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Brown puts Trident on table

Nick Robinson | 00:05 UK time, Wednesday, 23 September 2009

So, Gordon Brown is to put Britain's nuclear programme on the table at this week's talks in New York about how to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

Later today he will tell the United Nations that "if we are serious about the ambition of a nuclear-free world we will need statesmanship, not brinkmanship" .

Trident submarineOn Thursday, when President Obama chairs a meeting of the UN Security Council, Gordon Brown will tell that meeting that he is considering cutting the number of submarines which carry Britain's Trident nuclear missiles.

All this, we are told, is part of the drive to renew the Non-Proliferation Treaty which, in theory if not always in practice, prevents those countries which don't have nuclear weapons from developing them.

It is also, of course, part of a drive to cut costs and to be seen to cut costs. Questions are already being asked about the affordability of renewing Trident and ministers had made it clear that they were exploring whether three new submarines could do the job currently performed by four.

This would not, as you might expect, cut the cost by a quarter but could produce a significant saving.

Some close to the prime minister say that he has considered going even further - offering to review or delay plans to renew Trident if the big nuclear powers agree major cuts in their arsenals.

In a speech on 17 March, he hinted at just such a policy when he said: "As soon as it becomes useful for our arsenal to be included in a broader negotiation, Britain stands ready to participate and to act."

Anything which could be presented as an offer to give up Britain's programme entirely would be political dynamite.

On the one hand it would cheer many voters who regard nuclear weapons as either immoral or unnecessary and unaffordable in the modern age.

On the other, it would risk re-opening the painful wounds which were opened in the 1980s by Labour's embrace of unilateralism.

It is clear that the prime minister is not now ready to take such a step. The official line coming from Downing Street is that the existence of Britain's independent programme remains "non-negotiable".

Update, 11:00, 23 September 2009: I mistakenly wrote that Gordon Brown wanted to "replace" the NPT when I should have written to "renew" it. Put it down to jetlag!

The Treaty is undergoing a five-year review. The PM wants to strengthen verification and inspection rules, introduce serious penalties for those withdrawing from the NPT, and make nuclear security an essential part of what he calls a "global bargain" between nuclear and non-nuclear states.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Gordon Brown's putting Trident on the table because Great Britain's totally skint. Caledonian Comment

  • Comment number 2.

    In the new model world, the UK and France would submit their nuclear weapons to the EU, politically controlled via the EU Parliament, authorised by the EU President, operated via the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) unit and with costs shared amongst the EU member states.

    But I suppose this is probably looking too far into the political future and it would take a visionary politician to put that on the table.

    Everything it seems, is negotiable, except politicians egos.

  • Comment number 3.

    Sub launched nuclear weapons are only necessary against "super power" adversaries who have the satellite capacity to require the use of such stealth.
    As long as we retain the nuclear weapons to be deployed via stand off air to ground missiles or ship launched cruise missiles then this would be perfectly adequate and much less expensive than maintaining the sub fleet.

    Potential future target countries such as Iran or Pakistan are unlikely in the medium term to acquire sufficient air defence capabilities to resist such assets.

    Drop the subs, keep the nukes. Saves money and gives purpose to the new carriers.

  • Comment number 4.

    The rate things are going, Britain's Nuclear Deterrent being run down constantly, overall Defence Spending being cut since 1990 and usually a grandstanding speach by a Labour or Conservative Defence Secretary followed by yet more savage cuts - the world is as dangerous as it ever was; China, North Korea, Russia has an Imperialistic history and after a spell of decline and contraction is now aggressively asserting influence over Central Asia and Central and Eastern Europe.

    The day nears where an announcement will take place that the submarine fleet is being replaced by John Prescott leading a group of frogmen hauling one missile about the oceans.

  • Comment number 5.

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

  • Comment number 6.

    With there currently being 4 Trident Submarines available to take it in turns in patrolling under the Oceans Waves, then it has always made me wonder, just how many Nuclear Missiles it would take us to defend the U.K. against any attacks, for it was once said that if ever anyone was foolish enought to launch any such missiles for whatever reasons then the whole World would suffer in turn with a fallout from a World - Wide Nuclear Winter.

    For, there is one thing for sure, that should any Country engage in any such activites, then none of the People in this World today won't be around to see any "New" Super-Powers emerge from any ashes, for there won't be anybody left to rule, or buildings standing

    So while Nuclear Weapons are classed as a deterrent from starting Wars, they are also a weapon that for the reason of their destructive nature can never be a weapon of choice to win any arguements, for Nuke's also cannot be exposed to accidents upon their soil at home base, where we in the U.K. or in any other Countries can never afford to cut back and "Save" money on any Security surrounding these Missles.

    Therefore, if/in reducing our capabilities with the decomissioning, or moth - balling by Brown of just one Submarine will hardly make a dent of a difference to the level of either/both protection, or the danger these Missles pose depending upon your point of view.

  • Comment number 7.

    We need our nuclear deterrent. When we leave the "EU"-Dictatorship* we will be in the same unenviable position as Taiwan - an island off the coast of an arrogant, megalomaniac dictatorship. Unfortunately the gap between the UK and the continent is not as wide as that between Taiwan and China.

    Giving up our deterrent will not stop the nutters in Iran from getting their nuclear weapons. Banning all privately owned handguns in the UK did not stop kids in London from getting theirs.

    * "When" not "if".

  • Comment number 8.

    Of course it does.

    We need 4 nuclear submarines if there is a credible 24/7 deterrent — any less and we may as well ditch the lot. One on active service for 6 months, one in re-fit preparing for the 6 months service, one as a back-up if either of the two are out of action, and one, most importantly, for training crews.

