An unlikely new gang of four have just written a piece in the Times that appears to hint that the UK should go back on the decision to commission a new generation of nuclear subs. The article is by two former Conservative foreign secretaries Douglas Hurd and Matthew Rifkind, one ex-Labour ditto David Owen and Blair’s ex- Defence Secretary and former Nato Sec Gen George Robertson – none of them exactly CND. They give backing to a US initiative led by Henry Kissinger no less, to bid for a major scaling down of nuclear weapons via the nuclear deproliferation route that so far has had only limited success. ( See India, Pakistan, Israel and what about the rogues, N Korea and Iran?).
Where does Britain fit in? Note the sentence in the Times piece:
“The UK has reduced its nuclear weapons capability significantly over the past 20 years. It disposed of its freefall and tactical nuclear weapons and has achieved a big reduction of the number of warheads used by the Trident system to the minimum believed to be compatible with the retention of a nuclear deterrent. If we are able to enter into a period of significant multilateral disarmament Britain, along with France and other existing nuclear powers, will need to consider what further contribution it might be able to make to help to achieve the common objective.”
Does this imply the UK should think again over renewing Trident which only passed the Commons in March last year in the dying days of Blair with Conservative support, despite Brown’s specific backing?
Yet again, it might only mean support for Brown’s vague pledge for Britain to look again at its nuclear stockpile in order to boost new efforts to contain nuclear proliferation, as stated in his national security statement earlier this year.
But why bother to write the kind of joint article that attracts attention, when Brown has already promised to take that course?
And why wait for over a year to make their move, since Kissinger et al pronounced? Tell us more please, Gang of Four.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London