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UK General Election 2015

General Election 2015: Policy Focus

Trident: The latest election battleground

It’s been an uncomfortable time for the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon.

Fallon is reported to have said that Ed Miliband would be willing to stab Britain in the back doing a deal with the SNP over Trident, as he did his brother David during the Labour leadership contest.

With Ed Miliband hitting back that the Defence Secretary should not play politics with national security, Mr. Fallon is looking to turn the attention onto the Conservatives commitment to Trident and as the party of strong defence.

The Conservatives’ manifesto will have a commitment to build four new nuclear missile-armed submarines. The SNP wants Trident scrapped and has described any plans for renewal as a “red line.” This prompted the accusation from Fallon that Labour will use Trident as a “bargaining chip” in any coalition deal with the SNP.

Fallon said. “Our nuclear submarines protect all of Britain including Scotland. This SNP policy is a threat to us all that would dangerously weaken our collective defence.”

UKIP’s spokesman Patrick O’Flynn, who launched their own defence policies a few days ago said: “That personal attack, to me, speaks of a Defence Secretary who is trying to distract from the fact that Conservatives are not pledging to fully resource our armed forces, they are not meeting the Nato 2% commitment. We would commit totally to upgrading Trident. We can afford to do so.”

About Trident

The Conservatives and Labour are both committed to replacing the UK’s ageing fleet of Vanguard class submarines, which carry Trident nuclear missiles and maintaining the continuous, at-sea deterrent. This means there is always one nuclear-armed vessel on patrol. There has been some talk within both the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats to cut the number of submarines from four to three, with the right reassurances.

The submarines are coming to the end of their operational lives within the next decade and therefore a final decision on replacement must be made in 2016.

Aside from the debate over Britain’s nuclear deterrent there is also the issue of cost. In 2013 the bill was put between £15bn and £20bn. The Greens believe this cost is more like £100bn.