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Saturday, November 25, 2006

A radical future

I am always suspicious of former Government Ministers who discover their radicalism after they have left office. The question that always hangs in the air is, if they truly believe that the path they are now espousing is the way forward why did they not say so in Government and act on it?

Of course nobody knows what went on behind the closed doors of the very many cabinet committees or, indeed, in various policy forums set up to plan the Government's agenda. From my own experience of government as Deputy Minister I am acutely aware that a number of changes that emerged from the 2000-2003 Welsh Partnership Government did not go as far as many of my party would have liked and in some cases went in completely the wrong direction.

At least Charles Clarke did not commit the sin of some of his colleagues of talking left whilst in Government and acting right. The latest decision on Trident has more than exposed those Cabinet members who have done this. They know who they are. It does seem rather peculiar for example that somebody can move so quickly from being a member of CND to supporting an independent nuclear deterrent, but I suppose needs must and there are wider issues at stake, including the Deputy Leadership.

My main problem with Mr. Clarke however, is not his sudden boldness but that he is not being very radical at all. He may well be espousing heresies within his own party but proposals to introduce Westminster Select Committees for some English regions, the alternative vote for Westminister elections, lowering the voting age to 16 (as already done on the Isle of Man), and a mainly elected second chamber still sit squarely within a political comfort zone when it comes to serious constitutional reform.

There is no attempt to truly empower people in any of these reforms. Further devolution of power is restricted to the Westminster old boys club, patronage will still prevail in appointing those members of the second chamber who are not elected and the alternative vote is the reform that will most favour Labour and is not a properly proportional voting system. Even the move to lower the voting age is just an acknowledgement of a growing political orthodoxy.

Still, Mr. Clarke is at least travelling in the right direction. What a shame he was unable to implement any of these proposals when he was Home Secretary.
Charles Clarke is not the only leopard to change his spots.

The Times reported yesterday that Peter Hain allowed his CND membership to lapse a couple of years ago, and now supports a Trident-replacement.

Details of this dispicable volte-face can be seen on my blog.
Indeed, I have even referred to this incident in this post.
It really annoys me when people describe the UK Nuclear deterrent as being “independent”. How can it be independent when the Trident missiles are leased to us by the United States? Those missiles are wholly constructed in the US (apart from the warheads – which are built by the AWE at Aldermaston) and tested in the US (at Cape Canaveral). The missiles onboard the UK’s Vanguard submarines now, will, most likely, end up in US submarines – if they haven’t already – in future.

German, Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, etc, all manage without nuclear weapons – so why cant the UK? I can think of better things to spend ~£25bn on. Yes, ok, so all those countries have defence treaties with the USA (NATO and ANZUS), but I really can’t think of any realistic scenario whereby the UK would need to use its nuclear deterrent. The US would deal with North Korea in any event there, and Israel, backed by the US, would deal with an aggressive Iran.
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