A while back I got a letter from the Lib Dems telling me "Trident will not be renewed this parliament - not on a Liberal Democrat watch”.
This ran though my mind today as I watched Defence Secretary Liam Fox stand up in parliament to pronounce ‘thunderbirds are go’ on the next phase of building a replacement for Trident.
It’s not the full replacement mind – just £3bn worth. Just some nuclear reactors, a bit of steel for the hull, the electrics, bits of the combat system…and only for three submarines…
And in the small print of today’s announcement the MoD admit that these submarines are going to cost not £11-14bn, but a stonking £25bn. (Download MoD pdf document, see section 6.1)
The government’s spin doctors are apparently at great pains to say this isn’t an increase in the actual cost of the project. It’s inflation. Yeees well back in 1960 you could probably get a lovely detached house for £5,000 but that is kind of irrelevant…its 2011 and given all the cutbacks we are all pretty interested in what things actually cost!
So did we see another Lib Dem commitment fall today?
The other main announcement was that there’s going to be an 18-month assessment into whether there are any alternatives to Trident replacement. Interestingly the study will report jointly to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. So looks like the real test of whether the Lib Dems really do have some influence on this issue is yet to happen. Will Nick Clegg yet intervene and ensure he keeps his election promise?