Lib Dem nuclear re-think ahead of NATO

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 18 May 2012 in Diary
Menzies Campbell’s calls to re-think Trident will cheer the party following, but is coalition partner David Cameron listening?

David Cameron is in Chicago ahead of this weekend’s NATO summit, busy meeting Francois Hollande and other world leaders to jolly well sort out the eurozone.

Meanwhile the Lib Dems are trying to capitalise on the summit’s golden opportunity to bring home a traditional Liberal bugbear: the Trident missile system.

Writing in the Financial Times (£) yesterday, Menzies Campbell called for a re-think on nuclear policy, in particular scrapping the “Moscow criterion” – an archaic detail which gives Trident the power to destroy ballistic missile defenses around Moscow, should the United States not intervene first.

But, like proxy wars and David Hasselhof, this is a Cold War hangover we might be better shaking off.

“It is unthinkable today that Britain would contemplate the destruction of the heavily populated capital of Russia – or of any other city,” he wrote.

“The UK could make this decision without any prejudice to national security. It would make a significant contribution to the multilateral disarmament so eloquently promoted by US President Barack Obama.”

Indeed, President Obama and the prime minister will meet this weekend in Chicago.

But is David Cameron listening? It might be too soon to say. His parting message, an op-ed in Politics Home about the NATO summit, focused more on the economy, Afghanistan and development.

A passing reference to Iran and Syria – both “grave” threats, he said – will not amount to much in the way of nuclear discussion (at least not in public). If anything, the alleged threat from Iran is likely to stymie progressive debate in government for the foreseeable future.

Menzies Campbell is reminding Lib Dems of one of their traditional struggles, while the party dwindles around the 7% mark under Nick Clegg. Having already made a huge ideological compromise on tuition fees, a Lib Dem led re-think on Trident would give the party a legacy in the eyes of the public and improve relations with the party following.

But as Greece threatens to leave the euro, Europe – David Cameron included – has other things on its mind.

Tags: Menzies Campbell, NATO, Trident

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