Suggestions surfaced publicly today that the UK Ministry of Defence is considering a delay to the main gate for Trident replacement – the point at which a decision is taken to start actual construction of the submarines – until 2015/16, after the next election.
BASIC understands that these discussions have been ongoing throughout August, and that the decision has been made on the basis of accountability and the political context.
The thinking goes something like this.
If you have a vote on main gate just before the election (or worse, a decision without a vote) the government will be accused of rushing it through before the election and appearing weak; particularly so the Liberal Democrats, but also the Tories. The parties do not need a vote in Parliament prior to the election to show they are different (desirable as they run up towards an election, particularly on this issue). Simply making commitments one way or another on the issue in a run-up to the election would be sufficient demonstration of difference.
The consequence of a planned vote soon after the election would throw the issue right to the top of the public political agenda during the election campaign, to a level not seen since the 1980s.
Parliamentary support for the current system at that point is likely to depend heavily upon the international environment, developments in the state of others’ nuclear programmes and the diplomatic non-proliferation and disarmament track, and the evolution of Britain’s role in the world over the next five years, as well as most crucially on the movement of UK public opinion on the issue.
See the following news articles for further information on this issue: