By James Maclaren, Jan 17 2016 12:56PM
Its difficult to know whether to be confused or just settle for despair with Jeremy Corbyn’s latest defence initiative announced on television. Caught between unions and workers in the defence industry concern for jobs and the ideology of left wing activists, Corbyn included, wanting to pursue unilateral nuclear disarmament, the latest idea is that the United Kingdom could retain its fleet of Trident submarines but remove the missiles and warheads! The straight-faced idea delivered with complete seriousness, apparently as part of a mature debate within the Labour Party on future national defence policy, could only come from a politician and party struggling with reconciliation of its ideological roots and the reality of the strategic security environment in which the United Kingdom must realize its national responsibility to defend its people and interests and meaningfully fulfil its international obligations.
Corbyn announces that his first priority is jobs, understandably so when if his left shifting party is ever to achieve power it will need to gather every blue collar vote it can. However, the absurd idea that a major part of national defence expenditure and the resources and personnel of the Royal Navy are to be used as a job creation scheme will not be lost on the wider population. Once again Corbyn speaks only to a narrow band of left wing activists while attempting to fudge a policy compromise to keep the wider vote together.
I understand Mr Corbyn’s view on the nuclear deterrent. I don’t agree with it but am prepared to respect it. However, mealy fudges like this patronise a large number of informed and knowledgeable people and organisations which take the long term generational view on the need to protect the United Kingdom from the wide range of threats which face us not just now but in decades to come. It is unlikely that such views will be seriously incorporated in the Labour defence policy review and the arguments will be carefully steered and marshalled to reflect Corbyn’s unilateralist supporters and their simplistic understanding of the Country’s defence and security requirements. His initiative nakedly puts internal politics of the Labour Party above the national interest and confirms not only his disinterest in defence, but his deep ignorance of it.
What purpose four 16000 tonne nuclear powered submarines would serve within the armed forces without the role of carrying the nuclear deterrent is unclear. Previous extensive studies and trials by the United States on the re-role of SSBNs using the past generation of Polaris boats proved their ability is highly limited lacking capability to operate in shallower waters and without the agility to manoeuvre and conduct operations such as those undertaken by smaller nuclear attack submarines. If Corbyn were honest he would admit he doesn’t care. Making a mockery of the United Kingdom’s strategic defence policy is less important than handing out meaningless jobs to ship yard workers.