Around 90 students, teachers, and members of the public took part in a Horsham debate over the future of the Trident nuclear deterrent last Thursday.
Organised by the Horsham Labour Party and held at the College of Richard Collyer, the audience asked questions and heard speeches from four panellists on whether replacing the submarines was essential for UK security or a waste of billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.
Lee Willett, editor of IHS Jane’s Navy International, along with student Sam Cooper, argued for trident renewal, while Collyer’s Omer Selcuk and Carol Turner, vice chair of Labour’s campaign for nuclear disarmament, spoke against.
Sam said that a nuclear deterrent would ‘help to prevent the wars of tomorrow which we simply can’t predict’ and added: “They are a necessity when we do not know who tomorrow’s enemies might be.”
But Omer asked why they were considering spending £130bn when services were being cut to the bone and the number of troops were being reduced by the Government.
He suggested renewal would only benefit the arms industry and asked if they wanted to live in a world dominated by ‘chauvinism and jingoism’.
At the start of the evening, Dr Willett said that no rational person would believe the possession or use of nuclear weapons was a good idea, but added: “Those weapons exist and we have to deal with that reality and right or wrong states want to have them.”
He pointed out that they did not know what the security situation would be like 50 years from now, while the international situation was unstable and uncertain already.
He continued: “The question is doe the UK want to stay in the game and can it afford to stay in the game?”
In response Ms Turner called Trident an ‘expensive anachronism that does not protect Britain’.
She argued they should instead be focusing on threats from terrorism and cyber attacks and that a nuclear deterrent would not protect the country from any of the most likely dangers to its security.
The subject was being used by the Tories ‘waving the flag’ to show that defence of the country was not safe in Labour’s hands, she suggested.
One audience member compared Trident to slavery and called it ‘immoral’, but another speaker argued that nuclear weapons had contributed to an ‘unprecedented era of peace, stability, and economic growth’.
The event was co-chaired by David Hide, chair of the Horsham Labour Party, and student Scarlett Eddie.
Mr Hide said it was important the Trident issue was discussed, and urged people to look at terms of reference for Labour’s defence review.
At the end of the meeting an informal vote was taken with the majority of the audience in favour of scrapping trident.
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