Britain's 'independent nuclear 'deterrent'
Call me old fashioned and stuck in the politics of the sixties (though I am not really old enough for that), but I am totally opposed to nuclear weapons. Nothing too controversial in that, I suppose, but I believe as I have always done that Britain should not have its own 'independent' nuclear deterrent.
I deliberately emphasise the word 'independent' because I don't believe ours really is independent. We buy the missiles, which are the delivery vehicles for the nuclear warheads, from the USA. They are called Trident missiles and it was only three years ago that I fully understood how the whole system actually worked.
When I threatened to vote against the government's plan to build new Trident nuclear submarines in 2007, I was asked by the Whips Office whether I would like to visit our submarine base at Faslane, near Glasgow on the river Clyde. I agreed, and set off in January of that year for a day and night with the Royal Navy.
The calibre of the men and women I met at Faslane was first class and they are a huge credit to this country. Their views on whether the nuclear deterrent should continue were mixed, though. What I discovered was to give me more ammunition against the idea of continuing with Trident than if I had never been to the base.
The cost of the three submarines alone, over a 25 year period, could be as much as £75bn - a massive amount of money even by today's bank-rescue standards. So is it worth it? I take the rather simplistic, but I believe realistic, view that once nuclear conflict is unleashed upon planet earth, all living creatures - including the whole of humanity - will be destroyed for millennia to come. These are the most destructive weapons ever invented by man and whilst we cannot control what the Russians, Chinese, Americans, Indians, French, Pakistanis, Israelis, Koreans or Iranians might do with theirs, we should be clear: we have no business keeping them 'just in case'.
Imagine what we could do with £75bn right now. Imagine just how many conventional weapons and submarines we could build. Imagine just how many hospitals, schools and trains we could build, without using PFI - the list is enormous. £75bn buys a lot.
If we were to phase out our so-called 'independent' nuclear arsenal, we would have rather more moral right to tell Iran, or any other aspiring nuclear power, not to develop their own - even if they ignored us completely.
I voted against the renewal of the Trident nuclear submarines in March 2007, and if re-elected will do so again and again. Other Party candidates may say that I am opening up our country to potential nuclear attack, but I say once these weapons are used it's goodbye to the UK, Europe and every other nation on earth. They are evil weapons of mass destruction and we should take a lead in the world by getting rid of the ones we have, whatever anyone else does. We led on the abolition of landmines and cluster munitions, so let's show the world again that Britain believes in peace, and in life.
If you re-elect me on May 6th, I will continue to oppose nuclear weapons at home and abroad and will never apologise for my unfashionable views which will one day come back into fashion to save humanity from itself.