Trident is trending on Twitter. At present, it is the Number One trending topic in the UK.
Opponents of Trident have been hoping for years that Trident would become an election issue. It is ironic that it has hit the headlines because the Conservatives have decided to talk about it.
In saying this, I’m not downplaying the efforts of thousands of activists who have stepped up anti-Trident activism in recent months, blockading bases such as Aldermaston and Faslane and spreading opposition to Trident in their local communities. Nor am I dismissing the efforts of anti-Trident parties, such as the Greens, the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Plaid Cymru.
However, it is worth noting that the Conservative Party would not have sought to make Trident a headline issue today if they did not consider it an opportunity to gain support.
This is rather bizarre, given that opinion polls consistently show that a majority of the British public are opposed to Trident renewal, especially at a time of austerity and spending cuts.
The situation with Russia and Ukraine may have affected this figure to a limited extent. Michael Fallon’s rhetoric this morning may gain the Conservatives a few votes from the “defend our nation” tendency. Such people talk as if everyone in the UK had the same interests and the same concerns, whereas it seems to me that the British and Russian people have more in common with each other than with their own governments. It is the global super-rich who are robbing and threatening us all, as more people are coming to realise.
However, issues of “defence” feel like safe ground to Conservative politicians such as Michael Fallon. Both Tory and Labour members look back to the 1980s, when Labour’s opposition to nuclear weapons was blamed for its election defeats.
A good many voters going to the polls this year – those aged under 32 – were not even born at the time of the Conservative landslide in 1983. Many more of us – those between 32 and 50 – were born but not old enough to vote. The very youngest people who will vote on 7 May were born in the week after Tony Blair became Prime Minister in 1997.
Please don’t get me wrong: I’m not dismissing those voters over 50 who did vote in 1983. They make up a sizeable chunk of the electorate. But many of them have moved on from the 1980s, whereas the Tory and Labour leaderships seem not to have done so. The Conservatives think they can gain support by banging out about “defence”. Labour are frightened and are desperately pleading that they too will retain Trident and defend Britain.
When I say “Labour”, I mean the Labour leadership. It was recently discovered that three quarters of Labour candidates oppose Trident. The question, as a friend of mine put it, is whether three quarters of them have backbones. Will they simply give in to the Tory pressure?
In 2013, Ed Miliband showed real guts by leading his MPs to vote against bombing Syria. In recent days, he has made strong progressive points about “non-doms” and other forms of tax dodging. Why will he not have the courage to say what the majority of the public believe and commit himself to scrapping Trident?
It’s great that Trident has become an election issue. Let’s not leave it to politicians and the mainstream media to decide the way it is discussed. We need to increase the pressure on Labour candidates to take an anti-Trident position. Let’s not forget for a minute that we must put pressure on SNP candidates to ensure that they really do make Trident a red line issue. And we need to be out on the streets, in our communities, our faith groups, our trades unions and online, making the case against Trident.
Parliament is due to make a decision on Trident renewal next year. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to stop it going ahead, making the world safer, leading the way on disarmament, and spending £100bn on something worthwhile at a time of spiralling poverty and imminent climate chaos.