NPT means scrapping Trident

By Jeremy Corbyn MP

This week in New York the world’s nuclear, and avowedly non-nuclear states will be meeting at the UN one year in advance of the five yearly review of the Nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Labour should celebrate this. Fred Mulley, the Disarmament Minister in the first Wilson Government 1964-70 advocated the idea of a non proliferation treaty as a way of encouraging a nuclear free world.

The 1970 Treaty requires no- nuclear states to stay that way, declared nuclear weapons states to take steps towards disarmament and not export technology to facilitate nuclear weapons development.

The Treaty has had limited success. Positively the majority of states have not developed nuclear weapons, there are nuclear weapons free zones in Africa, Latin America and Central Asia. Negatively Israel, Pakistan, India and North Korea possess nuclear devices.

Israel is the only nuclear weaponed state in the region. We only know this because Mordechai Vanunu told the world this and suffered 18 years in jail of which 13 were in soilitary confinement. He is still denied the right to travel and is under severe restriction for his bravery.

Iran has processing capability and is now, following the historic Syria vote in August, deep in discussion with the IAEA and P5 plus 1 to become a verified non nuclear weapons capable state.

Now, more than ever, is the time to pursue the aim of a nuclear weapons free Middle East by organising the all nations conference.

Dangerously the failure of the NPT leadership to hold the much demanded conference on a nuclear weapons free middle east has led to serious threats of proliferation by Saudi Arabia and other states to rival Israel’s possession of these weapons of mass destruction.

The five declared states have all reduced war head possession but not the fundamental nuclear capability that the weapons bring.

Anyone that imagines nuclear weapons are somehow a manageable and reasonable part of a military arsenal should look at Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombing of 1945. Seeing the total waste and cancerous inheritance of the 300,000 dead then multiply it by ten to give an indication of the threat the whole nuclear concept presents.

Anyone who advocates the possession of the weapons as a part of a security argument then has to ask themselves, would they use them?

The UN Humanitarian Effects of War conference held in Oslo last year was boycotted by the five weapons states as was its successor in Mexico in February. In December Austria will convene a successor. So far the British Government has refused to confirm or otherwise its attendance.

Labour, at the very least, should be demanding attendance and as a gesture send Party representatives to discuss the real environmental, health and economic effects of nuclear weapons. Whilst the last Government did support the NPT process it also forced through a vote in 2007 to start the process of renewing Trident. 100 Labour MP’s voted against and opposition to nuclear weapons is growing.

In 2016 the “main gate” decision will be taken and commit Britain to £100bn over twenty five years. Are Labour MP’s seriously to be asked to spend this money when the demands on housing, education, transport and jobs are so overwhelming.

We need to recognise the Labour record on nuclear weapons is at best patchy. In 1949 Attlee managed to allow the secret development of the H Bomb which even his cabinet was unaware of. Callaghan did much the same thirty years later. Is the next Labour Government to go down this road or be bolder and more moral?

A start would be to say we are not renewing Trident and have a bold plan of job guarantees in very advanced engineering to ensure the huge skills in Barrow and elsewhere are not lost.

The Scottish TUC vote on Arms Conversion shows just how fast and far the debate has moved. The Nuclear Education Trust “Barrow Alternatives” is a serious and realistic examination of the economic case of not relying solely on armaments work. It would also give Britain some moral leverage in the world where the dangers off proliferation are huge. Those countries who have renounced these weapons such as South Africa, Argentina and Brazil have shown it is possible. It would also mean that Labour would keep faith with the 1970 Treaty has fulfilling its obligation to take steps toward disarmament.

Post Cold War, with the political damage to Labour of Blair and Iraq still obvious, it is time to end the cross party military consensus that there is “security” in having indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction.

Real security is about  health, environment and education; about protecting people from destitution and sharing resources. Maintaining ourselves as part of a threat to the whole planet does not make Britain safer, or more respected.