  • Comment number 9.

    Nick Robinson:

    I am glad, that Gordon Brown is putting Trident on the table....problem is that was you [do not] need more.....

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 10.

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  • Comment number 11.

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  • Comment number 12.

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  • Comment number 13.

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  • Comment number 14.

    Thanks so much!
    [Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 15.

    O God. This again?

    Well, whatever you all decide to do, just do what you believe will work best for your people and make you happy.

    Don't worry about what my government might do or say. Assert your independence, work with us in areas in which you believe would be benificial to you, and sever cooperation in the areas that aren't proving helpful and everything should turn out fine.

  • Comment number 16.

    So, Gordon Brown is to put Britain's nuclear deterrent on the table at this week's talks in New York about how to stop the spread of nuclear weapons"
    Well Nick, for all our sakes. I wish Gordon Brown would put Britain's commit-ment to nuclear power generation... Light, heaters, cookers & all our computers and everything else will be unavailable for use. When the de-commissiong of our current coal, gas & nuclear power stations takes place we not know what is happening. We will be in the dark! Really, in the dark. Wind power & other sustainable streams-(however worthwhile they may be/or not) will definitely not be enough to cope with demand.

    Apologies for not commenting you blogs for a while..or seeing your news bulletins--I have been very busy- 2 hours sleep in the last 48
    but thankyou Nick.. it's really lovely to hear your dulcet tones repeating on News 24...Hopefull all will

  • Comment number 17.

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  • Comment number 18.

    what's the point in having state of the art subs and nukes when we can't even find proper body armour for our troops and trucks?

  • Comment number 19.

    See comment 8 above.

    If the fleet of 4 Trident submarines is cut by even one, it is questionable as to whether it would be viable.

    The problem with Gordon Brown is the man is a spineless coward. He would like to get rid of Trident altogether - but hasn't got the political or moral courage. So he'll reduce the number by one, knowing that it will ultimately make the fleet unviable and unsustainable.

    Of course, Gordon Brown wouldn't even be thinking of re-opening the Trident debate, and revealing old wounds, were it not for the financial predicament this country is in. He can now argue that Trident is the best place to make the necessary spending cuts - where they will do least damage to "front-line" public services. His union friends will love him for it - but it is the beginning of the end for Britain's nuclear deterrent and Britain's role on the world stage.

    The end of Britain as a nuclear power, will of course, be the capping achievement for Gordon Brown and Labour.

    Having wrecked the economy through economic and administrative incompetence and flawed "spend and waste" policies, wrecked our culture through uncontrolled immigration and the creation of a huge welfare-dependent, chav sub-class, undermined the rule of law/civil rights/the judicial system, dumbed down our education system, signed away our sovereignty to the EU, and undermined respect for our parliamentary system and government - there isn't much more that Labour could do to damage the country.

    One could argue that there is now not much of our country left to be worth defending. We have almost become a foreign country to our own people - and a banana republic at that.

    Gordon Brown will go down in history as an ego monster whose delusions and lust for power destroyed a once-great country, already fatally weakened by previous Labour governments.

    And as the end nears, Gordon Brown remains in denial and spending more time psychologically "in his bunker" as he tries to hang on to his few remaining supporters - just like Hitler towards the end. His behaviour and public statements are becoming ever more bizarre and desperate, with his lack of public appearances, his economic messages to the world, his message to the Copenhagen climate change conference, etc... Anything but face reality!!


  • Comment number 20.

    Might as well roll on our backs waiting to be tickled by the first megalomaniac that gets into power then.

    Goodbye Falklands.

    Bonjour Angleterre

  • Comment number 21.

    "Things can only get better!"

  • Comment number 22.

    "Gordon Brown will tell that meeting that he is CONSIDERING cutting the number of submarines which carry Britain's Trident nuclear missiles."

    "As soon as it becomes useful for our arsenal to be included in a broader NEGOTIATION, Britain stands ready to participate and to act."

    "offering to REVIEW or delay plans to renew Trident if the big nuclear powers agree major cuts in their arsenals."

    Since most government "reviews" take upwards of a year (costing umpteen million pounds) and, I assume, a "considering" or "negotiation" will fall into the same category, this is just another "BROWN TALKS AND DOES NOTHING" story.

  • Comment number 23.

    whatever,decesion this excuse for a leader makes ,will be a disaster for britain and world peace.Like it or nor nuclear weapons prevent war, without them war will be inevitable,we dont learn from history.My god how can we trust our future defence on this bloke who cant even work out the 20 per cent tax band. brown watch 250 days.

  • Comment number 24.

    Of course the real issue is here is that GB is making a populist move under the headline 'reducing nuclear arms' although we know what he is really doing is saving a few bob.

    Rather than sacrifice any of his expensive quango's or mates (i.e. Baroness Scotland) he would rather sacrifice our defence including troops and sailors.

    The fact is - that for most of the time there are at least two subs in for repair or refurb at any one time so that would leave only one operational sub out there.

    Of course if anything happened to that.... we are completely undefended and have no discernible nuclear deterrent.

    This government has systematically handicapped the defence of our country and its interests, lost the lives of its service personnel through inadequate funding and all they can think of is 'lets smear the general who moaned about us!'

    If it wasn't so despicable it would be laughable.

  • Comment number 25.

    To be honest chaps I do not want our Prime Minister considering anything like this at all, he simply has not got the ability or mandate to think about such radical changes in our defence policy. There is only one thing I want him to reflect on and CONSIDER; when to resign. Please focus your mind on that Prime Minister and quickly. This country can take little more of your leadership. We are finished. It is just a question of time as to when we finally get a chance to show our deep felt appreciation for all the things you have one for us; like the 10% tax change, utterly brilliant, so clever by half, hurting your core voters. Now that took courage. No show yet more courage, stop thinking about Trident and start to think about going....please.

