OLI DIXON: THE TRIDENT CONVENTION
Oli Dixon is a local Conservative activist and Secretary to the Edgbaston Conservative Association
Follow Oli on @olidixon1014
Every three months one of the four British nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines leaves its naval base on the west-coast of Scotland. Attached to it is a Trident missile, a by-word for nuclear bomb. For three months the submarine will travel incognito through many of the world’s choppy seas and scale the ocean’s depths. No-one knows where it is going, no-one knows its location, except the submarine’s captain.
The anonymity of the British submarine is the keystone of Britain’s nuclear deterrent policy. The point being that, if every edifice of Britain and its commonwealth is destroyed, if every Briton has perished, there will still be a small part of Britain remaining to retaliate; the anonymous submarine. From its unknown location, this Royal Navy submarine will be able to deliver Britain’s revenge by unleashing a nuclear attack roughly one thousand times more powerful than the bomb that killed 150,000 people in Hiroshima.
But who authorises the revenge attack if there are no Britons remaining, except those on the Royal Navy submarine?
On taking office, the Prime Minister writes four identical hand-written letters of ‘last resort’. These letters contain orders to the submarine captain as to what should happen if Britain, its government, and its population are destroyed. The four options are:
1. Retaliate with nuclear weapons
2. Not retaliate
3. Use own judgement
4. Place the submarine under an allied country’s command (assumed either USA or Australia), if possible.
The letters are stored inside secure safes in the control rooms of the submarines. Once a Prime Minister leaves office, the letters are destroyed unopened. Only the Prime Minister knows the content of the letters.
Here is the issue. Jeremy Corbyn and the hard-left are anti-Trident and anti-nuclear weapons. However many of his party, and indeed much, if not all of the Conservative party believe in Trident and would opt to renew it. So Corbyn would not be able to scrap Trident, even if he was Prime Minister. Such a drastic measure would require Parliamentary approval, which he simply would not receive, even if he did command an unlikely-Parliamentary majority due to the sensitivity of the issue. This means Corbyn, by convention, would have to write four letters of last resort to be placed in the safe of each respective submarine.
Herein lies the problem. Corbyn would be forced to write the letters of last resort, and no-one would know what they say. Knowing Corbyn, he’d probably advise the captain of the submarine to launch a revenge attack on the USA for failing to hit their allotted G20 environmental targets.
Corbyn merely highlights the bigger problem of the convention; one man has the potential future world order at the tip of his pen.
Though the secrecy of the letters is sacrosanct, the convention should be altered so that power is taken out of the hands of one man and given to a select elected few, namely cabinet. The cabinet can discuss the sensitive matter and make a collective decision. More importantly still, the cabinet should all sign the letters of last resort to make sure the orders correspond to their collective decisions.
Until the convention changes it will remain undemocratic and will not be representative of the will of the British people, or of the potentially dead British people. Past generations have died to keep our democracy intact. The democratic will of the British people can and must continue past death and obliteration.