This year’s conference will be the last before the General Election. Are we to have the chicanery by the pro nuclear elements to deny a debate or will the case for a non nuclear world be able to be put?

Blog by Jeremy Corbyn MP originally published on LabourList

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Jeremy Corbyn EDMs following NPT PrepCom 2014

 

Scottish Defence Diversification Agency

Jackson Cullinane1Jackson Cullinane explains why defence diversification needs to be back on the agenda of trade unionists.

There are several reasons why STUC Congresses and policy conferences of the major STUC affiliates have in recent years consistently reaffirmed their opposition to nuclear weapons and to Trident replacement in particular.

The possession of nuclear weapons, threatening death and destruction to millions, is widely accepted as immoral and the assertion that possessing such weapons constitutes a deterrence is, to say the least, highly questionable.

The description of Britain’s nuclear weapons as being “independent” can also be called into question given that Trident is leased from the US, guided by US satellites and overhauled at Kings Bay in Georgia.

Most analysts consider it inconceivable that the system would be deployed outside the realms of US foreign policy aspirations or without authorisation from Washington.

And then we have the fact that the development and possession of ever-larger and increasingly accurate nuclear weapons systems directly contradicts the aims and objectives of international treaties on proliferation.

There are clearly difficulties in dissuading countries such as North Korea or Iran from developing nuclear weapons if British defence policy appears to promote the “value” of such weapons and a belief that they can ensure influence in the international arena.

Perhaps the most powerful argument for trade union opposition to nuclear weapons is on the grounds of cost, particularly at a time of austerity and service cuts.

When trade unionists face job losses, wage freezes, wage reductions, privatisations, cuts to terms and conditions and are being continually told to “tighten your belts,” proposals to spend up to £100 billion on a weapon of mass destruction, which will hopefully never be used, makes no economic sense.

The opposition of the bulk of the trade union movement to nuclear weapons appears unequivocal and assured. Or is it?

Despite the “paper policy” of trade unions opposing nuclear weapons, it should be noted that approval of these policies has seldom been unanimous when they have been debated at trade union conferences.

It should also be noted that there has been a marked reduction in the number of trade unionists and visible trade union banners on anti-nuclear weapons protests in recent years.

This is in contrast to the large mobilisation of trade unions that we saw in the big demonstrations against Polaris, Cruise and Pershing when the activities of CND were at their peak during the 1960s and ’80s.

Just as the “jobs and services” argument has been pivotal in securing the reaffirmation of trade union opposition to Trident in terms of paper policy, concerns over possible job losses may also explain the seeming reluctance of trade unions to prioritise involvement in the anti-nuclear weapons movement.

It is important to remember that advocates of maintaining Britain’s nuclear arsenal consistently emphasise the likelihood of job losses if this arsenal is to be abandoned.

While many studies, such as that conducted jointly by the STUC and Scottish CND in 2007, have played a crucial role in exposing the exaggerated claims of job loss among defence workers, concerns remain.

In contemplating a situation in which Trident were to be removed from the Clyde, the oft-cited suggestion that Trident expenditure should simply and wholly be transferred to public services might well appeal to public-sector workers. However, this scenario offers small comfort to defence workers if they were expected to shoulder the loss, however temporary, of skilled and relatively well-paid employment.

Similarly, references by some in the peace movement to the loss of “only” 1,700 Trident-related jobs at Faslane is unlikely to inspire those workers directly affected to enthusiastically promote an anti-nuclear weapons position, even if this is the official policy of their own union.

Given these understandable concerns, what needs to be done in order to secure the continued support of trade unions for anti-nuclear weapons policies?

Perhaps most importantly, given that protest against nuclear weapons may need to be maintained for some time if it is to be effective, how can longer-term engagement with and involvement by trade unionists in protest campaigns be secured?

A starting point is to take seriously defence workers’ concerns over their job security and to recognise that Scottish defence jobs have been haemorrhaging over many years.

Significantly, these jobs have been reducing over the lifetime of the existing Trident programme.

