Labour CND statement on Keir Starmer’s support for Trident and increased military spending

Keir Starmer 2015:
‘I am opposed to the use of nuclear weapons. I am opposed to the holding of nuclear weapons. I want to see a nuclear-free world. I believe it is possible.’

Labour CND has issued the following statement in response to Keir Starmer’s visit to Barrow, Friday 12 April

Keir Starmer used a visit to Barrow-in-Furness on 12 April to announce Labour’s ‘unshakeable absolute total’ commitment to Trident, Britain’s nuclear weapons system, and Labour’s plan to raise military spending to 2.5% of gross domestic product under a Labour government which means billions of pounds more public funds allocated to the military budget.1

Starmer should be under no illusions. He does not speak for the majority of Labour Party members, however, or even the public on these issues. Nor does this allay Tory voter fears that Labour is a safe pair of hands when it comes to defence.2

Trident is the ‘bedrock of Labour’s plan to keep Britain safe’, he said. The UK’s ‘nuclear deterrent’ was ‘maintained on behalf of NATO’. This was ‘a generational, multi-decade commitment’ from a Starmer government.

International tensions are growing, and with them the risk of nuclear confrontation. Politicians may believe Trident guarantees us a place at the top table. But the assurance of Labour and Tories alike that it brings safety for people in Britain is a cruel illusion. Meanwhile UK domestic politics continues to ignore the true international situation which is that Britain has not signed the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which came into force in 2021.

Politicians may believe Trident guarantees us a place at the top table. But the assurance of Labour and Tories alike that it brings safety for people in Britain is a cruel illusion.

The possession of a nuclear weapons system makes the UK a target. The decision to site United States nuclear weapons on British soil – taken without public or even parliamentary debate – puts us on the front line of any nuclear attack.

Britain’s nuclear weapons system is not independent as Starmer claims. Trident is dependent on US technology and know-how.

Even sections of the military recognise that the money spent on Trident would be better deployed elsewhere, arguing for increases in areas of conventional defence.

Disregarding these and many other arguments against nuclear weapons, in a statement shot through with jingoism, Starmer has made three commitments which he argues will defend the UK economy and prioritise British jobs and skills:

  • to build all four new Dreadnought nuclear submarines in the UK, at Barrow-in-Furness;
  • to maintain Britain’s continuous at sea nuclear deterrent; and
  • to deliver all future upgrades needed to properly equip Trident.

    A commitment to increase the military budget means cuts elsewhere in government investment and public spending. Figures released by the Treasury as part of the Spring Budget showed that Core Military Spending was £54.2 billion pounds for the year ending March 2024, around 2.3% of GDP.3 How else will a Labour government, committed to fiscal responsibility as well as lowering taxes, find the extra resources to fund Starmer’s commitment to increase the military budget? It will come at the expense of the NHS, education, and the ability to address child poverty or to abolish the two-child cap on child benefits. It will also come at the expense of dealing with the human security threat of climate change.Labour CND says the next Labour government should not allow its priorities to be dictated by the Conservative Party and their establishment friends. We need is a radical rethink about spending priorities and about British foreign policy.The incoming Labour government will face a range of challenges. None of them will be solved by nuclear weapons or spending ever more money on the military.
  1. Keir Starmer, My commitment to the UK’s nuclear deterrent is Unshakeable Absolute Total, Daily Mail exclusive, 11 April 2024 at Trident-new-generation-nuclear-submarines-built-UK.htm ↩︎
  2. See for example the hundreds of reader comments in response to the above, which have appeared within hours of the article being posted online. ↩︎
  3. Dr Stuart Parkinson, Co-Chair GCOMS-UK (UK branch of the Global Campaign on Military Spending) and Executive Director of Scientists for Global Responsibility, Spring Budget 24: Military Spending Continues to Grow at the Expense of Climate Funds and Overseas Aid, at ↩︎