The Polaris replacement decision
in Supreme emergency
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This torrid period saw the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament re-emerge as part of a pan-European protest against NATO nuclear weapons, NATO’s dual track response to the deployment of SS20 and the near-simultaneous decision to replace Polaris with Trident. Many technical factors affecting the Polaris decision remained relevant, including the need to use an American system because the R&D costs of a British system would be prohibitive. Mrs Thatcher’s government persisted in treating decisions about NATO nuclear posture and the national nuclear deterrent as separate, missing the point that they were indivisible in public perception. The anti-nuclear opposition mounted coherent campaigns locally and nationally, and the government did not attempt to engage for three years – by which time the debate’s parameters had been set by CND and others. Throughout, ministers’ understanding of the discourse was woeful, with the Press Office failing to grasp the importance, or the complexity, of the issue until a small Conservative Party committee began work on the 1983 election manifesto. This committee engaged with the Cabinet Office and the MOD, and government took an aggressive stance, aiming to undermine the credibility of anti-nuclear lobbies by suggesting their leadership was significantly influenced by the USSR.

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Supreme emergency

How Britain lives with the Bomb

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