To nuke or not to nuke

Jeremy Corbyn is hard to digest for the center of his own Labour party. But now he says he will never use nuclear weapons. Is this man unfit to be Prime minister of the UK?

When a British Prime minister is elected he needs to write four secret letters. Each is placed in a safe on one of the four nuclear submarines which the United Kingdom has cruising along the Scottish coast in order to deter any attacking evil empire. The letters should only be read in case the captain cannot reach his government in London anymore, and the letters are destroyed once a new Prime minister comes in. But so far one could assume the letter was always an order – after a few properly polite British phrases which would be appropriate given the gravity of the situation – to nuke the enemy.

That could change. Jeremy Corbyn announced this week in a BBC interview that he would never use a nuclear weapon. The pacifist has had to soften his positions on quite a few subjects since he became the candidate for and later the leader of the Labour party. He is not – as he was before – for leaving NATO, and he now also says that he will campaign for staying in the European Union. He is even considering singing along while his political pals intone „God save the Queen“. But one of his deepest convictions is certainly his life long fight for nuclear disarmament. What, then, would the tea total pacifist write in his letter to the captain? „Dear Captain, unfortunately we cannot discuss our differences any longer as I have been hit by a nuclear bomb in Westminster. But you, still cruising along the now devastated British coast, should never, I repeat, never take revenge. Do not hit the red button in front of you! Have a cup of tea instead!“

I am not sure if Jezz would really write that. Will he not have to bend his straight pacifist back like his republican knee in order to become electable as Prime Minister? Great Britain is a conservative country, especially the establishment. Postings and reactions in the last hours do not show a lot of sympathy for Corbyn’s hard pacifist views.

But there is room to maneuver. It is not utterly stupid to think about better ways of spending a 100 billion Pound than on upgrading the Trident nuclear submarine. How about improving health care, education, research and integration instead? Corbyn might have to accept the fact that his nation will still have nuclear bombs, but he might find that many would support not spending as much on upgrading them.

In fact, a change in nuclear policies can lead to prolonging your political life. Angela Merkel, chancellor of a nation without nuclear weapons but with nuclear power plants, decided to close 17 of those after the Fukushima disaster in 2011. It has not harmed her.

Plus: Corbyn does not have to look far to find soulmates in the Trident question. Nicola Sturgeon, heroine of the Scottish independence movement, is right there with him. She almost won the independence referendum. Had she won she would have sent the expensive and dangerous nuclear weapons straight back to England. It did not happen. This time.

Next May the Scots will vote for a new Scottish parliament. Corbyn went up there this week to whip the Labour party, which suffered a devastating defeat at the national elections in May 2015, back to life. One of the ways he could do this is to tell them: „Let’s not nuke the enemies abroad. Let’s destroy the nukes.“ They Scots might actually like it. And vote Labour again.

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© 2018 Tessa Szyszkowitz