  • Comment number 26.

    Who was it that said nuclear weapons prevent war?

    They were lying, just look around the world right now.

    A deterrent from what or whom?

    Can't be used without American permission - nothing to do with the EU.
    A useless , dangerous piece of kit which costs billions .

    And even if some mad leader were to use one the world would not survive.

    Just think about Chernobyl - "only a wee accident"!

    We've had them sitting in one of the most picturesque parts of Scotland , close to the most populated part of Scotland , leaking away.

    SEPA has stated that if this was a private contractor the whole place would have been shut down, but its the MoD and " only " Scotland.

  • Comment number 27.

    I am disgusted, but not at all surprised. My only surprise is that Trident lasted this long.

    Y'know Nick, looking back over the years since 1997, it has occurred to me that Labour have had one plan and one plan only, and that that plan was the destruction of the UK. sounds mad and paranoid doesn't it? But a closer look can set you thinking. From the wholesale sell out to the IRA, to the recent destruction of the "Special Relationship" with the USA, to sending troops to war ill equipped for the purpose (In other words, sending them out to lose), the breakup of the UK by encouraging the rebirth of nationalism, etc etc. In fact the more you look, the more you can add to this thread and the more obvious it becomes. The beginning of the surrender of our nuclear deterrent and the impending departure from the "Nuclear Club" will be the final nail. It is a paradox, that without Trident, nobody would be listening to Gordons proposals at the UN today is it not? For without the very deterrent he wishes to remove, he has no voice and no control!

    Whilst scoffing and sniggering at my plot theory, I ask you Nick, a political journalist, to perhaps allay my fears. That is simply done, my challenge to you is this, if my theory is paranoid and silly, then just tell me ONE THING that labour have done since 1997 that has ENHANCED our global reputation and increased our standing in the world community, go on, just ONE.

    Tough call huh?

  • Comment number 28.

    4 is the absolute minimum that are required for 24/7 year on year cover.

    having 3 would only save marginal amount of money.

    It would cost the same to design what ever number are built.

    The maintainance cost would increase as the length of time required on stattion per sub. Wear and tear would prob out strip the cost of building the forth. Have less would effect training and the ability to have a well drilled team to support the fleet.

    All in all there prob would be no cost saving.

  • Comment number 29.

    Why don't you just give the missiles straight over to IRAN ? they will use them very quickly in our direction end of problem.
    On a more sober note why is brown gallivanting all over the place once more dose any one listen to what he has o say?
    there are far more pressing problems in the UK without jet setting over to see the American president every few minutes whats wrong with the telephone it works very well for me.
    We must maintain our nukes as in this day and age you don't know whats around the corner.

  • Comment number 30.

    Gordon Brown is playing the public for fools (yet again). For 12 long years not a mention of offering our nuclear defences to "help secure a safer world" and then suddenly when he finally wakes up to the fact that Britain can no longer afford his prolific spending he is involved in discussions to reduce our nuclear commitment. This has nothing to do with Gordon saving the world, it has come about because Britain is broke.
    And interesting Nick that on the Today program this morning both you and a labour minister were given significant air time to promote the labour party line on this subject but no-one, absolutely no-one, from opposition parties was given any time at all to challenge this party line. BBC impartial and politically unbias - I don't think so.

  • Comment number 31.

    Guys, lets not get into too much of a lather here. As 22# points out, read between the lines.

    Brown is not committing to anything. This is purely more headline grabbing ahead of the party conference and a desperate attempt to appear statesman-like in front of the other G20 partners in Pittsburgh.

    You should all know better by now, this PM lives his life and makes his political decisions by news-cycle.

    Dont read too much into it. Remember about the cleaning up politics after the expenses scandal? What happened to that? Nothing.

    All he does is keep on feeding out soundbites to get him through each 24 hour period so that he gets to be the biggest bully in the political playground for another day... and then another... and then another.

    Any solid decision on such a matter would be likely to be taken by a politician who has more holding his cervical vertebrae together than the weak, unset gelatine that our current incumbent has got.

  • Comment number 32.

    The reason for the Nuclear subs is that without a nuclear deterrent the permanent seat on the Security Council will be under threat. British politicians view such a scenario as unacceptable as we would no longer be a major world player.

    Now you know the cost of maintaining the seat.

  • Comment number 33.

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  • Comment number 34.

    I think the UK should get rid of trident. or at least cut it down to two submarines. Nuclear weapons are in my opinion are an expensive folly relevant to the type of conflict the world faces today. 1 isn't enough but ultra left wing baggage of Labours past before a general election which the Conservatives are likely to win (very bad news for the "Actual" silent majority), will prevent the UK going any further.

  • Comment number 35.

    That's one giant leap for Gordon Brown, one small step for mankind.

  • Comment number 36.

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  • Comment number 37.

    Is there *nothing* that gordon brown won't inflict on the UK in his pursuit of at least one good entry in the history books?

    He has already done far too much harm to ever recover any reputation. He must be made to leave every thing well alone until he can be replaced.

  • Comment number 38.

    Gordon Brown has offered to sacrifice one of our Trident Submarines during the Nuclear Proliferatation Conference.

    It is universally known to be effective at all our Nuclear Deterent to keep Britain and or the World safe. We must have a minimum of four submarines!

    There clearly is nothing Brown will not do to betray Britain to get a tawdry headline!

    Brown is only being kept in Downing Street until Blair has done a stitch up over the Lisbon Treaty making him the First phoney President of Europe.