Over that period, 40,000 (35 per cent) of defence jobs have been lost, including 100 at Coulport, when overhaul responsibilities shifted to the US, and 250 at Faslane, principally as a consequence of Babcock privatisation.

The clear message is that Trident and expenditure on nuclear weapons is costing, and will continue to cost, jobs in the defence sector.

Following on from this, it is important to recognise that the job concerns of defence workers extend beyond those who are currently engaged in work related to nuclear weapons.

In recent weeks and months, shipbuilding workers – notably those at BAE Systems – have been seeking assurances over future orders.

In its recently published independence white paper, the Scottish government has pledged – if re-elected in the aftermath of a Yes vote in September’s independence referendum – to ensure the construction of four frigates on the Clyde.

Some trade union representatives, however, suggest that this promise is a hollow one – they claim that two of these frigates are likely to be completed under existing contracts in any case and that contracts for a minimum of 13 frigates are required in order to secure the medium to long-term future of the Clyde yards.

Concerns have been raised over the prospect of the Clyde shipyards losing out on British defence contracts in the event that Scotland votes for independence – this issue will, of course, continue to feature in the referendum debate.

While this suggestion is refuted by the Scottish government and others, what certainly should be accepted is that defence workers’ concerns over their future job security are real and understandable.

Whatever the outcome of the independence referendum, action is required to diversify work and to secure the employment of workers currently engaged in defence-related work, whether conventional or nuclear.

For this to occur, there is a pressing case to be made for the creation of a Scottish defence diversification agency. Such an agency would need to be properly staffed and resourced and would need to engage meaningfully with trade union representatives in order to develop and implement plans that are co-ordinated, realistic and have the confidence of the workforce.

Too often in the past such plans have failed through a lack of commitment to invest or due to a limitation in ideas. There are currently trade unionists who, having been previously engaged in discussions on diversification organised at the STUC, are now disillusioned with this project due to the minimal job potential of the suggestions which were made in those previous conversations.

As a precursor to developing concrete proposals on defence diversification, there is perhaps a case for a second STUC/CND report on the employment effects of Trident removal, one that includes a definitive skills audit and begins to make firm suggestions for a transition to alternative, but equivalent – in terms of skills base and earning potential – forms of employment.

Such a report should also complement others, such as those being commissioned by Unite via the Jimmy Reid Foundation, into the future of defence, shipbuilding and aerospace in Scotland.

Raising these issues and truly taking on board the concerns of defence workers is very much in the interest of the peace and anti-nuclear weapons movement.

Doing so could ensure the continuation of supportive union policies and the active involvement of trade unions in future moves for peace and nuclear disarmament.

Jackson Cullinane is a political officer at Unite Scotland.

This article is written in a personal capacity and was first published by the Morning Star.

See the Scottish TUC Congress Motion here.

Renew Labour’s disarmament ambition

Miliband2Ed Miliband has been regularly questioned by party members and the public since being elected leader about why on earth Labour would replace Trident.He has responded every time this issue is raised by saying he is not a ‘unilateralist’. For many of us, that is a soundbite and not a real answer, but he is of course consistent with the 2010 Labour manifesto which clearly stated:“We will fight for multilateral disarmament, working for a world free of nuclear weapons, in the Non Proliferation Treaty Review conference and beyond”.

But Vernon Coaker’s speech to RUSI this week re-stated his commitment to Trident replacement with no mention of multilateral disarmament.

Further to this, the Labour Party has published its final year policy consultation documents for the election manifesto and the ‘Britain’s Global Role’ document restates a commitment to Trident replacement unless the party is ‘convinced otherwise’ with a total lack of reference to any ambition for global disarmament.

Labour’s Defence team are rejecting any open discussion on UK possessing nuclear weapons even as a Tory-led Defence Committee in a report on 21st century deterrence argues ‘it is possible to foresee an environment in which the core role of nuclear deterrence – to protect a state from attack – is achieved by the deployment of advanced conventional weapons.’

