Vote Lib Dem, doom humanity to extinction
No nukes = 65% UK power imports. And asteroid doomsday
Tomorrow is election day, and on most issues the politicians aren't offering you any clear choices. Nobody's being open regarding what they'll do about the public finances, for instance: more than one politician has revealed total ignorance combined with terrifying eagerness to make policy.
But on one issue there is a clear choice to make. That's nuclear technology: not just weapons, but nuclear power too. The Liberal Democrats, stepping well away from the main parties, have stated as clearly as politicians ever do that they would kill off the UK's nuclear industry and that they are against replacing Trident.
In theory, the Libs are open to some unspecified UK nuclear force after Trident: but it would be carried by cruise missiles or something even less capable. In the context of actually deterring someone from attacking the UK, this sort of force is hugely less useful than proper submarine-based ICBMs; so much so as to be not really worth having, especially as it would tend to cost more, not less.
Consider what follows, with Nick Clegg or a similarly-inclined Prime Minister, following an ICBM strike on the UK. Rule out action by our allies: the aggressor nation still has missiles left, and regardless of NATO commitments nobody is going to be next on the nuclear chopping block merely to avenge shattered Britain. This, indeed, is probably why disarmed or partly-disarmed Britain would be hit rather than Israel or America: because of the most hated targets, it was the only one that would be safe to strike.
If the possible responding British cruise missiles were launched from surviving patrol subs, they would be likely to take weeks to get into position. If they were carried by bomber aircraft that had somehow survived a first strike on the UK they would need consent from intervening nations to fly over and/or refuel, very difficult to obtain in such circumstances.
In both cases, as cruise missiles are not that difficult to shoot down, a large and expensive number of missiles and warheads (and subs or aircraft) would be required to be sure of a nation-wrecking strike. With anti-aircraft technology spreading around the world, in fact, certain retribution would require such a huge bomber or submarine fleet that it would cost more than simply replacing Trident.
So the Lib Dem weapons plans equate to abandonment of actual deterrence, the only valid reason for having nuclear arms. And indeed many Lib Dems make no secret that their plan is, in fact, unilateral disarmament by the UK.
As for the idea that giving up one's own nukes encourages others to do the same, surely the way the number of nuclear armed nations has been climbing recently - even as the major powers have cut their arsenals - shows how foolish this is. Even President Obama's recent negotiation with Russia only achieves its widely-trumpeted numbers cuts by fudging the definition of nuclear weapons - and leaving the door open, in fact, for Russia to increase its arsenal.
Many Labour MPs, too, are known to personally desire unilateral disarmament no matter what their party leadership thinks (and no matter what Labour voters think). If enough Lib Dem MPs join them in parliament tomorrow we may see a House of Commons that wants to disarm, regardless of what the Prime Minister or the electorate want.
Voters who don't want nuclear disarmament shouldn't vote Liberal, it's as simple as that - attractive as some of their other ideas might be.
Then there's the matter of nuclear power. Again, the choice is clear: a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote against nuclear.
In theory, this could be seen as a vote for a renewables-powered Blighty. But there are terrible problems with that as a plan: Professor J C MacKay of Cambridge University, one of the more rigorous examiners of low-carbon energy plans for the UK, suggests that a carbon-free Britain would have to import 64 per cent of its electricity assuming no nuclear power and a merely hugely-increased number of wind turbines. He describes this as "Plan L... because I think it aligns fairly well with the current policies of the Liberal Democrats".
Believe humanity should travel to space one day? You're not a Lib Dem
The snag is that Plan L calls for all that electricity to come either from nuclear plants in France - or, rather unrealistically, on incredibly long HVDC lines from North Africa. Equally unrealistically the UK might cover itself and the seas around it with windmills backed by comically vast amounts of pumped storage: this would make the cost of Trident - even the order-of-magnitude-greater costs of the NHS or the Department of Work and Pensions - look like peanuts, and still we'd have to import 14 per cent of our power.