    Yet Nick Robinson and the rest of his colleagues continue after thirteen years of fawning to Labour.

    To give this wretched Labour Pary not only disgustingly biased repporting.

    But what amounts to a free Downing Street written. "Party Political broadcast" for Labour.

    On every news programme the BBC. For twenty four hours of every day. On every channel! Which clearly is ilegal under the BBC constition!

    THis despite his, and their obligations under these Regulations requiring absolute impartiality as the State Broadcaster.

    Has Nick Robinson like Blair, Brown and Mandelsohn, he is so openly besotted with!

    No shame or posses not one shred of commercial integrity?

  • Comment number 39.

    Trident is a relic of the cold war days which are long gone. Whether its 3 or 4 submarines is irrelevant. I think that the Lib Dems are right - let's take the opportunity to not replace the existing fleet.

  • Comment number 40.

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  • Comment number 41.

    I have some military experience and therefore an interest in defence matters but am by no means an expert as I assume most of the correspondents to this blog are. When the trident issue was last debated the defence experts (and politicians of both colour) told us that we needed 4 subs to maintain a 24/7 deterrent and the logic behind it appeared sound. As far as I can see nothing has changed so reducing the number of subs puts that deterrent at risk.

    We don't know what the threat is likely to be in 20-25 years time and therefore we need the nuclear option.

    As always with Blair/Brown they change their mind and expect us to forget what they previously told us as fact.

  • Comment number 42.

    not a great deal here for people (like me) who'd like to see us move away from our anachronistic, and now rather silly, "world policeman junior" role - really can't get too excited, I'm afraid - conversely, no reason for those who take a different view (who quite like us being mister WPJ) to get upset, or in any way anxious - I mean, a guy who won't be making the decision anyway (since he'll be either replaced internally, or defeated at the polls, within a matter of months) says he just might consider, one day, reducing the number of Trident subs from 4 to 3 ... hold the Front Page! - oh wait a minute, we did - and he's on it! - think that was the sole objective, to be honest

    no not much of a story, is it? - what I am concerned about ... very concerned about, actually ... is the possibility that an incoming Tory government might seek to increase WPJ spending, and may have to close a raft of schools/hospitals in order to do so - any word on that, Nick?

  • Comment number 43.

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  • Comment number 44.

    More about Cuting costs than defence....

    But saying its to make a safer world, is a win win in Clowns eye, wins because he thinks he looks like a world player, wins because he get to leacture every one else, and WINS because it a massive hidden spending cut!

  • Comment number 45.

    My concern is that a totally discredited government (about to be brutally ejected by the electorate as soon as we get the chance), addicted to skewing all decisions for party advantage, are making any long-term choices. I don't trust anything Brown does - it always turns out badly.

    The cost saving argument is spurious. £2 billion by 2020 ? It's a drop in the ocean of Labour debt.

    Roll on the election !

  • Comment number 46.

    If Brown can put Trident on the table then why have we got it in the first place.

  • Comment number 47.

    The sad fact is that the world remains a dangerous place. Maybe rather worse as loose groupings of cross-state people (like Al Qaeda) break the old "statesmanship" between nations.

    Don't much like nuclear weapons. But I can't imagine either the UK or France placing theirs under EU control. Remember the EU response to the Russian activity in South Ossetia? Effectively, they said "Oh dear, we need to go away and have another think about handling relationships".
    EU foreign policy only has any teeth if the UK, France and Germany reach agreement. Otherwise it's weak and shallow. Not surprising with so many nations with such differing recent history and national memories.

    Seems fair to try and get global leaders around the table. But the UN Security Council excludes several nuclear states - potentially the ones most at risk of resorting to weapon usage.

    It'll be interesting whether anything more than diplomatic blather emerges from the UN session. Not sure that the non-proliferation treaty stopped states from aquiring nuclear weapon technology. And I can't imagine which state could be subjected to pre-emptive strikes if they seem on the brink of joining the club...

  • Comment number 48.

    Some say it would be irresponsible of the Government to leave us defenceless against potential threats. Why does this argument not apply to Poland, or Peru or Portugal? Should all ‘responsible’ governments possess nuclear weapons? If, on the other hand, we want to persuade other countries not to acquire nuclear weapons, is replacing Trident the right way?

    Imagine now a demented tyrant, his finger hovering uncertainly over a coloured Atlas – does he avoid us, because we have Trident, or does he circle Faslane for the first strike? Less imagination is required to see that Polaris was irrelevant to the invasion of UK territory in the Falklands. The mantra ‘Nuclear weapons have prevented war’ is baffling beside the daily news. Perhaps it means big wars, since only 650,000 were killed in Iraq, and only one million in Rwanda. Sometimes it almost seems to mean - can you believe the logic - that nuclear weapons prevent nuclear wars! Like knives prevent stabbings, and guns stop shooting?

    And if the worst does happen, and you die in a massive attack on Britain, what do you want our response to be? Will you rest easier in your grave, knowing that your death will be avenged by the incineration of a million alien children? Do you want this done in your name, do you want British industry to spend the next twenty years labouring to make this response possible?

  • Comment number 49.

    With all the idiotic schemes like DNA databases and ID Cards, non jobs and quangos that could easily be done without these muppets pick on defence and education.

    Roll on the election.

  • Comment number 50.

    Well done, Gordon, and long may you continue.
    I am glad that Gordon Brown is not intimidated by the often childish ramblings of a nationalistic, right of center media (the Daily Telegraph or the Daily Mirror for example, nowadays there is little difference between them when it comes to objective, unbiased reporting) or by the few rightwing bloggers here who spend their lives endlessly commenting on any issue under the sun instead of actually doing some work!
    We need less nationalistic nonsense and more
    international humanism.
    Discuss :-)

  • Comment number 51.

