A furious war of words erupted over the future of the UK’s nuclear weapons yesterday after the Conservatives confirmed they would build four new Trident missile-carrying submarines.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon launched a pre-emptive strike on Labour to try to put pressure on Ed Miliband’s party over its commitment to the multi-billion pound project.
The move follows the SNP’s insistence that scrapping the Trident renewal plans would be a “red-line” in any power-sharing deal with Labour.
Mr Fallon also revealed that the Tories would not negotiate on its support for the deterrent – and launched an explosive personal attack on the Labour leader.
“Ed Miliband stabbed his own brother in the back to become Labour leader, now he is willing to stab the United Kingdom in the back to become prime minister,” he said.
Mr Fallon added: “Imagine Ed Miliband limping into office aided by the crutch of the SNP. On Tuesday night, Nicola Sturgeon was explicit. In a statement that was as arrogant as it was terrifying, she said she was ‘offering to make Ed Miliband Prime Minister’.
“And she has made clear the price she would demand – more spending, more debt, unlimited welfare and scrapping our nuclear deterrent.”
Mr Miliband said Labour was committed to renewing Trident and providing a continuous at-sea independent nuclear deterrent, and had been guided by experts that four submarines were necessary for that.
But he said it was “right to have a review” of the issue of the number of subs “because if technology changes, you can look at it”.
Mr Miliband added that the defence secretary’s comments showed the Conservative campaign had “descended into the gutter”.
“Michael Fallon is a decent man but today I think he has demeaned himself and demeaned his office,” he said.
Ms Sturgeon said the SNP will “absolutely not vote” for the renewal of Trident, or anything that facilitates its renewal.
“The SNP has made very clear that Trident is a fundamental issue, so we would never be in any deal with a Labour government who is going to renew Trident and we would never vote for the renewal of Trident or for anything that facilitated that renewal,” she said.
“It is one example of where we want to build progressive alliances in the House of Commons.”