'THE BRITISH BOMB'

Independent – 6 October 1988

Not only do Margaret Thatcher and David Owen intend "to have a British bomb as long as the Russians have any", as Bruce Kent (5 October) rightly points out – so does and overwhelming majority of the British electorate. Our most recent Gallup poll shows the figures to be 68 percent for precisely this position and only 25 percent against it. This result has been statistically constant in every one of the six Gallup polls we have commissioned since October 1985.

As usual, the unilateralist case is stated with the aid of selective quotation and irrelevancy. Lord Carver's untypical view on the British deterrent is paraded but not his unambiguous statements that it would be suicidal for Britain to expel American nuclear weapons and bases, as Mr Kent would have us do.

Yet again we are told that the British strategic system is not usable against terrorists, tin-pot dictators like Galtieri, et cetera – as if it had ever been intended to deter such obviously sub-strategic threats.

Typically, Bruce Kent quotes Lord Chalfont some 15 years ago before he realised the folly of British unilateralism. But, in pretending that the deterrent has no military purpose, he forgets his own crucial admissions on its value as recently as 1986. On 13 February that year, he conceded in the Guardian that "an 'independent' British nuclear deterrent may deter a nuclear attack". This followed his earlier statement in the Hendon and Finchley Times (30 January 1986) that "nuclear weapons may deter even a superpower from using nuclear weapons", though not necessarily "any other form of attack". To borrow his own phrase, "I couldn't have put it better myself".

Dr JULIAN LEWIS
Director
Policy Research Associates
London SE1