Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: Flickr / UK Home Office Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: Flickr / UK Home Office

The case against a trigger-happy Prime Minister

Michael Fallon, Defence Secretary, yesterday reiterated that Theresa May would have no hesitation to press the red button. He also added that firing nuclear weapons pre-emptively, even if Britain was not under threat of nuclear attack, was on the table.

The announcement was made to once more give the media a field day on the divisions in Labour on its stance on Trident. Predictably, they did. The headlines were filled with how Jeremy Corbyn is “weak”, a “security risk” and the Express went as far as saying Jeremy is “inviting Kim Jong-Un to annihilate the UK”.

Admittedly, Labour MPs lining up to go against Jeremy is not a good look for any party contesting an election. But this is neither new nor uncharacteristic of the Labour Party.

We shouldn’t expect Labour MPs to support Jeremy on this issue or defend him even for the sake of the election. Many of its MPs are the same that supported the Iraq War in 2003, and Libya in 2011, and Syria in 2015. It is also the Labour Party that ushered in Britain’s nuclear weapons system and has opposed unilateral disarmament since. The Tories and the mainstream media have also held this same position.

But let’s look past the electoral propaganda and give some context to the situation. Donald Trump has sent warships to the Korean peninsula and has today called in the Senate to a special White House briefing on North Korea. The threat of nuclear warfare is now the most likely it has been since the end of the Cold War.

Michael Fallon says a Corbyn victory would make Putin happy. But we need to make clear that a victory for Theresa May is a victory for the special relationship with a trigger happy Trump. Trump is the most unpopular US President to date. Two thirds of the British public believe Trump is a threat to international stability and almost 2 million people signed the petition to cancel his state visit.

Do we really want a Prime Minister who holds hands with a US President who tries to win over his domestic critics by inching towards nuclear armageddon? A Prime Minister that has gleefully said she would press the nuclear button and murder hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of civilians? A Prime Minister that has now made clear she would use the weapons as a first strike, even if the threat is not against us?

This is the message that we must explain in plain terms. Even if the majority of people don’t support unilateral disarmament and believe Trident acts as a deterrent, the reaction to Trump’s escalation in Korea suggests the majority of people would not support the UK initiating thermonuclear war, for the sake of Trump no less.

It is also clear that being anti-Trident can be part of an election-winning platform – just look at the SNP.

Supporting Jeremy Corbyn is a fight for the UK’s first antiwar Prime Minister. It is up to the antiwar movement to step up and continue making the arguments against war and nuclear weapons. It will be a crucial intervention in this election for groups locally and nationally to make a lot of noise about this in the next few weeks.

Shabbir Lakha

Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.