Nick Clegg exposed a serious faultline within the coalition earlier today as he said that the “huge, huge” sums needed to replace the Trident nuclear weapon would make it harder for ministers to explain cuts in welfare and other areas.
The £20bn cost of fully replacing the ageing submarine-based weapon has already prompted a spat between Liam Fox, defence secretary, and George Osborne, chancellor, over which department should carry its cost in the coming years.
Mr Clegg, whose before the election favoured scrapping the scheme, implied that the money for replacing Trident could be better spent elsewhere. “The world has changed so the technology we spend money on needs more thought,” he said during a Q&A session in London.
The comments show that the difference of opinion between Mr Clegg and Mr Cameron on Trident – which prompted a sharp exchange during the televised leaders’ debates in April – has not been fully buried.
In case you have forgotten those TV debates, which now seem like a different era (It was perhaps the only point at which Cameron agreed with Gordon Brown and vice-versa):