    Later today he (Gordon Brown) will tell the United Nations that "if we are serious about the ambition of a nuclear-free world we will need statesmanship, not brinkmanship" .

    Statemanship? Gordon Brown? Nothing like starting the day with a laugh!!

  • Comment number 52.


    " the possibility that an incoming Tory government might seek to increase WPJ spending, and may have to close a raft of schools/hospitals in order to do so - any word on that, Nick?"

    I doubt it very much Saga, because you just made it up. For a change.

  • Comment number 53.

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  • Comment number 54.

    Words from our leader, but what do they mean.

    Nothing will be achieved for 15 years, when the Trident replacement is scheduled. All or the vast majority of the cost will already have been incurred, what about the missiles and warheads? So Mr Brown has/or will say that in 15 years he may save 2/3rds of not a lot on a Defence project that may never happen.

    Is this a technical saving, similar to a technical breach of the law?

    But what can you expect from the man who supports the law breaking senior law officer.

    Leadership either practical or of thought I doubt it.

  • Comment number 55.

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  • Comment number 56.

    Incidentally, referring to my comment at #27, should you be searching for a reason WHY labour want a weakened UK, then see if you can think of a member of the Labour party, waiting in the shadows, who has been involved in ALL of the manouvres which have undoubtedly weakened the UK. A man perhaps totally dedicated to the EU, so dedicated in fact, that he would sacrifice his own country for what he sees as the greater cause, a man who promised to secure vauxhall jobs and has indeed done so - but for the Germans, not the UK. A man who would wish to manouvre his best friend into the EU presidency perhaps. A man who prefers to operate in machieavellian fashion, always behind the throne, never in front, always below the parapet, never in the direct line of fire. Now, of course, my theory would fall to dust if such a man did not exist, but my friends, such a man DOES exist! And you, me, and Gordon Brown are very low down on his agenda.

  • Comment number 57.

    Another day - ANOTHER useless soundbite for a few pathetic headlines from the Clown. Roll on 2010.

  • Comment number 58.

    48. At 09:04am on 23 Sep 2009, DavidEdinburgh wrote:
    Some say it would be irresponsible of the Government to leave us defenceless against potential threats. Why does this argument not apply to Poland, or Peru or Portugal?.........

    Good point there.
    Quite simply the Governments of Poland, Peru, Portugal and many others have the good sense not to go around the World sticking their noses into other Countries affairs on the pretext of being a World power.
    It is pure posturing by consecutive UK Governments looking to make themselves important.
    The UK has a small land mass and would be wiped out of existence in the first few moments of any nuclear conflict.
    There are far more important things going on closer to home that need to be dealt with.

  • Comment number 59.


    Speaking of which, this is what happens if you commit a "technical breach of the law" and you're not the Attorney General...

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  • Comment number 62.

    Nuclear powered subs are not the point - Trident is! Nuclear weapons replaced the thousand bomber raids of WW2, technology gives us precision munitions which destroy targets without massive collateral and environmental damage. Being able to kill a despot in his own home from a ship 2000 miles away is a better deterrent than actually destroying a city. Trident is over - bring on Tomahawk.

  • Comment number 63.

    Did we ever need Trident? Those who live on this small group of overcrowded islands must be still living in a post-colonial dream world if they think a major expense like this can make any difference to our safety. It is like putting a large burglar alarm and security system on a small house... it suggests paranoia. Does a small target need a gigantic shield?

  • Comment number 64.

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  • Comment number 65.

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  • Comment number 66.

    This is spin at its worst. The decision (if it gets the nod) to cut from four to three trident subs is nothing to do with non-prolifertion. It is all to do with cost cutting. If Brown was serious about non-proliferation he would be cutting the number of missiles each boat carries, or the number or warheads we own. Reducing the number of submarines achieves nothing, because there is always one (and only one) Trident submarine at sea at all times. This policy is not changing. So we will still have the same number of active submarines holding the same number of missiles and warheads. The decision to have a Trident sub at sea at all times is because to only put one to sea in times of tension would be seen to escalate the situation. Having your fist permanently clenched is less threatening that clenching it only when your neighbour gets too close.
    Whether it is possible to run a Trident programme on three boats is a mute point, still being debated in the MoD. With one boat on patrol, one on training excercises and (only) one in for maintenance there is no slack in the system. We now have a better understanding of the reliabilty of all the systems on the boats than we did 30+ years ago. If things operate exactly as intended, a three boat programme is *possibly* achievable. However if the unexpected happens and one of the boats is unusable for any length of time, that will be a massive stretch on resources. To keep one boat at sea would leave only one other boat, either in maintenance or training, but obviously not both. Would you rather have a good boat that no-one can remember how to use, or a highly trained crew on a boat with no valid MoT?
    The UN Security Council will see straight through Brown's claims that his offer is to aid world peace. It is a cost cutting measure first and last, and a potentially ill-considered one at that. The cost savings would not be that large as the design costs, tooling costs, development costs etc are the same. The components would need to be more reliable (i.e. more expensive) and the training facilities would still be needed.
    And what is the true cost anyway? The majority of work is British based. The companies involved pay tax to HMRC. The staff pay tax. They buy goods that have VAT on them. The shopkeepers pays tax. The shops' shareholders pay tax. I would suggest that the majority of the money is back in Treasury hands within two months of spending it. Does anyone know any figures for this sort of thing?

  • Comment number 67.


    OK. Thanks for the clarification.

  • Comment number 68.

