- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2007

LONDON (Agence France-Presse) — Prime Minister Tony Blair won backing for plans to renew Britain’s nuclear deterrent yesterday, but only after surviving a new revolt in his own Labor Party.

After a sometimes rowdy debate and the resignation of two more junior government ministers, lawmakers voted 409-161 in favor of renewing the Trident missile system.

But the motion only passed because of the backing of opposition conservatives after an estimated 90 Labor members of Parliament voting against their own government, according to BBC estimates immediately after the vote.

The parliamentary rebuff was believed to be the biggest rebellion within Labor ranks since March 2003, when 138 Labor lawmakers, including former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, voted against invading Iraq.

“I think it’s right we take the decision now to begin work on replacing the Trident nuclear submarines. I think that is essential for our security in an uncertain world,” Mr. Blair said.

Anti-nuclear campaigners immediately hailed the vote. “It is a major victory for the peace movement and we will now build on that to make sure this decision is reversed,” said Kate Hudson of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Mr. Blair is widely perceived as gradually losing his grip on party discipline as he prepares to step down in the coming months after a decade in power.

Four existing British submarines were expected to reach the end of their working life by 2024.

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