Since Mandalay was last away I’ve been in Myanmar and I wrote about it HERE.
Mandalay’s away again and this summer’s water-tales will appear here.
We’re two days out, settled in a favourite spot at Cranfleet.
Planes drop out of the sky above me into East Midlands Airport. Freight and passenger trains criss-cross the junctions of the rivers Trent and Soar and the Dog-shit, sorry, Erewash Canal (see above) and David Cameron is taking us all for a ride on a submarine.
Dave’s been in Scotland today, talking up the threat from North Korea and using it to part-justify replacing Britain’s fleet of Trident nuclear powered-and-armed submarines. He’s also been veiling a threat that Scottish Independence might SNP-threaten the thousands of jobs that Trident sustains there.
If he wants to secure a No vote in the September 2014 Independence referendum, he’d do as well to threaten all the Scots living in London with the loss of their right to work in England (why not, if Scotland leaves the EU in the process of leaving the UK?).
That wouldn’t cost him – us – maybe as much as £100 billion.
Just the four new submarines, needed by the mid 2020s, account for at least as much as £25 billion of that. And that’s maybe 35% of Britain’s total military equipment budget, part of – ridiculously – Britain having the fourth largest defence budget in the world.
I don’t think Trident – or whatever we call its replacement – is ever going to be of much use to us. Kim Jong-un is not deterred by our deterrent. Why would he be? Whatever he does with his maybe-missiles, what is there for us to target-in-return? That big empty tower block in Pyongyang? The mass games? Lots of poor people?High Speed 2, the extension to England’s high speed rail network of the (too distant, please just get on with it) future, is going to come sweeping around the sandstone cliffs just to the south of here, and then right over where I’m sitting on some super-concrete, flood-plain crossing viaduct-on-stilts before zooming northwards (a bit).
HS2 is currently costed at about £18 billion; a big figure and one that is bound to get bigger by the whatever-time it opens (2032 or so is the plan).
But, even at that cost, I think super-fast rail connections between many of England’s major cities – and that London – and the cities of mainland Europe are likely to be pretty useful to lots of us, not just those whose jobs depend on it.
Those behind HS2 claim it will support indirectly 30,000 jobs plus directly and temporarily 9,500 in construction and directly and permanently another 1,500.
Estimates of how many jobs an infrastructure project will create or support are always a bit finger-in-the air. Whatever the accuracy of the Trident or HS2 numbers, lots of jobs are dependent on each.
I don’t think we should be choosing between the two.
This is not a one or the other situation.
It’s a one or five of the other situation.
Over its service lifetime Trident will cost £100 billion and will earn not one penny in revenue. For that money we could have five times as much high speed rail as is currently planned. It would be possible to connect cities like Bristol, Liverpool and Newcastle. Cardiff. Glasgow and Edinburgh. Yes, Scotland even. No, Scotland for sure.
It would serve all of Britain, not just parts of England.
It would support and create many more jobs than Trident.
It would be more useful to the likes of you and me.
And it would be just as good a deterrent to the likes of Kim Jong-un as Trident is.
Tony Blair said of Trident, “The expense is huge and the utility … non-existent in terms of military use,” He could clearly see the force of the “common sense and practical argument” against Trident, but in the end he thought giving it up would be “too big a downgrading of our status as a nation …”. [The Guardian]
Grrrrr. Bark. Woof.