What is the UK’s biggest political issue? A recent YouGov survey found that most people are concerned by either Brexit or the economy. Just 23% of people found defence and security to be the most important issues in Britain. So why does the UK government behave as if everyone in the UK believes the rest of the world is out to get us?
The UK government is obsessed with spending on defence and nuclear weapons. Theresa May recently announced an unexpected increase in funds for the Ministry of Defence. £600m has been found to build a new class of nuclear submarines, at a time when the NHS is in crisis and more than 300,000 people are homeless in the UK. The total cost of replacing the Trident nuclear submarines is around £205bn. Imagine what this money could do for our health service, schools and housing. How can defence – especially of the nuclear variety – be considered a greater priority than the wellbeing of this country’s people?
How many of the most common concerns could be solved by nuclear weapons? Interviews by ComRes in 2014 found that 47% of respondents aged 18-34 believed that nuclear weapons fail to protect the UK from modern day threats. Can a nuclear weapon feed anyone? Can a nuclear weapon stop a terrorist? What can a nuclear weapon do, apart from cause untold harm and severely escalate tensions between countries?
Even if you consider nuclear weapons a solution for UK defence, we are no longer living in the Cold War. As proven by recent revelations, enemies are able to infiltrate democracies in far more insidious ways than simply dropping a bomb. In February, 13 Russians were charged with interfering in the 2016 American election, mainly using the Internet. Both Russia and the United States possess nuclear weapons. These weapons did not act as a deterrent for these Russians, nor could have prevented such an attack.
The ComRes interviews found that most young people consider terrorism a problem for the modern world. The current threat level for international terrorism in the UK is severe. As with attacks on democracy, terrorism can’t be stopped with nuclear weapons. The idea of two countries facing off like in the Cold War now seems old-fashioned. Thousands, if not millions, of lives can be devastated with a single press of the nuclear button.
In the mid-20th century, countries saw nuclear developments as a symbol of their national progress. Now, possessing such weapons can make a country seem paranoid and bloodthirsty. Nuclear weapons can make the whole world worse off – spending the billions of pounds reserved for their development on other issues could make it a better place.
By Lily Sheehan, Universities Officer, Greater Manchester & District CND
**Please note, the views expressed in this piece are that of the individual, and not representative of CND as an organisation***
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