So Labour should at the very least be clear that Britain’s nuclear weapons will be considered alongside all aspects of defence and security spending, from conventional military hardware to dealing with climate change.

And what has Labour to say on multilateral disarmament?

In 2015 whoever is elected at the General Election, the next review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty will take place in the same month and should be one of the first global gatherings of the next Government. The opportunity this creates for a new government in Britain to state a fresh commitment to global disarmament is obvious.

And Labour can make a clear statement before 2015. There is a growing momentum from states across the globe to discuss the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and drive towards a global ban, as has been achieved with chemical and biological weapons, and more recently on landmines and cluster munitions. In 2013, 127 states met in Norway to discuss the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. Last month 146 nations met in Mexico to continue the discussion. And that conference will reconvene in Austria this Autumn but it is unlikely the UK government will attend.

Labour should send a clear message on its commitment to global zero, by sending a representative to the Austrian conference. They will be in good company. The Austrian Social Democrats have stated their support for the conference.

The failure of the Labour Party’s draft foreign policy document to make any mention of such a commitment to disarmament generally or even re-asserting our ongoing commitments, under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to pursue disarmament in good faith, is truly shocking. Labour’s Foreign Affairs and Defence teams must be challenged on this glaring omission, because they are missing easy opportunities to make clear statements to voters to whom disarmament matters.

But with the wider public it is the simple message: ‘Trident will be scrapped and billions saved’ that will resonate. Our next manifesto should make clear that Labour will scrap Trident and, unlike this government, we will participate in international discussions for a global ban.

Money saved from scrapping Trident must first be invested in those areas where there are high levels of employment related to Trident. Unemployment must not be allowed to rise in those areas most affected.

From a global movement of governments, to defence-focused Tory MPs or the ongoing debate in the Lib Dems, Labour must decide whether it is happy to sit back while the world moves on and towards disarmament.

 

Please urgently consider ask your CLP or affiliated organisation to submit an amendment to policy document by 13th June, removing the text that reasserts support for a ‘continuous at sea deterrent’ and replaces it with a commitment to engage in international discussions towards disarmament, while scrapping Trident at home.

Our ambition is have many CLPs across the country calling for this amendment.

By Daniel Blaney, CND Vice-Chair and Labour CND executive

European Socialists drive disarmament

europe1Ahead of the European elections this year, a number of Labour’s sister parties in the Party of European Socialists have been taking the initiative in driving forward the nuclear disarmament agenda.

In this context, the Labour Party should discuss and set out how it intends to achieve nuclear disarmament – with the decision on Trident replacement looming after the next election.

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A global ban on nuclear weapons

Most significantly in Europe, the Austrian government – a coalition led by Social Democrat President Heinz Fischer and Prime Minister Werner Faymann – have announced they will host a major conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in the Autumn.

The conference is the latest in an initiative with growing global reach and momentum, which saw 127 states attend a conference in Norway in March 2013 and 146 states attend a follow-up conference in Mexico in February this year.

With official delegates hearing new research from the International Committee for the Red Cross, the World Health Organisation and Chatham House, there is a push to ‘stigmatise, ban and eliminate’ nuclear weapons – in the words of the Austrian President – in the same way that cluster munitions, landmines, and chemical and biological weapons have in the past.

The Austrian Social Democrats Foreign spokesperson, Christine Muttonen, stated, “This is an important part of our foreign policy … we want to continue to play an active and leading role in the issue of international ostracism and the total ban of nuclear weapons.

The UK, along with the other four Non-Proliferation Treaty nuclear weapon states, boycotted the first two conferences, with the UK stating its belief that the call for a ban disrupts its ‘step-by-step programme’ to disarm – which includes replacing Trident.

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Opposition to NATO nuclear weapons in Europe

In Belgium and the Netherlands a debate is taking place about purchasing F-35 stealth fighters to replace their aging F-16s, and the continued deployment of NATO-assigned US B-61 nuclear weapons which the current F-16s carry.

