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January 18, 2016

Comments

From Arse To Elbow

Paul Kenny may believe he is advancing his members' interests, but he stands in a long line of politicians and union reps who have primarily advanced the arms industry. UK National defence has always been more about iron than blood, with the dominance of the Royal Navy - what other nuclear power is solely dependent on subs? - reflecting capital-intensity (initially mercantilist and then industrial) rather than military utility.

The strategic weakness this gives rise to is that we are often preparing to fight the last war (in the case of a Trident replacement, the Cold War). The independent deterrent (which we all know has been neither since Polaris in 1962) has always been more about conference room dick-swinging, but its value is fast depreciating in a world where air-power and boots on the ground are the preferred currency.

The obvious compromise is to beat our swords not into ploughshares but into light-sabres.

Ben

Why not aim Trident at The City so we can really fly in the face of broken window theory?

You might enjoy this play:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_Barbara

Demetrius

Bring back manual typewriters to replace computer and electronic keyboards.

Colin MIlls

Indeed, Kenny is just doing what his members pay him to do - represent their interests in the face of claims that someone else's interests represent everyone's interests. Almost all change generates winners and losers - if it didn't there would be nothing to fight about and life would be a bed of roses.

This should be an ideal opportunity for team Jezza to push the idea that there is a role for Government in helping to make changes which are in the public interest palatable to the losers. That means an active labour market policy that, amongst other things, finances education, retraining and possibly relocation. You sell it to joe public by continually making the point that this is about fairness in the sense of redressing gross imbalances in the risks that ordinary employees face and not allowing employers to have it all their own way.

Without something like this I can't see any hope of getting organized labour on board and without taking care of them proposing to scrap Trident is just another thing for Labour to squabble over while the other lot get on and do whatever they like without any effective opposition.


John H

Just on the issue of the fungibility of the workers - it's not just that it'll be hard for them to move to new jobs, the issue is more that decommissioning would much wipe out the local economies in Trident shipyards. Many have seen decades of attempts to attract new industries that just haven't been successful and are unlikely to be in the future.

It's one thing to help a few workers to learn new trades and relocate but shutting down somewhere like Barrow-In-Furness and moving entire communities somewhere else would be a touch trickier.

The state is getting better at supporting people into work and I've seen some interesting work looking to improve skill-matching but I can't think of anywhere on the planet that's worked out how to manage the decline of places that lose dominant industries.

My problem with the Trident debate on the left is that there's an assumption that decommissioning will generate a dividend that can immediately be used to fund progressive things/avoid austerity. The unions may be conservative here but at least the impact on workers and their families is now being debated.

For what it's worth - I'd get rid of Trident as I do think there a better things we can do as a species but I'd ringfence the savings to start tackling the problems decommissioning will cause. (which would effectively be a transfer of funds from defence to BIS or the DCLG)

An Alien Visitor

Trident is about keeping the international supremacy of the UK and its allies. It is about being dominant in the world. It isn't a defensive project at all. In all ways it is far worse than anything ISIS might have in mind.

We can link this to the reality that the 1% are worth more than the 99%.

In that world, Paul Kenny may as well be Marie Antoinette.

And this gets us to the underlying problem that your article wasn't brave enough to say out loud, we are long overdue a revolution to replace capitalism and it is time to dust down the guillotine. This is the main problem of our time. CAPITALISM!

SimonF

I suppose it shows the paucity of argument and thinking on the right if you can claim that some form of transition relief when whole industries change is the preserve of the left.

As someone who would probably be seen as neo-liberal in these parts I don't see anything wrong with the State stepping in and managing the process and providing help with training and other measures to ease the change. The more productive workers there are the better for all of us.

Phil

Two words: Lucas Plan. Back in the 70s & 80s the Left was all about empowering defence workers to find better things to do with their time and skills. Shame we're having to reinvent the wheel.

aragon

We should maintain Trident, and the Steel Industry, as a matter of industrial policy and regard it as a form of Helicopter Money.

Economics 101 has it wrong, we distribute money through wages and disenfranchising poorer areas of the country, and loosing a skilled workforce, is in no-ones interest.

We need to extend this principle to people who are not in well paid employment, the population as a whole.

John H is right, any Trident dividend will will be illusive, but the negative consequences of the Steel and Trident closure will have a devastating impact on the regions.

We have been here before with the Coal Industry, and the Steel Industry. Where is the economic dividend from these closures, (and North Sea Oil) because the economic and social impact of the closures is real and ongoing decades later.