So in fact a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for no nukes and (in the real world) surging fossil imports with associated Russian dominance over Western Europe - helped no doubt by the fact that one of Europe's two nuclear powers has forfeited that status.
The cause of nuclear power worldwide, indeed, would have taken a noticeable backward step if Lib Dem ideas gained traction here. There are reasons to regret that even if one cares nothing for the UK's wealth, status and possible future safety.
It's a fact, for instance, that without some energy technology more powerful than solar panels and chemical rockets the human race is basically chained to the planet Earth. Even robot probes need nuclear power to travel to the outer solar system: and useful manned flight to next-door Mars probably calls for nuclear power too. You might hold out for fusion power as opposed to fission, but that's a big gamble - and there's nothing to say that the same exaggerated terror of weapons application wouldn't stifle fusion the way it is stifling fission.
If you think that humanity should one day travel usefully to the planets - let alone the stars - you can't vote Lib Dem tomorrow. Their ideas lead at best to an energy-starved renewables powered civilisation (one which would never be able to afford the electricity bills of fusion research, by the way): at worst to the same place having first wasted all the remaining fossil fuel.
One day that Earthbound, disarmed, energy-poor (ie, pretty much just poor) civilisation will disappear - wiped out in an asteroid strike, for instance, because the spaceships and nukes needed to defend the planet had been discarded by international agreement long before. Or maybe we'd live long enough to get wiped out by the next natural period of global warming or freezing (oh yes, it happens) despite our efforts to be good and live righteously.
Ultimately, trying to stamp out new forms of technology because they have uses as weapons - the bedrock of Lib Dem policy, in case we're forgetting what day this is - is quite literally a dead end for the human race. And, just as in the case of panic-driven security measures against insignificant terrorist attacks, the costs are wildly out of proportion to the benefits.
Consider this: nuclear weapons to date are thought to have killed as many as 340,000 people, in Japan in 1945. That was less than one per cent of the death toll produced by the six years of high-intensity conventional war which had preceded the nukes.
It's very plausible to suggest that without nukes the Cold War would have gone hot soon enough: the huge tank armies and bomber fleets which smashed the Third Reich at the cost of lives lost in the scores of millions would have gone to work on each other, in a slaughter that would have made World War II look like a bar fight. Looked at that way, nukes have actually saved many more lives than they've ended.
If you disagree, never mind: but remember that machetes and clubs killed almost a million people in Rwanda just last decade in just one genocidal outburst, tripling the death toll we've seen from nukes. The unheard Darfur conflict is thought by many to have topped the Hiroshima and Nagasaki strikes, too - and the list goes on. You'll even hear people say that the latest war in Iraq killed more than the "Fat Man" bomb of 1945 did. Nuclear weapons aren't, in fact, as deadly as the ordinary sort.
Any rational campaigner, concerned about senseless waste of human life, would crusade against machetes or clubs or rifles - with just as much futility as anti-nuclear protesters' efforts.
As for the idea that nuclear power is dangerous in itself - more dangerous than other kinds of power - this is rubbish put about by people who are actually, almost always, trying to get rid of the weapons. The anti-nuclear lobby have long since surpassed the level of untruthfulness shown by government nuclear programmes: and so deep is their infiltration of the media that campaigners like John Large are routinely quoted as impartial experts even in the right-wing press.
Ultimately, any technology that's any use has the potential for accidents, and almost certainly an application in weapons. Deal with it, people: failing to do so dooms the human race far more surely over time than the existence of nuclear weapons or power stations does. That failure is driven by the same silly fears that would make us give up our freedom to be safe from largely mythical and always insignificant terrorism.
And the way you deal with this tomorrow as a British citizen is by voting against the Lib Dems. The other parties are about equally repulsive; I've got no advice to offer there. ®
Updated to add
Full Disclosure: The Lib Dems are the only UK political party to have consulted Lewis Page on defence policy, following the publication of his book Lions, Donkeys and Dinosaurs. They seem to have adopted two of his recommendations: cutting the Eurofighter jet and the A400M transport plane: in most respects they were a pleasure to work with.