Reports state that in Belgium, at the recent Congress of the Flemish Socialist Party Alternative, the party stated it would not back a future coalition government that would continue to support the presence of the B-61 bombs. Socialist MP Dirk van dar Maelen said, “Those nuclear weapons must be transported – they quickly found an excuse to replace the existing aircraft and to give new aircraft €4billion.”

A report on the party’s website also states they would not purchase the F-35 planes at all, favouring greater EU defence co-ordination and prioritising spending the money on social programmes.

In the Netherlands, the coalition government that includes the Labour Party has recently decided to go ahead with purchasing 37 F-35 planes, despite the party voting not to do so in the previous parliament in July 2012.

However, reports state that despite support for the plane purchase, Labour Foreign Minister Timmermans, ‘wants to work with NATO allies to prepare proposals that lead to removal [and] realises that finding alternatives is crucial to convincing these states to stop blocking the withdrawal of the B61.’

 

By Ben Folley

Conference resolution and fringe 2013

Contemporary Resolutions

Scrapping Trident is the subject of our model contemporary motion to Labour Party Annual Conference this year.

 

It is time the Labour Party seriously debated Trident, a throwback to the Cold War which consumes enormous resources that would be better spent elsewhere and with no relevance to the UK’s security needs.

It is vital that Labour CND supporters ensure these debates are heard at Labour Party Conference.

  • Make sure your CLP discusses and submits one of these resolutions.
  • Make sure your delegate is present at any relevant Conference Arrangements Committee meeting before conference.
  • Make sure you promote the resolution to ensure it is prioritised for debate.

 

The deadline to submit motions is noon on 12th September 2012.

Please email info@labourcnd.org.uk and let us know if your CLP is submitting one of these or a similar motion.

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Labour CND’s fringe meeting at Labour Party Conference

 

Join the debate on Trident the Labour Party needs to have.

Labour, Trident and the 2015 election

6.30pm, Monday 23rd September
Royal Albion Hotel, Old Steine Brighton (map)

Nick Brown MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Sheila Gilmore MP
Clive Lewis PPC
Nancy Platts PPC
Ann Black, NEC
Kate Hudson, CND

Refreshments provided

Email info@labourcnd.org.uk for more information.

Facebook event

Labour CND congratulates Ed Miliband

tomahawk missile-bThe following letter was sent on 30th August, to congratulate Ed Miliband on his achievement of averting British involvement in a military attack on Syria.
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Dear Ed,
 
Labour CND congratulates you on successfully leading the opposition to British military intervention in Syria’s civil war. 
 
We are confident that you will do all you can to encourage diplomacy aiming at peace negotiations to end the conflict. 
 
Clearly these negotiations cannot exclude any of the participants in the civil war and preferably should include the neighbouring countries. 
 
We look forward to your response. 
 
Yours, 
 
Joy Hurcombe and Walter Wolfgang 
On behalf of Labour CND

Scrap Trident: Walter’s letter to Ed

walter2Dear Ed,

Many thanks for your good wishes for my 90th birthday and all you are doing to convince the people of this country that Labour can provide a socially just alternative to coalition austerity.

Many people realise that the coalition has failed but are not yet convinced that Labour has made up its own mind and that its policies are clear and credible.

One of the problems the country faces is that a replacement of the Trident weapon system is unaffordable, useless and – by encouraging proliferation – an obstacle to multilateral nuclear disarmament.

You should make sure that there is a vote at the 2013 Labour Party conference which I believe will decide to scrap Trident and not replace it.

With scrapping Trident increasingly popular amongst both Labour Party members and the public, particularly in the current economic crisis, such a principled stand will help to bring new members into the party it will also ensure that others will speak up for the Labour Party.

This is vitally necessary to build the kind of support that will secure a Labour Government. We need a Labour General Election victory.