    Is it possible that we could deliver our nuclear warheads to Moscow (or wherever we decide to attack) by cruise missiles launched from hunter killer submarines? If so, GB is making an offer that costs the UK little in weapons terms and saves a load of desperately needed cash. It might even allow the navy to buy an extra couple of hunter killers.

    One thing is sure, any war you fight is unlikely to be the one you specifically prepared for. Let's hope GB and co. remember that in deciding their defence budget.

  • Comment number 69.

    A request, can you trigger happy lefty mods get a grip and stop censoring posts for no reason?!!! You shold take care, when the tories break up the BBC it will be people like you who are first to go, perhaps you should stop showing your true (red) colours and actually be impartial and try and be vaguely competent at your job?

    I've had another one censored, must be becase my post contained the word "Scotland". Quite ironic on a blog abouy our nuclear deterrent housed in, yes you guessed it, Scotland...

  • Comment number 70.

    YEt more bleating this morning about schools and hospitals instead if Trident.

    Has it occured to these people that we have quite enough schools and hospitals after twelve years non stop spending on them and this tired old mantra of schools and hospitals investment simply has no ability anymore to catch the imagination of the elcectorate? We've got parnet teacher organisations in every corner and the NHS is the thrid biggest employer ion the world.

    Are these people not going to be satisfied unitl the NHS is bigger than the Russian army and the Indian railwaysd put together? Enough nurses and enough doctors; we are becoming a nation of overweight hypochondiracs.

    Explain why we need more nurses when the NHS is the third largest employer in the world? This is totally illogical and self indulgent.

    Trident, on the other hand, is our defence system.

    What exactly does NR mean when he talks about Gordon Brown has put Trident 'on the table'??? Pretty large table.. what is it, some kind of condiment? 'More Trident with your sausages, dear?' This is a defence shield...tell the Czechs or the Hungarians or the Poles that you don't want to defend your borders anymore. They'll think we're barmy. AS we are foir letting this Scottish idiot loose on our foreign policy and armed forces.

    Why would you trust a man with a decision on Trident who has sent hundreds of soldiers to their deaths in Afghanistan with the wrong equipment?

    This is a national disgrace. He'll be manning our borders with extra nurses next.

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 71.

    trident to be guilotined much like your blogs.

    ah the ghost of micheal foot appears in the SANFU_liebour party.

    See TB on newsnight talking about Nuclear Gen as an option for Co2 reduction. Did not seem to push that when PM

    The SANFU_liebour party have wider issues with anything nuclear, well amost until the PM loses rage goes Nuclear and lobs and Nokia at someone

  • Comment number 72.


    And there I was agreeing with one of your posts (! - this really is a story about nothing) until you had to slip in a 'danger, danger, warning, warning" note at the end about the Tories. I have not heard the slightest hint from the Tories that they would exceed current Trident replacement plans.

    So do you have any evidence that they do, or is it a groundless scare story?

  • Comment number 73.

    #42 And surely you can do better than "Tories might close schools to increase Trident". How about "Tories plan to staple new-born babies to Trident rockets"?

  • Comment number 74.

    Crossbelt....Tomahawk took out Sadam? Other high tech weapons are avoiding collateral casualties in Afghanistan?

    It is not about the weapons systems it is about posturing by Brown.

    Words that can not be proven until long after he has gone. But words that he feels make him look like a leader.

  • Comment number 75.

    30. emigrating#
    Good points all round.

    I think Brown is trying to do an Obama, but the difference between us & the USA is that they have more than enough slack in their system to make cuts, where as we have a minimum deterrent & can’t afford to make any.

    It is widely accepted that a minimum of 4 sub’s is required to maintain our deterrent, so Brown is clearly putting politics before the countries security.

    The reality is that the savings will not be as Brown forecasts, because the other 3 sub’s will have to be used more to make up for the shortfall, IE more running & maintenance costs.

    Do you think this token gesture will be enough to deter Iran & North Korea from developing their own weapons?
    I don’t think so.

    PS: Yes, it will be interesting to find out what the Tory line is.
    Weren't they commited to Trident as well?

    I’m going to recommend a BBC cost cut myself & this will mean merging Question time with Whose line is it anyway.

  • Comment number 76.

    Any money spent on our nuclear weapons is wasted as it is inconceivable that we would use them.
    Clearly they are no use against our main threat, terrorists, as they cannot be targetted at them.
    Whilst we may have legitimate concerns about some so-called rogue states would we sanction a nuclear attack which would indiscriminately wipe out thousands, if not millions, of innocent people - remember none of these states are truly democratic so our issues are with the dictatorships, not the people. Remember also that the damage, both short and long term,from a nuclear attack would not be contained to a small area. An attack on Iran for instance could lead to nuclear fall-out in Russia and Saudi Arabia. Would we risk that?
    The cold war is over but some may argue we should be worried about the re-emergence of an increasingly imperialist and aggressive Russia. Unlikely I know, but this has in the past been used as a justification for retaining our nuclear deterrent. However, this is not 1939 and we would not face an aggressor alone. The USA would not stand by and allow Britain to become an aircraft carrier for Russia and the Russians know this so an independent nuclear arsenal is unnecessary.
    We should scrap Trident immediately and re-allocate at least some of the resources to training and equipping our armed forces for the real dangers they actually face. The needs of our servicemen in combat situations should come before the paranoid fears of the scaremongerers or the self-important delusions of those who wish Britain to retain it's place at the nuclear table.

  • Comment number 77.

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

  • Comment number 78.

