Why is the media so surprised that a lifelong CND member and campaigner against nuclear weapons said that he would not push the nuclear button? To have said anything else would have indicated that he was prepared to trade those principles for power (in any case that a willingness to use a nuclear weapon is a constitutional or statutory requirement for being a prime minister). As opposed to the predictable headlines about a (hypothetical) prime minister in a (hypothetical and unprecedented) position, the newspapers could have run with “man of principle running political party.” That would actually have had an effect and been of interest. The bland, dope smoking pig fanciers would have suffered from the comparison. Of course the other beneficiary would have been Nigel Farage whose one principle, get out of Europe, is equally clear and consistent, albeit a bit compromised by his being an MEP.
As I recall, when Polaris was replaced with Trident there was a long debate about whether the UK should, at a pretty chunky cost, maintain a nuclear deferent and, if so, what form it should take. At that time (late 1970s and early 1980s) the world map was somewhat simpler. There was an obvious potential nuclear aggressor with pretty well identified capabilities and to anyone other than a unilateralist the decision was obvious (Soviet Air defence was good enough to shoot down bombers and cruise missiles).
This time round, where there is no equally obvious nuclear aggressor nor an equivalent of mutually assured destruction I would venture that the argument is by no means as straightforward. Given the expenditure involved and the whole morality of it I find it shocking that there is no debate and that the commentariat are sleepwalking to the conclusion that the government knows what it is doing (which would be a first).
If Mr Corbyn can get the debate started, good on him. I almost certainly won’t agree with him; but nor do I agree that Trident or its replacement is any deterrent to a Jihadist with an A-bomb – apparently our biggest concern. I can’t see the Russians using theirs – they are now much more closely integrated with the west – as are the Chinese. N Korea and Pakistan don’t worry me. That leaves the French and the US, the latter of course being the only people to have used an A bomb.
He also spoke some sense on housing, as well as some drivel. But that is better than most commentators manage. Few seem to realise that buying a house is not an investment but a speculation. Worse, the money tied up in housing is not available to the wider economy and, with the exception of the odd new build, the only people who profit are the state, estate agents, lawyers and surveyors. The capital tied up in the house is not available to fund economic growth. (The same is true of shares, other than new issue shares). Until this fundamental misunderstanding is publicised we will continue to have an economy that is largely subservient to the housing asset bubble. This needs to change, although Corbyn’s approach is not the way.
So, in his first conference speech Corbyn said more of use than the rest of the parties are likely to produce, and the media misunderstood it. Those who predict that he will be deposed by Labour need to look at how hard that actually is to achieve and remember that he got a thumping majority from members in the leadership election. He is secure for at least as long as the party’s constitution remains unchanged. Those MPs who can’t abide his politics will end up having to leave politics or set up a new party (as happened under Foot). Personally I happily can live without another word from Burnham, blears, Harperson or Cooper. But I want more from Corbyn. He’ll never be prime minister, but he may well improve politics.