Labour would trade away Britain’s Trident nukes for SNP support, Tories claim
Fallon launched into a blistering attack on Labour leader Ed Miliband, accusing him of treating Britain’s security as a “bargaining chip” to gain power in the general election.
The Conservative minister said any agreement between Labour and SNP would jeopardize the UK’s military might for a “childlike world view” more suited to a “student protest group than a party of government.”
Fallon’s comments come as SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon pledged during a BBC Scottish leaders debate on Wednesday night that her party would only prop up a Labour minority government if they agreed to scrap the Trident nuclear deterrent.
With Labour’s traditional support in Scotland reportedly collapsing, the SNP is set to become kingmaker in the event of a hung Parliament, when no party gains an outright majority of seats.
Both Sturgeon and former SNP leader Alex Salmond have made clear their willingness to support a minority Labour government on an unofficial basis.
While Miliband ruled out a Labour-SNP coalition in March, he did not reject an informal arrangement which would take place on a vote-by-vote basis.
The Defense Secretary waged a blitzkrieg-like assault on Miliband on Thursday morning, attacking him in a speech, a BBC Radio 4 interview, and an article for the Times.
Fallon sought to underline two key messages in his onslaughts. Firstly, that Miliband would threaten Britain’s security to gain the vital support from SNP that a minority Labour government would need to govern. Secondly, that Miliband is a “backstabber” who would betray his own country to gain power.
He wrote in the Times: “Nicola Sturgeon could not be clearer. She has told Ed Miliband that scrapping Trident – our country’s vital nuclear deterrent – is non-negotiable.
“If he wants the keys to No 10, he must abandon any plans to renew our current Vanguard ballistic missile submarines.”
— CND (@CNDuk) April 9, 2015
Fallon cited Russia’s decision to modernize its own nuclear forces and North Korea’s “defiance of the international community” as reasons for maintaining Trident.
“When Britain could face nuclear blackmail by rogue states, the SNP’s naive world view is more suited to a student protest group than a party of government,” he wrote.
In a move some political pundits have recoiled from, the Conservative minister resorted to personal attacks against Miliband.
“Remember: Ed Miliband stabbed his own brother in the back to become Labour leader. Now he is willing to stab the United Kingdom in the back to become prime minister and put our country’s security at risk,” he wrote in the Times.
Some Conservative Party supporters thought he had gone too far with this comment.
Tim Montgomerie, founder of ConservativeHome, tweeted: “Embarrassing: way too personal from Michael Fallon against Ed Miliband.”
Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander said the Conservatives were descending into the “politics of the gutter.”
“They are like a wounded, cornered animal at the moment – they are lashing out. It’s nonsense,” Alexander said.
Vernon Coaker, the Labour Party’s Shadow Defense Secretary, said the Tories were resorting to the “language of smear.”
“As Ed Miliband has already made crystal clear, national security is not a matter for negotiation. We support renewal of Trident along with a renewed focus on multilateral disarmament,” he said.
Patrick O’Flynn, spokesman for the UK Independence Party (UKIP) on the economy, said Fallon’s attack was an attempt to distract voters from the fact the Conservative Party will not “fully resource our armed forces.”
Speaking at a policy briefing in London, he said: “They're not meeting the NATO 2 percent commitment.”
“I’d advise Michael Fallon to lay off the personal insults ... and probably spend more of your time persuading your cabinet colleagues and indeed, the Prime Minister, to properly resource Britain's defenses,” he added.
Miliband said the Defense Secretary’s comments showed the Conservatives’ election campaign was failing.
According to the Press Association, the Labour leader said: “Michael Fallon is a decent man but today I think he has demeaned himself and demeaned his office.
“National security is too important to play politics with. I will never compromise our national security, I will never negotiate away our national security.”
Miliband said Labour is committed to renewing Britain’s at-sea nuclear deterrent, but added it was “right to have a review” of the issue in case technology changes.
Nukes need 'serious debate'
Kate Hudson, general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), said the Tories were afraid of a “serious debate” on the issue of nuclear weapons.
“With the final vote on Trident replacement due in 2016, at an estimated cost of £100 billion, this is the final election before the decision – and it is one which requires a higher level of debate than the Tories’ name-calling,” she said in a statement.
Hudson said senior military figures have warned that renewing Britain’s nuclear weapons will do nothing to keep the UK safe, but will instead cause job losses across the armed forces.
“How a blind commitment to squandering our overstretched national resources on a Cold War weapon can be touted as being ‘strong on defense’ is beyond me,” she said.
Hudson also pointed to a survey which found that 80 percent of parliamentary candidates from the major political parties oppose replacing Britain’s nuclear weapons.
“It's time for the Conservatives and Labour to wake up to the huge public opposition to Trident,” Hudson said.
CND will be holding a Vote Out Trident street party outside the Ministry of Defense in Westminster on Monday, April 13. The demonstration will take place from 6 pm to 8 pm, and will feature speakers and performers.