As this is a matter of public interest I am publishing this letter of thanks on Labour CND’s website.

Yours sincerely,

Walter Wolfgang

Labour must hold Trident debate now

Many people would prioritise spending on health or education, on infrastructure, job creation or supporting the vulnerable rather than on replacing Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons. Others would argue that spending over £100bn on a cold war weapons system – rather than maintaining our troops or combating cyber warfare – is detrimental to the national interest. Many of us see that there is no strategic, economic or moral case for nuclear weapons, but others who think otherwise. It remains a controversial debate.

A decision on the replacement of Trident is due to be taken in 2016. If the Labour party is to form the next government, now is the time to debate it, in an open fashion, to arrive at an informed policy – leaving aside past prejudices – in Britain’s best interests. For Labour to regain trust in its ability to govern openly and transparently, it must show it is confident enough in its own processes to have it. This year’s Labour party conference is the time to debate this crucial issue.

Nick Brown MP, Newcastle EastMartin Caton MP, Gower / Katy Clark MP, North Ayrshire and ArranMichael Connarty MP, Linlithgow and Falkirk East / Jeremy Corbyn MP, Islington NorthPaul Flynn MP, Newport West / Sheila Gilmore MP, Edinburgh EastFabian Hamilton MP, Leeds North East / Kelvin Hopkins MP, Luton NorthJohn McDonnell MP, Hayes and Harlington / Michael Meacher MP, Oldham West and RoytonJoan Walley MP, Stoke-on-Trent North / Claudia Beamish MSP, South ScotlandNeil Findlay MSP, Lothian / Christine Chapman AM, Cynon ValleyJenny Rathbone AM, Cardiff  / Central / Julie Morgan AM, Cardiff NorthJulie James AM, Swansea West / Baroness Ruth ListerLord Alf Dubs / Clive  Lewis PPC, Norwich SouthNancy Platts PPC, Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven / Lisa Forbes PPC, PeterboroughAnn Black NEC / Lucy Anderson, London NPF repNick Davies, Wales NPF rep / Ruth Davies, Yorkshire and Humber  NPF repAnnabelle Harle, Wales NPF rep / Carol Hayton, South East NPF repJenny Holland, East of England NPF rep / Chris Hughes, North West NPF repSally Hussain, London NPF rep / George McManus, Yorkshire and Humber NPF repDoug Naysmith, South West NPF rep / Alice Perry, London NPF repNicholas Russell, Labour Disabled Members Group NPF rep / Lorna Trollope, East of England NPF repDarren Williams, Wales NPF rep 


 


 


 


Signatories names will be published. Data will be processed by Organic Campaigns and held under their privacy policy. Acknowledgements.





Join Labour’s Trident debate

Get involved in Labour’s Trident debate

The debate around Trident in the Labour Party is now developing and it is important that Labour CND activists get involved.

The Financial Times recently claimed that said Ed Miliband was open to alternatives to like-for-like Trident replacement.

This followed former Defence Secretary Des Browne’s statement that‘Since 2006, important things have changed and it is time for a more honest debate about the defence choices facing the country.’

Going further, Labour’s Former Defence Minister, Frank Judd, recently said, ‘I strongly believe that the case and need for, and relevance of, a new Trident have never been established.’

 

What we need to do

A debate on nuclear weapons will be more difficult to secure in the final months before an election. Therefore the Labour Party needs to debate Trident in 2013 if it is to do so before the 2015 General Election.

Labour CND activists need to take action to ensure Trident is fully debated at the National Policy Forum (NPF) on the 22nd June this year.

 

1. Contribute to the YourBritain website

The YourBritain website is Labour’s online policy site and submissions to the site will be considered by the NPF.

We need as many submissions sent by individual activists, branches and constituencies, as possible.

 

2. Contact members of the National Policy Forum

To contact members of the NPF’s Global Role Commission:

 

To contact your NPF regional reps:

 

3. Discuss Trident at your CLP

 

Keep Labour CND updated on your local discussions and submissions by emailing us at  info@labourcnd.org.uk.

