Speech to Conference on Trident

"Chair, Conference

Stephen Low, Glasgow Southside CLP 

Moving Composite Resolution 10 – because a renewal ofthe Trident nuclear missile system is something we do not need  and we cannot afford.

Conference any discussion about Trident should start with an acknowledgement of what a renewed Trident system is for.

Its purpose is to detonate a nuclear warhead above a city, killing everyone in its radius.

 Not enemies, not targets, everyone.

 That’s the central fact about Trident.

There are other facts about Trident, but that's the central one, and one we should never forget.

Now the more philosophical amongst you might care to speculate on the moral state of someone who would give instructions for such an attack.

For myself , I’m just pleased, and we can be proud, that we have a leader in Jeremy Corbynwho says he would never order such a slaughter.

Advocates of nuclear weapons assure us that their purpose is not to be used, but to deter.

But deter who?

The Russians?

Whose oligarchy own half the mansions in London

And a couple of newspapers

 And a Premier league football team

.. admittedly it’s not a very successful team at the moment , but even so .

The Chinese?

The people we’ve just signed a fifty year hire purchase deal with to pay for nuclear power stations?

 Conference, we aren’t these countries target – we’re their asset base 

And when it comes to the real threats to this country, things like terrorism, things like cyber attacks, things like climate change, Trident is utterly, utterly useless.

We shouldn't want Trident renewal even if it were free, but of course it’s not free, it comes at an utterly bewildering cost.

We should perhaps bear in minds the words of General Eisenhower

“Every gun made, every warship launched , every missile fired, signifies...a theft form those who are hungry and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed”.

Without putting too fine a point on it perhaps a country where children are being fed via food banks should have other priorities than spending one hundred and sixty seven thousand million pounds  on nuclear weapons.  

Conference it s no part of this resolution, or  this policy that anyone should lose their job.

Quite the reverse

 It’s renewing Trident that will cost jobs, because the cost is so huge it will inevitably lead to cutbacks in defence expenditure elsewhere.

And we need those workforces – if we are going to rebuild a manufacturing base to drive a high skill high wage economy - we need those workforces, we need those skills retained and built upon.

 But we can’t rebuild a manufacturing base off the back of Trident renewal...

 Trident renewal has limited supply chain spin offs

 You don’t get much technology transfer to the wider economy

Trident renewal won’t give the clusters of excellence and innovation – the interaction between research and development , firms and academia that will be needed to sustain high tech manufacturing.

And for reasons that I hope are too obvious to need explaining - there isn’t much of an export market for this stuff.

 So it doesn’t help with our balance of trade or with paying our way in the world.

And if we accept the trident means jobs argument what does that say about our vision for the future ?  

And are we really saying that we will accept an economy where the only employment that can be found for our most skilled craftsmen and women – our most highly qualified technicians, is in  making nuclear weapons?

Conference. Diving for dear life, when we could be diving for pearls doesn’t scarcely cover it.

We should be using these workforces to give us a foothold in the low carbon and renewable energy technologies that we are going to need to survive and thrive in the 21st century.

Creating jobs in their own and other communities.  

Doing that will take determination and political will, renewing Trident demonstrates neither.

Conference this is a choice between life and death

We can choose, to squander our resources, to squander our talents, to squander our ability to make the future better than the past  – by choosing an ever greater capacity to deal out death.

Or instead of that we can choose to invest  in our communities , invest our skills base, choose to  invest in building an economy, that can deliver the sort of  country we want for ourselves and our children.

Conference - Lets choose life

Let’s be the change we want to see in the world

Let’s cancel Trident renewal

 I move"    

[ In the debate that followed the argument of those opposed seldom mentioned actual defence . 

Overwhelmingly it was a case of “Gies mair bombs – cos bombs mean jobs” - incidentally that is a paraphrase, not a caricature, of the argument. The steel industry was given frequent mentions and Gary Smith, Scottish Secretary of the GMB, amongst other things described the idea of diversification “as pie in the sky”.  

After other speakers I was given a brief  rightof reply just before the vote was taken. Given I was walking up to the rostrum as the last speaker was going down the stairs – it was pretty much off the cuff ]

Right of Reply.

"Conference I’ve got to start by apologising.

I’m really sorry.

I obviously missed that there had been a massive change in construction techniques.

A change to such an extent that the only possible use for British steel is in making nuclear weapons.

So, sorry about not realising that one.

And on the jobs front. 

Trident renewal won’t safeguard jobs.

I was watching an interview with Mrs Thatcher about the construction of the original Trident system where she said that Trident would be 3% of defence spending and 6% of the defence equipment budget.

You can find estimates of renewal costs being anything from 20 – 25% of the budget.

You get a lot of bang for your buck from Trident – no argument there , but you don’t get that many jobsand it’s impossible to spend to renew trident without cutting back elsewhere so it will cost jobs elsewhere in defence.

I agree with Gary Smith, and If I’m allowed to say it, Len McCluskey – diversification hasn’t delivered much to speak of in the UK.

But that’s because, despite what we’ve just heard , we’ve never taken it particularly seriously.

Countries that have – have had results.

 If you look at the US – where you’ve had the BARC programme.

Taken seriously by Government and backed by legislation – it has delivered.

 So diversification isn’t ‘Pie in the sky’

 But you know what even if it were pie in the sky I’d rather have pie in the sky on my horizon than a mushroom cloud.

Support the motion."

[Final vote was 70.3% FOR. (70.2% amongst CLPs, 70.4% amongst TU’s ]