David Davis has written a piece for the Financial Times today in which he questions whether a future Conservative government should commit itself to a wholesale replacement of Trident. it was written as a wider piece on how a Tory government could reduce public spending. His logic is, on the face of it very sound. The threat we are under today does not require the same kind of independent nuclear deterrent which we needed in the Cold War. He argues...
We should also, as Conservatives, address some of our own sacred cows. There is no firmer advocate of nuclear deterrence than me, but even I have some difficulty seeing the justification for a wholesale upgrade of Trident. Our system was designed to maintain 100% retaliatory capacity after a full-scale Soviet nuclear onslaught. Now our likeliest nuclear adversary will be a much smaller, less sophisticated state. Should not the costs reflect that?
When the government announced it was to proceed with a full scale replacement of Trident I wrote that while I would probably support that, it would have been nice for there to have been a real public debate about it and whether it really fitted into our future defence needs. That's why I am glad that David Cameron has committed himself to a full Strategic Defence Review upon taking office. ConservativeHome reports that David Cameron did not dissent from David Davis's view at his press conference this morning.
I suspect that there may be some in the Conservative hierarchy who will not welcome this debate and view Trident as a sacred cow. I believe they are wrong. It may well be that we need it fully upgraded, but I'd prefer there to be a proper assessment of our defence needs for the next thirty years before committing ourselves to spending £20 billion.
What do others think?