As I suspected, the world's media was considerably less than overwhelmed by the Lib Dems' debate on Trident. The Independent on Sunday doesn't appear to know that we are in Harrogate. Well, I know their budget is tight and they probably couldn't afford to send someone to Yorkshire when their staff were all busy writing about fashion, Liz Hurley and Jade Goody. Still, we'll all go together when we go.
For months now I have been trying to ensure that my party, alone among the major parties, would have the courage to say, as most leading military and diplomatic authorities know, that Trident is useless, expensive and dangerous. Well, we nearly did. Only the last minute intervention of Ming himself swung the vote against rejecting Trident. Yet even with a powerful speech from Ming and another (less powerful) from Simon Hughes, they only won by 40 votes.
Our drafting could have been a little tighter, but in the end the politics of fear beat the politics of hope again.
Fear of an uncertain future was the argument for not renouncing Trident yet. Bruce Kent dealt with this argument in a fringe meeting on Friday night. You have to imagine an enemy so mad that they would use nuclear weapons but so sane that they would be deterred by ours. To this I would add: and then you have to imagine that this enemy wants to attack the UK and no-one else.
Fear of the media and other parties attacking us underlay the caution which now means that Lib Dems want to keep Trident for a few years more and then have another think about it. As one person who voted against our amendment said, "Can you imagine the headlines if you'd won ?" . Well, I can imagine the small paragraphs on the second or third page. I can also imagine how British politics could look if politicians stopped running scared and started showing leadership, but then what do I know ? After all, I opposed the Iraq war.
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