Caron Lindsay sums up the nuclear weapons debate at the Liberal Democrat conference here. I was saddened by the large majority by which the abolitionist amendment was defeated, but at least my conscience is assuaged. A chest infection prevented my attendance in York, but as it turned out my one vote would have been irrelevant.
It seems to me that insufficient weight was given to the economic argument. As I wrote around the time of the 2015 debate:
The nuclear deterrent may have been just that in an earlier age but it is not one now and the cost of Trident replacement - conservatively, £15bn for the hardware, and £2bn annual running costs - could be better diverted into more relevant areas of defence.
The costs have gone up, but another serious argument has arisen as a result of the US presidential election. Who would have thought even two years ago that we could be prevented, by means of its built-in technological lock, from deploying Trident against the only major power likely to threaten us militarily, namely Putin's Russia? Yet the White House is now occupied by one who is friendly to authoritarian Russia and antagonistic towards the democratic Germany. If Putin decided to follow in the footsteps of Catherine the Great and extend the Russian empire westwards, would the US president enable Trident so that we could threaten nuclear retaliation, or would our fleet have to float impotently while we attempted to stem the progress of the Red Army with our conventional forces?
It is more likely (though still a remote possibility, thank goodness) that we will be dragged into a war in the far east, and be expected to deploy Trident on behalf of the United States and Japan against China, the nation the current UK government is depending on to fund so many of our technological developments. Just the threat of such an alignment would surely persuade Beijing to pull out.
It will be argued that Trump is a temporary aberration. But he is going to be there for nearly another four years, and who is to say he will not renew his mandate in 2020? The established parties in the United States seem to be eroding, increasing the chance of mavericks with good PR and money succeeding to the presidency in future.