Call me a killjoy, but £70bn seems a lot for a sports car

Of late Gordon Brown reminds one of a chap whose wife has informed him that there is a massive hole in the family budget. She will watch with a raised eyebrow as he finds a temporary VAT cut down the back of the sofa, and presents it to her with an imploring look. She will sigh in exasperated sympathy as he remembers £700m worth of supertax in an old post office account. And then she will point gently at the utterly undiminished hole in the balance sheet, and say: "I don't mean to state the bleeding obvious, love, but there is a sports car sitting in the garage, and I can't help feeling this might be the moment to let it go".

His beloved Trident! Not a scratch on it, of course, and so adoringly maintained. Oh, he knows it's irrational, and an indulgence, and a throwback to when his life was completely different. And it's been murder to get the parts down the years. It's stupidly self-regarding to be worrying what the neighbours would say, and it would solve so many of their problems in a single swoop. But must it really go?

It must, and in my ideal world Gordon Brown would get straight on the telly and announce an urgent review of the whole business. Talk about a magic bullet. Britain's retention of a nuclear deterrent would be ridiculous if we were all lighting our cigars with tenners. As we enter an immeasurable recession it is full-blown insanity. Earnest ideas these tax rises and VAT cuts may be, but the glaring truth is that the economic crisis will have to mean huge cuts in public spending. A bare minimum of £37bn between 2011 and 2014, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies - so you may be on the point of spotting the luxury item in the trolley.

Even in the years when the fat cows were emerging from the Nile - 2007, for instance, when MPs narrowly voted to renew Trident at an estimated cost of £70bn - the arguments against were so luminous as to barely need repetition. Suffice to say we have been basking for some years now in the blissful peace secured by our arms race victory. However, from New York to London, Basra and Mumbai, there do seem to be those who remain unimpressed by our submarine collection, or India's nuclear programme, and at any rate appear able to hold their own using boxcutters or standard machine-guns.

"It is impossible to predict the future," was Tony Blair's typically forensic explanation as to why we still needed Trident. "The one thing that is certain is the unpredictability of it."

Yes, we are all set for the type of war we have never had; yet for those wars we can predict with depressing accuracy (considering we've started most of them) and involve AK-47s or simple explosive devices, we remain criminally unprepared - as so many coroners lambasting the MoD for basic equipment shortages have pointed out.

Up to 75% of Britons were opposed to Trident renewal or in favour of a delay, according to a Channel 4 News/Populus poll before last year's Commons vote, but a 2005 poll for Greenpeace was arguably more revealing. When asked "Do you think the government should replace its nuclear weapons or not?" , 46% of respondents said it shouldn't, 44% said it should, and 10% didn't know. However, when told that the cost of replacement was the equivalent of building 1,000 schools, 54% opposed replacement, and only one in three supported it.

Clearly, a significant proportion of people had no clue how much these things cost. But then, we don't talk about such fluff these days, which seems odd to those of us who grew up as relatively recently as the 80s, when people talked about nuclear weapons an awful lot. Today we scarcely discuss them rationally or irrationally, and if you are sitting there thinking that this is partly a failure of the media, then you are right.

To judge us on what is deemed to sell our newspapers and drive our web traffic, we are far more preoccupied with other comparatively infinitessimal aspects of public spending. Is it not a national embarrassment that we should be able to field so many people willing to make irate telephone calls about Mr Russell Brand - who cost the British public somewhere in the very low six figures before he decommissioned himself - while sitting mutely as tens of billions that could be spent providing better hospitals for our families are lavished on something so logically flawed as to be utterly pointless?

In these drastically straitened times, we need to stop being a nation of people who could tell you in pounds and pence the curtain allowance given to MPs, but can barely get in the ballpark on how much we spend on nuclear missiles. Those who used to chuck all sorts of luxuries into their supermarket trolleys without really paying attention to the price are suddenly all over their weekly budgets; and these same people should start thinking about major public spending the same way. It's time to start talking about nuclear weapons again - and I for one shall be boosting the economy by getting a Scrap Trident badge made up without delay.

Marina Hyde