chapter  1
51 Pages

Labour in power

The Atlantic Nuclear Force and the Polaris programme, October 1964–January 1965
ByMatthew Jones

In October 1964, the month when British voters would go to the polls to elect a new Government, the UK's strategic nuclear forces, though dwarfed by those of the United States and the Soviet Union, nevertheless possessed considerable destructive potential. In the area of nuclear policy, the two most pressing issues to be confronted by the Labour Government in its first few months in office were the future of the Polaris programme and how to respond to the new impetus that the Johnson administration in Washington sought to give the scheme to create an Multilateral Force (MLF). The pressure on the pound exerted by the financial markets in early November made it even more imperative that the new Government address the rising pattern of defence spending. Although prepared to acknowledge signs of private flexibility in the new Government's posture, US officials were less than pleased with some of the Prime Minister's public pronouncements.