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British Nuclear-Arms Revamp Seen Losing Labor Party Support

Plans to replace the British submarine-based nuclear deterrent could be losing favor among rank-and-file Labor Party lawmakers, the Guardian reports.

British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond reportedly called on defense ministers to seek increased union pressure on Labor legislators to support the potential replacement of all four Vanguard-class submarines that carry Trident ballistic missiles, the newspaper reported on Sunday. The "like-for-like" modernization plan has faced resistance from the Liberal Democrats, which led an exploration of alternatives as the junior member in a coalition government headed by Hammond's Conservative Party.

"The [Conservatives] don't want Labor having a wobble on this," one government insider told the Guardian.

A Labor spokesman said the party remains an advocate of full Trident modernization.

Hammond, though, pressed for ship-construction unions to inform Labor politicians of their backing for the renewal plan after he received indications that certain party members were seeking a more impartial position.

The defense secretary recommended seeking a strong stance in favor of full replacement from Keep our Future Afloat, a group tied to a key Labor Party financial supporter. A final decision on moving forward with modernization is expected after the 2015 general election.

A Conservative insider said: "We are confident that Labor is committed to replacing the deterrent ... unlike the Liberal Democrats who want some part-time deterrent with dummy missiles, providing Britain with no security."

One-time Labor Party Defense Secretary Des Browne, though, said the modernization plan faces growing doubts from "from all parties and in both houses" of Parliament.

"In an age of austerity where public spending is reducing, they are much more skeptical," Browne said. "If anything, I am surprised that it has taken ministers until now to wake up to this change. Fewer politicians accept the arguments for continuous at-sea deterrence without question than ever did before."

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