Last year an umbrella organisation of anti-nuclear weapons groups put out a statement called Rethink Trident, calling for Trident to be scrapped.
As one surveys the list of people who signed up to this declaration, one comes across quite a few names that one would expect to be there, such as Bruce Kent and Owen Jones, the much admired leftwing journalist and campaigner. But one also finds certain people whom one would not expect to be there, and that is far more interesting.
The following seven Catholic bishops are to be found on the list: Malcolm McMahon (Nottingham),Terence Brain (Salford), Peter Doyle (Northampton), Thomas McMahon (Brentwood, now retired), Philip Egan (Portsmouth), William Kenney (auxiliary of Birmingham) and Marcus Stock (Leeds). That their Lordships should be lining up with Owen Jones and Bruce Kent and others is quite remarkable. After all, none of these prelates are professional “signers” or agitators, or noted lefties (as far as I know). It is interesting to note too that one of the bishops has a see connected to the Navy, but none of them are Scottish.
The Scottish bishops, however, have come out with some pre-election guidance, which does contain this statement:
5. Peace. Successive UK Governments have made plans to replace and upgrade our nuclear weapons capacity. This is despite the considerable costs involved and in the face of persistent moral objections, to say nothing of international agreements we have entered into which commit us to work against the proliferation of such weapons. While recognising each country’s right to defend itself, the existence of nuclear weapons, and their possible proliferation, continue to represent a grave threat to the human family. Pope Francis reminds us that peace is better fostered by greater equality – not least by fairness towards the poor, refugees and migrants – rather than by increased spending on arms.
This does not explicitly call for the scrapping of Trident, but it is hard to see how it can be read as a pro-Trident statement.
At present there only seems to be one major political party that is against Trident, and that is the SNP. Moreover, the question of Trident has been brought into mainstream political conversation, even though both Conservative and Labour parties seem committed to it, thanks to a putative future collation deal with the SNP who have declared the scrapping of Trident to be a red line. Nuclear weapons have not been at the forefront of debate for a long time now, so this represents an interesting development.
And, I have to say, a welcome one. We need to talk about Trident. Indeed, I personally think we should scrap it, on grounds of cost, if for no other reason, though this may not be practical, given the amount we have spent on it already. But I do not want to line myself up with Nicola Sturgeon’s party. Awkward, I know. Nicola may be right about Trident, though for the wrong reasons.