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

  • Comment number 79.

    whenever money is tight governments look to cut back and reduce and as always unpopular projects take it in the neck.
    we invented the television now we dont produce any, we used to sell motorcycles around the world but thanks to cutbacks we have little motorcycle or car production here, shipbuilding and repair is limited even though we as an island race rely heavily on shipping.
    our royal navy once the gratest military force on the planet is now a joke and close to being dangerously under maned.
    with military operations ongoing started by this government cutting back on military budgets will only endanger lives and ultimately weaken our defences beyond repair.
    this government should be brought to book for the damage they have done and the lives lost, all are at fault.

  • Comment number 80.

    Nukes DON'T work; certain-as-Christmas the UK WILL be hit with high-profile terrorist-attacks, primarily against finance & infrastructure [Crossness sewerage-pumping a prime-candidate]

    Heavily-armed military SHOULD be on-station TODAY within the UK.

  • Comment number 81.

    Trident is of course an American system and not actually British at all.

    In reality the UK does not have an 'independant' nuclear force the Trident system is on loan from the USA of whom we are a subservient client state.

    Without the permission of the USA the UK government will do nothing.

    The paranoia of many contributors about the EU is particularly strange in this context as we don't actually have any independance to lose.

  • Comment number 82.


    Not yet possible. Not unless you have the airborne bomber fleet to carry the weapon to its launch point. Tomahawk has a range of about 1500 miles, Trident D5 about 4500 miles. One flies nap of the earth, the other flies a ballistic trajectory. One contains several warheads, the other a single warhead.

    Moscow, for instance, is about 2000 miles from any coastline, ruling out sub launched Tomahawk. The American B2 might get through an air defence network deep enough to launch, but Tornado certainly couldnt, even if it could carry the weapon, which it cant and the RAF got rid of their free fall nuclear weapons about 15 years ago.

    So, you're left with Trident or nothing, until the Astute subs come in (six of them, if that, it might even be 4, I cant remember) or Trafalgar class cruise missile subs. Conventionally armed.

    The big decision is if you want nukes at all. Give up the nukes, bye bye to the Permanent Seat on the UNSC. Bye bye to playing PCSO to the US's world policeman. Go from being Great Britain to just plain old Britain, until that is, [irony alert: on] the constituent parts decide they've had enough of living under your old, Etonian educated upper-class, imperialist yoke and would rather hold out their hands to the EU begging bowl instead [irony alert: off].

    Whichever way, you want them or not, then the decision has to be made soon and stuck to. Its not just a simple case of tie the boats along side and turn off the reactors and they all get turned into ploughshares, as some of the unreconstituted hippies would have you believe. Or, just going to the US and saying can we have a new SSBN fleet please?


    Blimey Robin, thats really got your dander up, hasnt it? :-o

  • Comment number 83.

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

  • Comment number 84.

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

  • Comment number 85.

    So "Brown is to put Britain's nuclear programme on the table" is he?

    Thinking about, maybe, getting rid of one sub is empty gesture politics and wouldn't make a jot of difference. Three can easily 'do the job' of four and any talk of savings is a sham.

    With an empty UN gesture, Brown has kicked the Trident political football back into touch.

    Doesn't it take a leader with guts to scrap Trident, not some spineless PM living in a Yellow Submarine?

  • Comment number 86.

    •76. sonofthedesert wrote:
    Any money spent on our nuclear weapons is wasted as it is inconceivable that we would use them.
    Clearly they are no use against our main threat, terrorists, as they cannot be targetted at them.


    The main reason why we have a nuclear deterrent is help provide us with international political bargaining power.
    Many people have pointed to South Africa’s international prestige being reduced when they gave up their nuclear ambitions.

    Why do you think the USA,UK et al are so terrified that Iran should develop their own nuclear deterrent?
    It’s not the physical bang they are afraid of, but the political one.

    The same can be said of North Korea, but the difference here is that Kim Jong-il has been very successful in playing the issue off against aid etc.

    Like the Royal Family, it is very difficult to put a true balanced cost to the big picture of this issue.

  • Comment number 87.

    Agree with some of the above... it's GB doing what he does best.

    65. discuss2010
    d2010, what do you recommend for objective, unbiased reporting? (seriously, no trick Q.)

  • Comment number 88.

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

  • Comment number 89.

    Well,I'm going to follow Browns' lead..

    .I'm going to put an ad in the local paper telling all those nice burglars that my house security has been removed,because I think it will encourage said nasty people not to rob me...and I can save money at the same time.

    Makes perfect sense to me..don't know why I didn't think of it before

  • Comment number 90.

    Until we carry out a strategic defence review (SDR) in conjunction with our military aspirations abroad this is just gesture politics from a poor deluded soul who will do anthing to grab the headlines. The last SDR assumed we would not be in any wars let alone two, so our military capability is severely compromised. Besides if we could get by with three subs rather than four, it would have been tried by now.

    The aircraft carriers will be useless without flotilla support. We would need dozens of frigates/destroyers to defend the carriers - we simply do not have this. There are only SEVEN warships defending our coastline just now - if the asylum seekers in Calais only knew they just slip over the channel in a boat!

    Defence procurement in the US is always scrutinised closely by the Senate committees for "padding out of contracts". Yet an off the shelf Nimitz nuclear powered carrier or a US nuke sub is miles cheaper than the UK equivalent. Surely a NATO fleet ought to be compatible with each other - spending billions more just to keep design jobs is no excuse. Ironically it is the design that has led to so many problems and frequent and costly refits - the leaking nuclear fuel in the Firth of Clyde is shameful and a complete disgrace.

  • Comment number 91.

