On the eve of the Liberal Democrat Party Conference in September the armed forces minister, Nick Harvey, a Lib Dem, told MPs that 'the government had decided in principle to renew Trident.' A few days later, Nick Clegg told the conference that he opposed 'a like-for-like Trident replacement' and suggested that 'the money would be better spent on frontline military operations.' Clegg described Trident as a Cold War weapon, and added: 'the world has changed.' Chris Huhne, the energy secretary and, like Clegg, a member of Britain's new National Security Council, went further in the Sunday Telegraph that same week. 'I believe you can see alternatives,' he wrote, 'such as, for example, putting cruise missiles onto our attack submarines: that is a much cheaper alternative to the development of a whole new generation of Trident missiles.' Some Conservative MPs were worried by the mixed messages. Julian Lewis, the veteran Cold Warrior who once hired a light aircraft to trail a banner reading 'Kremlin sends Kongratulations' over the women's peace camp at Greenham Common, wrote to the Financial Times: 'When Conservative MPs met to consider forming the coalition after the general election, the renewal of Trident was listed as a Conservative commitment, which the Liberals accepted ... Now we find that the Lib Dems have no intention of keeping their word.'
LRB 16 December 2010 | PDF Download