If Mr. Corbyn moves forward and tries to force the party to drop support for Trident, he may indeed remake the party into his own image and likeness. The rewards, however, are outweighed not simply because it is bad politics but because it is also bad policy. Mr. Corbyn is asking Britons to abandon unilaterally a cornerstone of their national defence. Now that Russia and China are modernizing or expanding their nuclear arsenals, the last thing a country ought to do is abandon its own deterrent and leave its citizens open to nuclear blackmail.
Opponents of Trident are not wrong to question the cost and amount of resources the British people are asked to provide for their own independent nuclear deterrent. Indeed, it is entirely reasonable to demand that the programme remain as efficient and cost effective as possible. The benefits of Trident are extensive but not limited to national prestige, thousands of jobs in the defence sector, power projection through its ballistic missile submarines, and the implicit acknowledgement that a hostile country can only antagonise Britain so much before the hostile power risks its own survival.
Ukraine unilaterally relinquished its nuclear arsenal in the mid-1990s. In return for a promise of security, Ukraine has been partitioned, invaded, and annexed. That is not to say Britain will suffer the same fate; indeed, as a member of NATO, Britain has the benefit of collective (conventional and nuclear) security through Article V which Ukraine did not have. However, if one’s goal it to rid the world of nuclear weapons, one must recognise that it is a multilateral endeavor; it requires time, patience, aggressive diplomacy, and—occasionally—leverage.
Former Labour Press Secretary Joe Haines recently penned an article in The New Statesman criticising Mr. Corbyn’s policies and leadership style. He argues that contrary to popular belief, Mr. Corbyn did not win a mandate or even a majority of votes from full Labour members. Compared to the 9.35 million votes Labour received in the elections last May, Mr. Corbyn’s accumulation of about 250,000 questionable Labour member votes does not offer the unequivocal command of the party he claims. His shadow cabinet forced him to allow a free vote on Syrian intervention and it seems increasingly likely that Mr. Corbyn will not allow a jot of dissent for Trident. But if Jeremy Corbyn is more interested in making a point rather than making a difference, he will inflict irreparable damage to his party for the foreseeable future.
*The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not represent those of The Political Analysis.