We need to abandon the dumbest idea in the world, and run the economy for the benefit of the population of the nation.

Like Ben, I think George Bernard Shaw was right. I enjoyed "An Inspector Calls" too.

London, SW1A included in the blast zone!

Zensky

I guess y'all appreciate so much that the City is filled with Putin's bitches that you want the whole country to join them. Don't go crying to Trump when you lose the North Sea to the polite men in green. ;) (or whatever else he decides he wants) You will no longer have credible retaliation, but you will be warmed by the thought that you are not doing anything "immoral". Good luck with that.

Brett

I think it should be replaced, but with a British arsenal that actually is independent of the US in terms of maintenance and operation. If it's not independent of US control, then there's no point to it - you might as well just rely on NATO and the US' nuclear arsenal in the unlikely chance that we have a nuclear war.

Getting rid of it entirely means you won't be able to build it back later on if you want to. It's like how the US can't build Saturn V rockets even if we have the plans on microfilm for them.

Alex

"Getting rid of it entirely means you won't be able to build it back later on if you want to"

This is not true. Weaponless or "virtual" deterrence is a real position supported by some military theorists. There's nothing stopping a state that is already enriching its own uranium and has the expertise etc from quickly breaking out with new weapons, and that threat alone could be enough for nuclear deterrence.

Brett

@Alex

Are you going to break the test ban treaty too? Breakout capability isn't worth much if you can't test any of the new weapons you've built to see if they actually work.

Meanwhile, I've seen no guarantee that Great Britain will keep "breakout" capability in the advent of Trident's cancellation.

aragon

Alex,

We have a Continuous At Sea Deterrent (CASD), in case of surprise attack. Existing weapons (for example) Russian weapons can be deployed in minutes. You cannot respond to a first strike with a breakout capability.

Also unless you are very careful you do loose the technical expertise, apparently we lost the knowledge to build nuclear submarines, and Rolls Royce had to go to the Americans to re-learn the Technology.

The argument against relying on the Americans is incrementalism. If Russia for example was just to deploy nuclear weapons against Europe, would the USA act?

The same argument applies to other technologies, processing. If we looser the manufacturing of steel, we loose the process technology, and future improvements, which makes regenerating the capacity in the event we need it (manufacturing steel is a core sovereign competence), it would be difficult to regenerate, that is the thrust of this article in Forbes.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2011/08/17/why-amazon-cant-make-a-kindle-in-the-usa/#2715e4857a0b303f19125ba2

Economists, the City and the Politicians (red and blue) who slavishly follow abstract ideas are becoming an existential threat to Society, the real Economy, and National Security.

We don't need defense, we can buy it or regenerate it when we need it.

In the words of 10cc, "You can sell your mother, and buy another..."

This misses the important part of the human relationships.

And real knowledge, skills and facilities can not be re-generated as quickly as the numbers on a spreadsheet.

Reality cannot be found on a spreadsheet, or reduced to the accumulation of money.

SimonF

"We have been here before with the Coal Industry, and the Steel Industry. Where is the economic dividend from these closures, (and North Sea Oil) because the economic and social impact of the closures is real and ongoing decades later."

Costs are concentrated and seen, benefits distributed and unseen. You can't run an economy only on the seen part.

"We need to abandon the dumbest idea in the world, and run the economy for the benefit of the population of the nation."

Well, that worked well in Venezuela.

aragon

Anna Soubry was arguing on the daily politics yesterday that we already had lost the ability to manufacture components of nuclear reactors. So only 40% of the steel contracts would be available for British Industry to tender.

22nd October 2013

http://www.theengineer.co.uk/power-struggle-developing-the-uks-nuclear-manufacturing-capacity/

“We can make pretty much everything they can make at [Areva’s forging site] Le Creusot

Peter Birtles, Sheffield Forgemasters

aragon

He's not wrong in principle.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/01/19/trumps_new_thought_bubble_make_apple_manufacture_in_the_usa/

"US Presidential Candidate Donald Trump has once again waded into matters technological, this time sketching an industry policy that would heavily tax US companies that don't manufacture on US soil."

[...]

"Trump's remarks are at odds with the Republican Party's free trade agenda and Apple's insistence it builds in China because the local populace offers it skills not available in the USA."

[...]

"The idea of making Apple manufacture at home is also denying reality: it's probably all-but-impossible to make the myriad components that go into iThings and Macs in one nation."

Apple was given as an example in the Forbes article of a company that retains control over the design of it's products in the USA, unlike other companies.

And the Engineer article states that Japan is the only country that can produce the larges Nuclear forgings.

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