Friday, January 1, 2010

Breaking the Iron Law, the importance of the nuclear deterrent

When James Callaghan left Number 10 after being defeated by Margaret Thatcher in the May 1979 election (i just about remember it) he broke the so called "Iron Law". An outgoing administration is not supposed to supply it's files to it's replacement but Callaghan thought some files were important enough to break the law, they were on the British nuclear deterrent.

Callaghan had already been discussing with President Carter replacing the existing Polaris SLBMs with Trident and he wanted to pass on his notes to Thatcher and technical documents he had commissioned. In the event Thatcher continued with the Trident programme and we now stand at a point where the deterrent has to be replaced again.

The smart money is on renewing Trident with improved missiles and a new generation of boats though it could be the government may aim to delay replacement as long as possible to save money. A design contract has already been delayed of course and it is likely they will try and make do with 3 boats not 4 (the original RN SSBN force was to have been 5 boats).

Is a nuclear deterrent still as important now as it was in 1979, could you imagine Brown passing on his notes to Cameron? The deterrent is still important which it why it is likely to remain part of the British defence armoury despite the current fiscal strains. A permanent seat on the UN Security Council would be difficult to justify without the means to destroy much of the world, as well as that it (and the French nuclear weapons) are a vital part of EU foreign policy and security in many ways even if you would never get anyone to admit it.

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