On Monday, MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of renewing Trident, the U.K’s nuclear weapons system, with 472-117 in favour of renewal.
An article published in the Independent, written by Adam Withnall last year, questioned our need for nuclear proficiency - stating that 93% of the world’s total nuclear weapons were owned by either the United States or Russia.
That very same article also spoke of an independent report into Trident by the British American Security Information Council (BASIC), which found that our country’s nuclear capabilities are still highly reliant upon American support. Far from renewing an independent nuclear weapons system, MP’s have resuscitated a defense strategy, beholden to the cousins across the pond.
However, the main argument for Trident is of course that it acts as a deterrent and there has yet to be a nuclear holocaust. However, this claim urgently needs to be put in perspective; Britain possesses 150 active nuclear warheads with the U.S. and Russia currently possessing over 1500 active warheads each.
Britannia can pretend that her nuclear capabilities are contributing to some idea of world “peace” - but the truth is that the military superpowers, the U.S. and Russia are totally in control. Even now, the US continues to flaunt military power right on Russia’s doorstep. For example, the recent NATO military exercises in Poland were the biggest single military exercise of its kind since the conclusion of the Cold War.
In the unlikely event of nuclear war - the UK would rather resemble a pair of old guys with shotguns showing up to a gang fight between two well-armed groups. Sure, we would be armed and look the part - but it would be ultimately futile.
But after all, weapons of mass destruction rather appeal to people as a sure-fire sign of strength. Indeed, reducing the countries own nuclear capabilities would be a step back from the world stage - which would be unpopular at a time that nationalism is rather rampant in Britain.
The youngest current MP, the SNP’s Mhairi Black, stood up during the debate and put the anti-Trident argument to the near empty House perfectly. And the key word that she used was “ego”.
For all the talk of deterring nuclear holocaust and maintaining peace or stability, it really comes down to the UK’s obsession with appearing like a power on the world stage. The truth is: we aren’t and we cannot afford to be.
We are told we must shoulder deep spending cuts, yet suddenly we are able to spare billions to revamp weaponry which (hopefully) we will never even use. No matter how certain the Prime Minister is that she would.
Like the Syrian air strikes vote - it has come down to symbolism. Britain still feels it must be seen to be amongst the big hitters by supporting its allies by simply doing as they do. Are we actually adding anything substantial? No. But substance no longer seems to have much of an appeal.
Sadly, the argument against nuclear weapons has long been viewed as an argument wielded by the idealist, the hippy or the foolish. And as the vote in Parliament presented - that perception doesn’t look likely changing anytime soon.