Defence Secretary Michel Fallon has today answered questions in the Commons on last year’s test of a Trident nuclear missile. The verbatim Hansard record is not yet on line at the Parliament website, but I listened to the live coverage and can safely say that it’s rare to see even a Tory MP squirming and dancing around an issue so desperately trying to find ways to avoid giving a straight answer.
The upshot of these gyrations was that the submarine tests, of which the missile test-fire was a part, were officially successful – and that anything else is just ‘operational detail’ that it would be inappropriate to discuss.
I wonder whether the 20 million or so people who live in Florida would consider their existence – and its theoretical termination – as mere ‘detail’. If the missile had been armed, they – and the many rare species of plant and animal residing there – would have had only the successful functioning of a self-destruct button standing between them and oblivion.
Mr Fallon tried to say-without-actually-saying that everything went swimmingly, by telling one questioner,
You shouldn’t believe everything you read in the newspapers
A “non-denial denial” if ever there was one. Unfortunately for Mr Fallon, while he was at the despatch box the US military released a confirmation that the missile had in fact, failed:
News quickly spread around the chamber:
Awkward. But no worse than he deserved for trying to obfuscate when the facts were already beyond doubt, not to mention already well and truly in the public domain.
Fallon is a caricature of Tory pomposity in any case. But the danger is that his discomfiture – admittedly very pleasing – distract from the real issue at hand.
During the debate on the renewal of the Trident system last July, Theresa May said that she would be willing to ‘press the nuclear button’ to launch a missile that would kill 100,000 people. What she omitted to tell MPs – and the public – is that those 100,000 people might well have been you or me, given that she knew beyond doubt, because it had just happened, that Trident could simply veer off course, then explode somewhere other than it was meant to, if the auto-destruct should fail.
While the media got its knickers in a twist about Corbyn’s honest answer that he would not ‘press the button’, Mrs May was busy hiding undeniably relevant facts from Parliament and from the British people.
Which is all very illuminating about the mores of Tory politicians and the UK’s media – and about Corbyn’s unerring tendency to be on the right side of history. Not quite as illuminating as a nuclear flash, though.
Oops, sorry Florida.
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