Thursday, March 01, 2007

Avoiding fallout

The Liberal Democrats descend upon Harrogate this weekend for their spring conference. Lucky Harrogate.

One of the items for debate are proposals to formalise the Liberal Democrats stance on replacing the Trident nuclear missile system. The policy paper can be found here and here's the agenda with the specific policy changes.

They reckon that reducing our nuclear capability by 50% would restart the global process of disarmament (touching, that faith in international human nature, isn't it?). The Lib Dems want to keep Trident in service beyond the planned date of retirement, which requires a service life extension programme to refurbish the boats between 2019 and 2026 to add five years to their lifespan (whether this is cost-effective is perhaps questionable). Unless world peace descends within the next decade, a replacement would probably be sourced but with a reduced capability to Trident. Aside from the question mark over extending service life, this an entirely valid policy option (there are others, of course).

So why are Lib Dem MPs trying to find ways of avoiding becoming entangled in this debate? Dave Radcliffe reveals that the Emperor Ming's office is ringing around trying to whip PPCs into attending as their elected brethren are ducking the issue. Could it be that the MPs don't want to be painted as either soft on defence or too pro-nuclear?

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