies or not.

    The optimist believes we live in the best possible of all worlds, the pessimist fears that this is true.

  • Comment number 88.

    48 StrictlyPickled

    I'm also puzzled by what you mean by your reference to "the old enemy"France ? Are you suggesting that the trident nuclear deterent is to protect us from the French ???


    France is very much the 'old enemy' - England's oldest foe is France (in the modern nation sense) - always has been

    Of course Nick may well be referring to the Gaullism model of post-war French foreign policy, which has always been bristly towards us and the yanks, with the rise of Sarkozy it may well be more plausible to work together

    you can't honestly think that we have a very friendly relationship with the French? We may be allies, and that's not about to change, but co-operation with them has never been easy

    anyway - does Gordon really think 'soft liberal votes' would come his way with this? - maybe I'm not soft enough

  • Comment number 89.

    However, the arrival of Obama and the softening of Russia means that there is a new optimism about the possibility of renewing the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

    There is some optimism about the renewal of the N.P.T., since there are different political figures in the key countries of the N.P.T. programme...

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 90.

    What's going to take place, when it comes to the relevant of the programme's future....

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 91.

    Beyond the horizon, of the place we lived when we were young
    In a world of magnets and miracles
    Our thoughts strayed constantly and without boundary
    The ringing of the Division bell had begun

    Along the long roads and on down the causeway
    Do they still meet there by the cut?

    There was a ragged man who followed in our footsteps
    Running before time took our dreams away
    Leaving the myriad small creatures trying to tie us to the ground
    To a life consumed by slow decay...

    The grass was greener, the light was brighter, with freinds surrounded
    The nights of wonder...

    Looking beyond the embers of bridges glowing behind us,
    To a glimpse of how green it was on the other side.
    Steps taken forwards and sleepwalking back again
    Dragged by the force of an inner tide

    At a higher altitude a flag unfurled - we'd reached the dizzy heights of that dreamed of world...

    Encumbered forever by desire and ambition
    Theres a hunger still unsatisfied
    Our weary eyes still stray to the horizon
    Though down this road we've been so many times...

  • Comment number 92.

    Nick - there is a comment you make which encapsulates all that is wrong about the inherent bias in the BBC. You describe Browns policy as "progressive". That is a matter of opinion and implies that not to reduce the number of warheads is reactionary. I know where the BBC would stand on this debate but should you as a top and seasoned political reporter fall into that trap? It implies that centre right policies are not progressive but reactionary. They may be - but then again many would disagree that they should be characterised as such.

  • Comment number 93.

    Funny how there's no mention in this blog of Russia's re-armament at the same time as GB is talking bout Britain's disarmament.

    Has anyone even noticed that under this Government, AWE was sold to a foreign-owned company at a knock-down price as was a large chunk of Britain's military R & D capability

    re post 50: YES, we need a proper defence review; during the past 20 years, every review has had the sole aim of cutting defence expenditure. the latest bit of Treasury-led insanity is a salami slice, regardless of whether the post actually supports troops or orders the stationery.

    And the reason for cost over-runs on Eurofighter etc: Mod cannot afford to pay for the contracts staff to draw up proper watertight procurement contracts and with there effectively being ONE defence contractor (BAe Systems, having bought up the opposition over the past few years). MoD is effectively 'over a barrel'

  • Comment number 94.

    Looking at the news at the moment...

    Gordon, get rid of bloody trident and spend the money on military accomodation instead. Its still crap.

  • Comment number 95.

    On page 108, BBC 1 Ceefax, it is reported that Russian President Medvedev, will begin a comprehensive military rearmament from 2011.

    On this blog, Mr Robinson reports that the Russian Bear is sleeping. Both BBC, both contradict each other - who is right.

    I have no idea about the comparative viewing figures, but I suspect that Mr.Robinson maybe frozen out. Who will read him?

  • Comment number 96.

    Fubar_Saunders #50. . .

    "And leave the security council. America might still think it is the worlds policeman and has got used to us being its attendant alsatian on a leash... the brain on the chain, so to speak."

