Trident missile Trident missile. Photo: US National Archives / Public Domain

The biggest threat to the freedoms and safety of the British people is our own government, not someone else’s, argues Sean Ledwith

Having watched in horror as coronavirus has swept over the UK in the last twelve months, there can’t be many people that have come to the conclusion that what we desperately need are more nuclear warheads. Unfortunately Boris Johnson and his cabinet are among that presumably very small group. While the rest of us were horrified by the chronic shortages of PPE, ICU beds and testing facilities, the Tories were obviously thinking the crisis highlights the urgent need for the UK to be able to wipe entire cities off the map.

Warped agenda

This week the Tory government unveiled its sabre-rattling Global Britain in a Competitive Age Integrated Review of defence and foreign policy. Nothing symbolises the warped agenda of this calamitous administration more than its crazed pursuit of stupendously expensive and obscene weapons of mass destruction while the country continues to wilt under the dual burden of the pandemic and the consequent economic and social hardship.

The Tory plans consist of lifting a cap on the number of warheads that can be stockpiled from 180 to 260. That is a 40% increase in our ability to incinerate hundreds of thousands of innocent people. The document includes the abandonment of the traditional commitment to a retaliatory-only use of nuclear weapons and speculates that they could even be deployed as a first strike against emerging technologies such as cyber-attacks.

This punctures the myth that nukes are primarily a deterrent and would never be used against a non-nuclear enemy. The Integrated Review shamefully commits the UK to squandering £24 billion on defence over four years at a time when nurses have been told they can only have a 1% pay rise and the rest of the public sector are enduring a pay freeze.

Claimants on Universal Credit are being threatened with the end of the £20 uplift in the autumn and millions more face unemployment when the furlough ends at the same time. For Chancellor Rishi Sunak to claim two weeks ago that these measures are an economic necessity is clearly complete nonsense. The price tag for the Trident weapons system is already over £200 billion and now the government boasts of throwing even more money at propping up the UK’s imperial delusions. This malicious government is blatantly prioritising warfare over welfare

White elephants

 The Tory plans represents a major escalation of the possibility of catastrophic military conflict between great powers and are premised on a delusional assessment of the UK’s geopolitical significance. The document is crammed with dangerously confrontational rhetoric about taking on China, Russia and other supposed threats from around the globe.

‘The fact that China is an authoritarian state, with different values to ours, presents challenges for the UK and our allies…. Until relations with its government improve, we will actively deter and defend against the full spectrum of threats emanating from Russia.

The UK aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is to be deployed to the Indo Pacific region in another gesture of grandstanding militarism. This vessel is another white elephant of mass destruction that has already cost £6 billion to feed the Tories’ insatiable appetite for global posturing. Beneath all the twaddle about ‘Global Britain’, the government is simply falling into line with new President Joe Biden’s belligerent approach to China, as witnessed by his convening of the Quad group of nations last week. Consisting of India, Japan, Australia and the US, this is Washington’s latest attempt to corral regional powers into forming a hostile alliance around China.

As former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn rightly noted:

‘It is not a plan for our national defence. It is a plan for more and longer overseas operations with less accountability – a charter for new forever wars like Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a plan for new arms races and new nuclear weapons that tear up our treaty obligations. It provokes military dangers while defunding plans for real threats and cutting the international development budget.’

Open society?

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab sought to present this renewed confrontation with other powers as sort type of principled ideological crusade. ‘We will never relent or stop standing up for our values, including the values of open societies, democracy and human rights.’ Ironically, he made this comment in the same week the Tories are ramming through the massively draconian restrictions on democratic freedoms and public protest in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

We also learned this week that the PM has finally accepted last March’s lockdown came too late. Nearly 130,000 British people have now paid with their lives for his blundering incompetence. The notion that he or any other Tory should be entrusted with even more nukes for our safety is a joke in very poor taste.

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Sean Ledwith

Sean Ledwith is a Counterfire member and Lecturer in History at York College, where he is also UCU branch negotiator. Sean is also a regular contributor to Marx and Philosophy Review of Books and Culture Matters