London — Britain must stay in Europe. If the Labour Party succeeds in dragging her out, she will lose her international voice. But London must eventually give up an independent nuclear deterrent and merge its nuclear and conventional forces into the overall NATO command.
So says popular former Labour minister Shirley Williams in an interview, as she explains why she has helped launch Britain's first Labour Party breakaway party in 50 years, the social democrats.
Last year the Labour Party's annual conference at Blackpool voted to pull Britain out of the European Community without a referendum beforehand. It also said that if returned to power, Labour would give up nuclear weapons altogether.
These issues and a decision to stop Labour members of Parliament electing the party leader, these were the main reasons that Led Mrs. Williams and three other former ministers (David Owen, William Rodgers, and Roy Jenkins) to leave Labour and form a new center-left party.
"I think the Labour Party today is increasingly isolationist," Mrs. Williams said in her tiny office in the Policy Studies Institute near Westminster.
(Defeated in 1979, she does not have a seat in Parliament, though she would like to contest a by-election soon).
"I don't think Britain possesses any 'moral leadership' in the world," she said. "We don't have any input into world affairs except as part of a larger international community.
"I don't see this exclusively European. Australia, the US, India, the USSR take Britain more seriously as part of the European Community. And they take the EC more seriously with Britain as a member. So Britain has a disproportionate influence in Europe. . . .
"The Soviets will take fairly seriously a French-German-British axis, but not Britain on its own. The Soviets would smile at British unilateral disarmament, and pocket it, but it wouldn't make much real difference.
"Europe can offer to talk to the Soviets, using the threat of US cruise missiles in Europe as a way to try to stop Soviet SS-20 missiles directed at Europe. . . ."
Mrs. Williams said the European record on helping the third world was better than Britain's. If London was serious about implementing the Brandt Commission idea of devoting 1 percent of gross national product to third-world nations, it was best to work through Europe.
But the social democrats oppose Britain retaining its own nuclear deterrent independent of NATO. They see it as expensive and wasteful to spend -- as the Conservatives have decided -- $11 billion on four new Trident nuclear submarines.
"We say continue the current Polaris submarines for their useful lifetimes -- about eight to nine years," Mrs. Williams said. "They are independent of NATO.
"We think it then more effective to concentrate on the tripwire of conventional forces: the British Army on the Rhine, missiles, sub marines, all in a NATO context."