Here’s a little weekend brainteaser for you, folks. On the BBC’s This Week show on Saturday, veteran presenter Andrew Neil interviewed two former senior government ministers about the UK’s nuclear deterrent – one was a Conservative former Defence Secretary, the other a Labour former Culture Secretary. For now we’ll call them Politician A and Politician B.
See if you can match the following quotes to the person who said them.
ANDREW NEIL: What is your view – should [Trident] be renewed?
POLITICIAN A: No, I think it’s all nonsense.
NEIL: Should we have any kind of nuclear deterrent?
POLITICIAN A: No, it’s completely past its sell-by date. It’s neither independent, because we couldn’t possibly use it without the Americans, neither is it any sort of deterrent, because now largely we are facing the sorts of enemies – the Taliban, Al Qaeda – who cannot be deterred by nuclear weapons. It’s a tremendous waste of money, it’s done entirely for reasons of national prestige, it’s wasteful, and at the margins it is proliferatory.
NEIL: Okay. But the government – or at least the Conservative part of the coalition – looks like they’re going to proceed with it. What will [your party’s] position be on it [, Politician B]?
POLITICIAN B: Actually, the position that Phillip Hammond has taken is very close to the position that we agreed some time ago when [Politician C] was Defence Secretary. The decision about whether to proceed […] won’t be taken until 2016…
NEIL: …but you’re happy that Mr Hammond’s going ahead with the spending, the seed money, which allows the decision if you want to?
POLITICIAN B: Yeah, completely, yes, yeah.
We’re going to assume that you’re ahead of us here, readers. The former Tory Defence Secretary (Michael Portillo) is, of course Politician A, the one who thinks that the UK’s nuclear deterrent is a pointless, ineffectual waste of time and money aimed solely at letting the UK grandstand on the world stage, while the former Labour Cabinet minister (Tessa Jowell) is Politician B, who wants to spend billions of pounds just on the preparatory research for upgrading it – let alone the £84bn cost of actually doing so – at a time when her party is telling us that we can’t afford to educate our young people or look after the elderly.
You can watch this remarkable development for as long as it’s still available on the iPlayer (from 31 minutes), or listen to a permanent audio clip here. The politics of the Union are now truly through the looking glass.