Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Nick Clegg: Troops should take priority over Trident.

Nick Clegg has spoken out about how the public will find it hard to understand how we can find money to upgrade the Trident nuclear submarines at a time when people are facing cuts to their housing benefit cheques and our troops are still fighting in Afghanistan.

Speaking at a Q&A event at the London headquarters of Microsoft, Clegg said: "My views on Trident are well known. I can't try to hide them now that I've got into a coalition government.

"I think there is huge pressure on the defence budget, I think that much is obvious, as there is on all budgets.

"It's going to be an extraordinarily difficult thing for all the armed services to get this right because of the massive amounts that are involved and the huge procurement contracts that invariably seem to go over time and over budget.

"I think the priority within the defence budget should be absolutely to make sure that our brave troops, our brave servicemen and servicewomen, particularly now on the frontline in Afghanistan, have what they need.

"I think we need to constantly ask ourselves what kind of challenges are we going to face? What kind of wars are we going to face? What kind of conflicts are we going to have to confront in the future?

"My own view is that the kind of technology and hardware that we acquired as a country in the past, in an era of cold war conflict ... the role has changed and it's changing very fast and that needs to be reflected in the kinds of things that we spend money on.

"Not to mention that fact that, of course, it's going to be difficult for someone who is going to receive less housing benefit because of the changes we are introducing to understand why, at the same time, we should spend huge, huge amounts of money in a hurry on replacing Trident in full.

The papers are pretending that this represents a "tension" at the heart of the coalition, but it doesn't. It costs Clegg nothing to say this publicly. The only way it would cost him anything would be if he made it a point of import as to whether or not the Lib Dems remained part of the coalition. And he's never going to do that.

Come October, and come the spending review, Nick Clegg will lie down on his back and play dead. Housing benefit will be cut and Trident will be renewed.

That is simply a fact, as this issue was already hammered out when the Tories and the Liberals were forming their coalition. Clegg is simply making noises to please his own side. The idea that this represents a "tension" at the heart of the coalition makes the supposition that this is important enough for Clegg to reconsider the Liberal Democrats partnership in the coalition.

And that's never going to happen over something like Trident. Clegg is cynically playing to the crowd here. Pretending that he is fighting over Trident. The truth is that he threw in his hand on that subject in the days following the general election.

Click here for full article.

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