Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

If Labour Wins Britain's Election

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

If Labour Wins Britain's Election

Article excerpt

IN 1992, for the first time in more than a generation, a United States presidential election and a British general election will take place in the same calendar year. A general pattern since the end of World War II has seen periods of Conservative government in Britain (the 1950s, early 1970s, and 1980s) coincide with Republican administrations in the US, while periods of Labour rule in Britain (the late 1940s, 1960s, and the late 1970s) coincided with Democratic presidencies.

This pattern helped cement the Anglo-American "special relationship," which was strengthened in the 1980s by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan, who shared similar views on political philosophy, economic reform, and foreign policy.

The twin reelections of Prime Minister John Major and President George Bush this year would see currently strong Anglo-American relations, crowned by last year's Gulf war victory, continue on their course. Britain's Labour Party has a realistic chance of winning, however, with potentially disastrous consequences for transatlantic relations.

Labour fought the last two elections (1983 and 1987) on an unequivocal platform of scrapping Britain's independent nuclear deterrent and closing all US nuclear bases on British soil. Labour would cancel Britain's fourth Vanguard-class submarine armed with US-built Trident missiles, taking Britain below the threshold at which credible nuclear deterrence can be maintained. Labour also opposes NATO's plans to modernize its short-range nuclear weapons. Of 207 Labour MPs running for reelection, 167 have supported unilateral nuclear disarmament or have opposed nuclear defense in general. Labour leader Neil Kinnock himself was until recently a member of the unilateralist Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

All parties are campaigning with the promise of a "peace dividend" from cutting conventional defenses. But in contrast to the Conservative government's modest reductions, Labour favors cutting the defense budget by at least 27 percent.

IN such circumstances it would become virtually impossible for Britain to maintain its global responsibilities in such places as Gibraltar, Hong Kong, or the Falkland Islands. British participation in NATO's proposed Rapid Reaction Force, United Nations peacekeeping missions, or unforeseen emergencies like Operation Desert Storm would be put at great risk.

Labour's stance on defense has no considered assessment of the new danger facing the West caused by uncertainty in the former Soviet Union and the spread of nuclear-weapons technology to unpredictable third-world regimes like Iraq. …

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