    Fortunately for you, a (in any other context down right heart stopping) insult such as this does not even raise an eyebrow, as I have gotten rather used to foreigners viewing me and my countrymen as criminals for no other crime than our mere existance. But if I may, some corrections. If by "America" in your sentence above you ment/mean George Bush, then your observations could not be more acurit.
    However if, as I suspect, by "America" you ment whoever resides in 1600 PA. avinue, whatever their personal or political beliefs and more broadly the American people, then your asertions could not be more false. In case you haven't noticed, "America" under Berack Obama and several previous presidents has, and does not see itself as the "world's policeman." And it most certainly does not see the United Kingdom as "the brain to our chain!!" Farthest from it, when it tryed to distance itself from the '"follow my commands and you'll get a treat" wining and dining song and dance of the Bush administration and tryed to set the US-UK relationship on a more equal footing when Brown visited a couple of weeks ago, the British press absolutely flipped out, as did many enlightened people on this blog!! But whatever. Don't let maturity and a cool head get in the way of your rant. Perhaps its best the EU has a Security Councel seat. If worst comes to worst, you all will from now on be pontificating on here about how all your government does is "roll over" for the EU, and how your country is nothing more than the EU's poodle not the US's! Sounds good to me.

    "Enough. We're not even a world PCSO. Its not our responsibility any more. The Days of empire are gone. The days of the cold war are gone. If the rest of NATO can think their membership of the organisation is based around hosting the yanks for a few weeks each year and spending the rest of the time loafing around under his nuclear umbrella, then we can do it t
    The same argument can be lajidimitly put to the world by the millions of Americans who yearn for a return to the days of our nation's original isolationist stance. If the rest of NATO doesn't think it important to have their own nuclear deterrent, and worst still, think it perfectly OK to simply mooch off that of bully boy America's, then why should we bother having a deterrent either? If our allies don't think its necessary then obviously it must not be, and we shouldn't think it so either. Put another way, if the rest of NATO can feel simply safe and content with no nuclear deterrent, then we can too.

    My two cents. I think the US should simply withdraw from the rest of the world on every single aspect save trade. After all it is this policy of ours, this constant need to protect everybody, thas has bestowed upon us the permanant title of "world policeman" in the first place. Noone likes us. Even our allies pine for our downfall. So lets be true friends and give them what they want and look inward. Let the rest of the world decide for themselves how to protect themselves, whether it be military, nuclear or otherwise. All our attempts seem to only yield more despair and anger. They don't need nor want us. So why are we still engaged in the world?

  • Comment number 97.

    92 peterbuss

    I say this as a despiser of the great leader - 'progressive' although in colloquial language may have positive connotations, politically usually refers to left wing politics and is an appropriate label for Brown's foreign policy of internationalism

    you would rarely use the term with a conservative, and 'reactionary' is not the implied opposite of it, in fact 'conservatism' is probably the best opposite of 'progressivism'

  • Comment number 98.

    Incidentally, anyone who thinks the russians have been "tamed" should be watching newsight at the moment....

  • Comment number 99.

    @ 93.GovernmentBoffin

    "Funny how there's no mention in this blog of Russia's re-armament at the same time as GB is talking bout Britain's disarmament."

    We must do all we can to maintain the peace we have in Europe. We up until now have managed to resist relapsing into arms race, nuclear stand-off. We British must do all we can to encourage a continuation of peace in Europe.

    Your suggestion seems to be to start off an arms race with the Russian Federation, that is wholly irrational. Besides we must resist the warhawkish sentiments and trust our neighbour. I mean, what are you trying to say? Russia poses a threat militarily? Thats not true, we have a European Community to support our defense requirements.

    We must maintain peace in our time. Not spark off an arms race. Your point is more probably a non-point.

  • Comment number 100.


    Ask yourselves which constitunecy is John Hutton - our Secretary of State for Defence - represents? Answer Barrow-in-Furness.Where are the Trident submarines due to be built? Strange old thing!! No the chances of Trident going away quickly are remote. This is a weapon system and concept of war long-past it sell by date and I am no left wing looney I promise you. I was a huge supporter or Polaris and Cruise and could see how deterrence was formed. But when you face people who love death more than life the ball game changes. New era I am afraid. Trident, ID cards and any other totally stupid projects should go, besides what we need is real sending on the Navy - far better we had put even 20% of that so called VAT cut into the Navy.


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