The fact that George Osborne has placed the cost of Trident within the Defence budget is quite an interesting gamble. It’s bound to enrage MoD types, and it’s made Dr Liam Fox, our esteemed Secretary of State for Defence, even more of a pariah than he already is.
The odds on Liam Fox being the next Cabinet minister to go are already high and will surely rise in the next few weeks if he starts to get a little stroppy over this decision. Surely Cameron is not already looking for yet another fight with his right-flank? One would have thought the whole coalition thing was bad enough for them to deal with, but seeing national security being chopped to help the budget deficit. Unthinkable!
The move will definitely endanger Trident, at least in its current form. There is no way the departmental budget can sustain its present guise and forthcoming renewal. So if they really want to keep it, major sacrifices will have to be made. Which is very unlikely, especially when there is obvious room for manoeuvre in the Trident budget.
It’s made me think, however. Is this actually a sop to the Lib Dems? Has Danny Alexander managed to persuade Osborne that, OK, we can’t cut Trident altogether, but can we at least do something – and give a credible, financial excuse – which forces the whole project to be reassessed? This allows the Tories to keep saying “we’re all in this together” and allows Lib Dems to quietly purr that, maybe, just maybe, we’re taking steps in the right direction, and we can all pretend the reason is “financial” so we don’t have to suffer the inevitable “SOFT ON TERROR!” attacks.
Politics is filled with trade-offs and calculating schemes of the highest order. This may well be one of them.
I hope so, anyway. It’s a damn sight more exciting.