News & Politics

British PM May Under Fire After Failing to Disclose Trident Missile Test Failure

British Prime Minister Theresa May attends a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin Wednesday, July 20, 2016, on May's first foreign trip after being named British Prime Minister. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

A test firing off the Florida coast of a Trident missile from the British submarine HMS Vengeance last June went awry, with the missile veering toward the American mainland instead of toward Africa.

The operation was designed to certify HMS Vengeance and the crew, which the Defense Ministry apparently did despite the failed test.

The problem for Prime Minister Theresa May is that a few weeks after the failure, Parliament voted to reauthorize the Trident program on her recommendation to the tune of $50 billion.

May was asked 4 times during a BBC interview about the test failure and refused to answer the question directly. This is has set off a row in Parliament as members are demanding she come clean about what she knew of the failed test and when she knew it.


Questioned by Andrew Marr, the PM refused to say four times if she had known about the test ahead of the vote.

The SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon called for a “full disclosure” of what happened.

According to the Sunday Times, an unarmed Trident II D5 missile veered off in the wrong direction towards the US – instead of towards Africa – when it was launched from a British submarine off the coast of Florida.

In July – days after Mrs May had become prime minister – MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of replacing Trident.

During the debate, Mrs May told MPs it would be “an act of gross irresponsibility” for the UK to abandon its nuclear weapons.

MPs backed its renewal by 472 votes to 117. However, all 52 SNP MPs voted against it – as did Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

When asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show whether she had known then that a misfire had happened, Mrs May said: “I have absolute faith in our Trident missiles.

“When I made that speech in the House of Commons, what we were talking about was whether or not we should renew our Trident.”

She was asked a further three times – but did not answer the questions.

The Ministry of Defence did not give details of the test process but said it had been a success.

Scottish First Minister, Mrs Sturgeon – a long-standing opponent of Trident, whose submarines are based at Faslane, on the River Clyde – said the apparent misfire was a “hugely serious issue”.

She tweeted: “There should be full disclosure of what happened, who knew what/when, and why the House of Commons wasn’t told.”

Meanwhile, Mr Corbyn said the reports called for “a serious discussion”.

He told Sky News: “It’s a pretty catastrophic error when a missile goes in the wrong direction, and while it wasn’t armed, goodness knows what the consequences of that could have been.”

I think it’s pretty clear that the Ministry of Defense and the PM deliberately covered up the failure to ensure passage of the Trident reauthorization measure. Although May came to office only a couple of weeks before the vote, one would think that being told of a failed missile test from Great Britain’s primary nuclear deterrent would be near the top of any briefing book.

The moral to this story — one that politicians never, ever seem to learn:

Always tell the truth because the coverup is always worse than whatever it is you’re trying to hide.