    The weirdest thing about Brown is not that he wants to reduce the nuclear sub fleet, but that the idea seems to have come to him in a flash. Not heard anything about this before then he turns up somewhere and Nick Robinson announces it like we have been expecting it for weeks knowing that the inner circle have meticulously looked at the pros and cons

    This will be my memory of him once he has gone - a man always desperate to be seen as important clutching at spur of the moment ideas and asking his minions "Will this make them see me for the statesman and leader I am?"

    He got rid of the gold, what's a few subs?

  • Comment number 92.

    For those too tired to read the whole story, a summary would seem to be:

    "Gordon Brown today pledged that his successor, at some point in the future will, if certain things happen, have a think about things."

  • Comment number 93.

    "a "global bargain" between nuclear and non-nuclear states."

    Is similar to the meaningless and hollow "global grand bargain" we were promised at the G20?

  • Comment number 94.

    We need to retain our nuclear deterrent in an unstable world or we may become a nuclear target.It is only feasible to use nuclear weapons against an enemy who cannot retaliate in kind.As a weapons system they have no value. As a deterrent system they are priceless. If Japan had had its own atom bomb in 1945 America could not have launched its two atom bomb attacks.
    However Trident may be overspecified for modern needs. Reducing the number of boats would bring a saving but we may need to look at the latest technology both in warhead, missile and missile shield design when deciding whether to replace Trident altogether or refit the present fleet, reduced in size.Looked at objectively nuclear weapons prevented the cold war from becoming the Third World War.
    Countless millions of lives have been saved thus far. We need to stay the course until the world is safe. First the US will have to be less imperialist in its foreign policy and achieve an accord with Russia, then bring China into the loop so that united pressure can be brought to bear on the other nuclear aspirants to abandon this terryfying concept which has the power literally to end the world.

  • Comment number 95.

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

  • Comment number 96.

    this is not exactly straying off topic, more re-iterating something that has been said previously. You state as fact in your blog that tomorrow El Gordo, acting in our best interests and taking the big, difficult decisions on our behalf, will suggest we re-think our nuclear deterrant strategy.

    Now if that's true, then you have been told in advance what is happening, and this is something that old El Gordo tells us just isn't going to happen any more. It is something he has said, or has been reported as having said, which may not be the same thing, but he doesn't contradict anything, on several occasions in the past. It is palpably not true, or incorrect, if you want some wriggle room, so is it any wonder that the people, us poor devils waiting for an election, no longer bleieve anything that is said, or reported as being said, by a professional, and serial, dissembler?
    This is, believe it or not, on topic, so I hope the moderators will have the grace to publish this.

  • Comment number 97.

    Seems like more dithering by Brown. When faced with a straight choice of whether or not to scrap Trident he simply can't make a decision, and ends up with this halfway house solution that no one wants. He just doesn't have the ability to be leader.

    For what it's worth I'd be in favour of keeping Trident, but believe we can dramatically reduce costs just by negotiating with the US a bit better. The negotiation over price started with the UK publicly stating that Trident is essential - did we really think that this was the way to drive a bargain? Possibly it was a decision by the same astute mind that sold all our gold.

  • Comment number 98.

    19 Browned off
    #The problem with Gordon Brown is the man is a spineless coward. He would like to get rid of Trident altogether - but hasn't got the political or moral courage. So he'll reduce the number by one, knowing that it will ultimately make the fleet unviable and unsustainable.

    You really are a odd fellow. Why would Gordon Brown like to get rid of trident altogether, can you justify that absurd statement?. If he knows that it would make the trident fleet unsustainable then why not get rid of them altogether, I fail to follow yours and many of your like minded bloggers on here that somehow Browns actions are going to benefit him. If the general concensus among you Tories is that Brown will be out of office in around six months, and seemingly according to you Tories on this blog doing away with one Trident is a dastardly act [although many were decrying replacing Trident a little while ago} what benefit is that to Brown the saving of cash will take years to gain fruition, apparently long after Brown has departed, so no gain there. Accordingly when Cameron [God forbid] comes to power in six months time he can easily change Browns plans and vow to restore Trident to full power, in fact it would not surprise me in the slightest that Cameron will do that very shortly Probably at the Tory conferrence, he is not likely to miss that step of band wagon jumping with his track record, at whatever cost to the country, or a step towards showing good faith in removing at least a little step towards all the ridiculous nuclear warheads that endanger the future generations to come notwithstanding the present population.
    your absurd remark that Gordon Brown is a spineless coward
    is totally unjustified as are most of your remarks that you make concerning him, he has gone there to make an offer, a step towards bringing common sense to all the countries seeking to posess these usless weapons, lets hope he's right and successful in this act, not stupidly denigrate the man for at least trying.

  • Comment number 99.

    45 secret skivver
    #The cost saving argument is spurious. £2 billion by 2020 ? It's a drop in the ocean of Labour debt.
    The countries debt.
    Perhaps your fellow Tory bloggers should heed you words when they claim that this is a cost cutting action to save money to help the countries finances.

  • Comment number 100.

    I am amazed 12 hours after a post and it still live for dicsussion. Qu'elle surprise!

    Lets cut to the chase all Gordon has done is a small bit of grand standing to get some cheap publicity pre G20 and also to placate the anti-nuclear lobby in the Labour party.

    The final decision re replacing Trident won't be made for a few years at least and there is no reason why the decision re 3 or 4 including the purchase of the relevant missiles cannot wait even more years.

    Mny defence contracts are set up with the design costs as a fixed amount paid irrespective of the number of items and then an initial order is made with often an option to buy more.

    What is to stop the UK government when the final decision is made from ordering three with an option for a fourth at a later date? They won't all be built at once after all as is the case with destroyers, frigates etc. The subs will come in service on a rolling programme anyway like the type 45 destroyers.


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