'LABOUR AND NUCLEAR WEAPONS'

The Times – 26 June 2006

Neil Kinnock may have "infuriated the Left by declaring ‘there is now no need for something-for-nothing unilateralism' " (report, June 22), but it was not until July 1991 that Labour really abandoned one-sided nuclear disarmament.

What the 1988 manoeuvre did was merely to insist on some Russian missiles being scrapped in return for the scrapping of Polaris. For the next three years, Conservative politicians like Kenneth Baker, Douglas Hurd, Chris Patten and myself (letters, June 8, 1988 and Oct 6, 1989) pointed out that this would mean abandoning “the entire British deterrent in return for a two or three per cent diminution in Soviet strategic nuclear firepower”.

What really mattered was a commitment to keep some nuclear weapons as long as other countries possess them – and when this was finally conceded by Shadow Foreign Secretary Gerald Kaufman, it was described by Tribune as a "breathtaking capitulation to the Conservatives".

It remains to be seen whether our pressure on the Labour Government now to state that they agree with us, not only to "retain" Trident, but actually to replace it, will similarly bear fruit.

Dr JULIAN LEWIS MP
Shadow Defence Minister
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA