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Brian Eno

Not content with being the brains behind the first two Roxy Music albums and helping create ambient music, Brian Eno is now turning his hand to politics, having been enlisted as a youth advisor by the Lib Dems. Barbara Panvel hears his arguments against renewing Britain’s nuclear deterrent.

Musician Brian Eno who opposes the renewal or updating of the Trident missile programme, spoke the other day on Radio 4’s Today programme. He recalled the announcement of the Cuban missile crisis in his teens and the sense that the world had come very close to blowing itself apart.

The nuclear non-proliferation treaty signed in 1968 gave him a feeling of security because the five countries with nuclear weapons agreed to negotiate them away on condition that other countries wouldn’t go ahead and develop them. He continued:

That bargain hasn’t been kept. Our redundant nuclear submarines roam the world’s oceans protecting us from absolutely nothing. These weapons have a range of 7000 miles which means they can reach half the world’s surface.

Each sub carries 48 warheads and each warhead is the equivalent of 100,000 tonnes of high explosive - five times the blast which destroyed Hiroshima . One by one non-nuclear countries are moving towards nuclear arsenals, seeking the mythical status and security that we can’t give up.

As for Iran, the newest scary monster, that country is surrounded by 11 states with American forces in them, and America has already claimed the right to attack pre-emptively as it did in Iraq. We’ve left Iran with only one rational option .

Right now Britain has the chance to become the first nuclear state to take genuine steps to get rid of nuclear weapons If we did, we would have an authoritative moral position from which to talk to other counties about disarmament.

Importantly we would also have the money to tackle the real security problems that face us and to properly equip our forces with the essentials to do the job we ask of them.

Brian Eno thinks that the global nuclear situation can’t go on for much longer without something going badly wrong and ends:

We should recall the first World War: nobody knew why it started and nobody knew how to stop it. A nuclear war would be like that but infinitely worse – a nuclear war is the end.

James Arbuthnot, Conservative chair of the Commons Select Defence Committee, replied that South Africa had given up its nuclear weapon but that this had no effect on the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea. If we completely disarmed he believed that our military authority would be seriously reduced.

The nuclear deterrent is aimed at a very small proportion of rational states with leaders who would not be deterred by the American arsenal.

He agreed that Britain has some moral responsibility for proliferation, ending:

I don’t think that this country or any other country is doing enough to rid the world of these weapons . . . it is now possible to destroy the world.

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