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Trident Debate: All Weapons Now Point to the Election

22/01/2015 12:52 GMT | Updated 23/03/2015 09:59 GMT

This week, I sat in the public gallery of the House of Commons, to watch an Opposition Day debate on the UK's Trident nuclear weapons programme.

Sometimes I like to sit in the gallery, instead of watching on TV at home, because it means you get to see lots more fascinating things.

In particular, you get to watch the faces of the people who aren't speaking, as well as the faces of the people who are speaking. This is great fun because MPs pull the most extraordinary faces to demonstrate how much they agree, or disagree, or would much rather be playing Candy Crush, or whatever.

Anyway, Trident. Obviously this is a very serious and important subject. Lots of MPs seemed to care about it one way or the other, and some even seemed to know what they were talking about. The Scottish National Party did a particularly good job of being passionate about it, which made sense because a.) they called the debate in the first place, b.) the party has been opposed to nuclear weapons since 1963 and c.) the UK's entire nuclear arsenal is kept about 25 miles from Glasgow, which really seems to get on their nerves.

I didn't watch the whole debate (it was six and a half hours long and there's no vending machine up there) but I did watch quite a lot of it, and one of the main arguments can be paraphrased thus:

Tories: "We need nice big nukes, ready to shoot off at a second's notice, because that will stop Bad People. ROAR."

Lib Dems: "It won't though, because the only Bad People who might actually try to nuke us are Islamic State, and they're SO bad they'll do it anyway and not care."

Labour: "Look, we're not saying we agree with the Tories... but what if more Bad People pop up in the future, ones that actually might be stopped by us having nukes, but we don't have any nukes to shoot off at them?"

Lib Dems: "Tell you what, why don't take our nukes apart, and put all the different bits under the bed, then we can Sellotape them back together again if we do need them later?"

Tories: "Are you saying we should have flat-pack nukes, ready to reassemble like Ikea furniture?"

Lib Dems: "Well yes, sort of."

Labour: "Do you know how long it takes to put Ikea furniture together?"

*PAUSE. Everyone thinks about how long it takes to put Ikea furniture together*

Greens: "That's not the point. Nukes are A Bad Thing Generally! Boo to nukes!"

SNP: "Well quite. Also, £100 billion is an awful lot to spend on replacing the furniture, flat-packed or not. And if you want them, you can keep them under your own sodding bed."

That, broadly speaking, was the size of it. The nuclear question poses an interesting dilemma, and one that I personally don't have a satisfactory answer to.

But here's the thing. Under it, over it and around the edges, a whole different exercise was going on at the same time.

Near the beginning of the debate, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said it was very important that a serious subject like nukes was not used for narrow political point-scoring. I couldn't agree more. But he then proceeded to do exactly that - as did everyone else - for the next six and a half hours.

That's because each party was doing its best to draw a picture of how different and special it is. And they were doing it using very fat black markers, and special pens for colouring in. While ostensibly arguing about nukes, everyone was actually madly positioning ahead of the election.

And as soon as that dawned on me, I realised that on one level, the debate could have been about anything at all - cucumbers or spatulas or socks. The same ear-boxing would still have gone on.

Here is the other bit of what everyone was saying - just not out loud - and what I suspect they'll be saying in every debate until 7th May:

Tories: "We're the only party you can trust with your cucumbers/spatulas/socks. That's because we've spent five years showing you we've got the big brass kahunas to make difficult decisions about cucumbers/spatulas/socks. So there."

Labour: "But what about all the poor people who don't have enough cucumbers/spatulas/socks? We stand up for those people. We'd introduce radical policies on cucumbers/spatulas/socks. We're totally different from the Tories. Yeeeaaah."

Lib Dems: "Ooh here's an idea - what about everyone having different coloured socks/bendier cucumbers/really interestingly-shaped spatulas! Why isn't anyone listening to us? Oh, come on guys... that tuition fees business was years ago!"

Greens: "Has anyone thought about how those cucumbers/spatulas/socks are produced, though? I mean is it ethical? Do they have happy lives?"

SNP: "Why are we involved in this sh1t anyway? We want to grow our own cucumbers/manufacture our own spatulas/knit our own socks. Good Scottish cucumbers/spatulas/socks. And we're going to keep pissing you lot off until you let us do it."

Some of the Westminster parties might not agree with nukes - but they're all wheeling the big guns out. All debates, nukes, spatulas, cucumbers and socks now point to the election.

Read more of Serena's sketches: Cowdy Calling