In September 2006 the TUC resolved: “Congress calls upon the Government not to replace Trident.”
A few weeks later, Labour Party conference met. The report to it from the National Policy Forum — a new body set up under Tony Blair’s remodelling of the Labour Party — stated: “The question of the replacement for the Trident system is one of central importance... there should be a full debate on the issue.”
In a bizarre twist typical of the Blair-Brown Labour Party, this statement that there should be a full debate then became the pretext for denying a debate.
Seventeen motions from constituency Labour Parties on Trident replacement were ruled out of order, on the grounds that they covered matter “substantively addressed” by the National Policy Forum report.
As we go to press, the Blair-Brown government is set to ram through Parliament a decision to replace Trident, after it becomes obsolete around 2025, by a new generation of British nuclear weapons.
It will rely on Tory votes to swamp the many Labour protesters.
The Trident replacement will be the fourth generation of British submarine-mounted nuclear weapons, after Polaris (from 1968), Chevaline (an upgrading of Polaris in the 1980s), and Trident (decided on in 1980, and deployed from 1994).
It will make Britain still one of those states which threatens the world with the slaughter of millions of civilians, and the possible destruction of all civilisation, through nuclear weapons. It will encourage nuclear proliferation. And it will cost up to £76 billion over its lifetime.
No wonder that the trade unions voted against replacing Trident. The question is, will the trade unions use their political clout to stop that replacement?
The unions had the political capacity to force a debate at the 2006 Labour conference. They could force a debate — and, probably, an anti-replacement decision — at the 2007 conference. And then, instead of shrugging their shoulders when Blair and Brown ostentatiously dismiss conference decisions, as the union leaders usually do, they could fight to get the democratic decision respected.
We can still defeat Trident, but only by mobilising in the unions and forcing their leaders to fight.