Over the next few months there wll be huge hue and cry on the left about whether we should maintain our nuclear deterrent. Old CND placards will be dusted down from the attic,the Guardian's pages will be overflowing with vitriolic pieces lambasting the government for this crime against humanity, peace-lovers will be calling for the blood of Tony Blair (again!), ranters will be raging on websites, sanctimonious sermons will be delivered from pulpits, all culminating in the hyped-up drama of the paliamentary debate and the obligatory speculation that the Tories might find some excuse to combine with rebel Labour MP's to bring down the government on this issue.
It will be the 1950's all over again with much tearful talk about how those dreadful weapons have no place in a civilised society and how Britain can give a moral lead to the rest of the world by giving them up.
What will be disregarded or played down in the debate, of course, will be the little matter of a manifesto commitment. Not just one of those a tiny, tucked away commitments like doing more to make our playgrounds safe but a commitment relating to one of our chief concerns, the defence of the realm. Like it or not, on page 88 of the little Red Book it is clearly stated that "we are also commited to retaining the independent nuclear deterrent." So our response to it at this point in the parliamentary cycle is not just a matter of being for or against, or of being left or right. It is about the very nature of our democratic process, in particular the expectation that political parties will stand by their core promises to the electorate if they win power.
To renege on a manfesto commitment of this importance would represent such a breach of the electoral compact with the British people that it could be decades before Labour was entrusted with office again. In these circumstances Labour has no alternative but to proceed with replacing Trident.
To those on the left who disagree with this proposition I would ask one, simple question. What would be their reaction if Labour had been elected on a manifesto commitment to renounce nuclear weapons and then continued with them once in power?