The knives are well and truly out for Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats ahead of tonight’s debate. They can’t exactly complain now they have been propelled from third party to potential front-runners (modulo electoral effects). While the “scrutiny” offered by the British press is predictably smear-like I’m hoping it’s policies that will come under more scrutiny in the actual debate.
Tonight’s debate is meant to be focusing on foreign policy where the only real issues there is measurable difference between the parties seem to be Europe and Trident.
Trident is a tricky one. A lot of play has been made about it’s cost and the extra money that could be ploughed back into defence/other spending if it was scrapped. However the renewal of Trident is a long term project so I doubt cancelling it now would result in a bonanza for the Treasury over the next few years. The effectiveness of Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent is even more questionable. The role of the deterrent is to keep your enemies guessing as to if you would or would not vaporise a load of civilians for the transgressions of a rogue state. As time goes on it’s getting harder and harder to imagine we ever would. Besides the greatest growing threat is a non-state actor (“terrorists”) get their hands on a nuke and I don’t think they are dissuaded at all, they would probably want a fire and brimstone response to validate their warped point of view. While I was staunchly against unilateralism during the Cold War I’m finding it harder to come down in favour of nukes now.
The other area for debate is Europe. I’m sure Labour will on their usual attack on the Tories that siding with European Conservatives and Reformists group is tantamount to supporting homophobia and racism. It’s true some of the members of the group have less than spectacular domestic records but the actual European agenda is what you would expect, fair trade, secure clean energy and greater transparency of EU institutions. Pro-European I may be but it’s certainly not without a desire to see some sort of reform in Brussels (and Strasbourg). Europe is a very broad church and it would seem right to be able to co-operate at the European level without that implying support for sovereign domestic agendas.
The Second Prime Ministerial Debate airs tonight at 2000 BST on Sky News, BBC News and Sky 3