Obituary: Jim Mortimer

Mortimer2Pundits and commentators of a New Labour tendency have not been kind to Jim Mortimer, General Secretary of the Labour Party during its trough of depression in the first half of the 1980s. He is, in particular, held responsible for the election manifesto of 1983, memorably described by Gerald Kaufman as “the longest suicide note in history.”

At the fag-end of his tenure I was elected to the constituency section of the National Executive Committee, and I have a far kinder assessment. He was a thoughtful and intellectual trade unionist, straight as a die; at 61, instead of enjoying well-earned retirement he agreed to become General Secretary of an impecunious and troubled Party in those turbulent political times at the request of the new Labour leader. Michael Foot. Mortimer and his partner Pat, later his wife, were of deeply held socialist opinions. In his attitudes to the issues of the day he chimed with the concerns of Party workers equally concerned about subjects such as nuclear weapons and workers’ rights.

If he had retired then he would have been remembered as a serious academic who had given his life to the trade unions, written and lectured with authority on union affairs and been relatively uncontroversial. In fact he was to be one of the party’s most controversial General Secretaries.

Mortimer was contemptuous of “spin”. His background was one in which politicians and unions spoke as plainly as they could. He was unapologetic in helping to put forward Labour’s aims. The 1983 election campaign was difficult since left and right could not decide what they wanted.

Mortimer did make what was perhaps a colossal boob, but it was understandable at the time. Early in the campaign he replied to a hostile question from a tabloid journalist by saying that the Party “had full confidence” in its leader. I saw the film of this incident which showed Mortimer as soon as he’d made his announcement, looking bewildered at the journalists’ excited reaction. He hadn’t ticked on to the fact that his words might cause the electorate to question Foot’s leadership and Labour’s unity of purpose. Mortimer was not streetwise, but blaming him for the election defeat in the wake of the triumphalism of the Falklands War, which he had passionately opposed, would be unfair.

He was born in 1921, the son of a disabled newsagent eking out a living in Bradford. His father was a member of the Socialist Labour Parties, the British branch of the Industrial Workers of the World, and worked closely with stalwarts of the Left such as John Cryer, the father of Bob Cryer, a minister in the Wilson government.

From his parents Mortimer inherited a feeling for the importance of international socialist solidarity. As a young shipfitter he was in a reserved occupation; his interest in union affairs secured him a place at Ruskin College at the end of the war. At 25 he worked for the TUC economic department and was picked as a full-time official in 1948 by his union, the Draughtsmen’s and Allied Technicians Association, whom he served until 1968, when he became a director of the then flourishing London Cooperative Society, until 1971; for seven years he was chairman of ACAS, which settled the most thorny industrial disputes.

Mortimer played an important part, from 1971-74, on the Armed Forces pay review body. Perhaps he was appointed in the expectation that as a left-winger with pacifist tendencies he would push for pay restraint; in fact he believed service personnel merited a proper reward even if their country was asking them to do something he thought should not be done.

A well-organised person, he found time to make a considerable contribution to the industrial literature of the day. His History of the Association of Engineering and Shipbuilding Draughtsmen (1960) was perhaps the first union history written by a working leader. In 1965 he combined with the ebullient Clive Jenkins to publish British Trade Unions Today and the influential The Kind of Laws the Unions Ought to Want, in 1968. If the line they proposed had been adopted I doubt there would have been the difficulties following In Place of Strife.

Between 1973 and 1993 he published the History of the Boilermakers Society in three volumes. Academia recognised the seriousness of his scholarship: he became a Visiting Fellow to the Administrative Staff College at Henley (1976-82) and Senior Visiting Fellow to Bradford University (1977-82) who gave him an honorary DLitt. He also became Visiting Professor at Imperial College and Ward-Perkins Resident Fellow at Pembroke College Oxford. His autobiography A Life on the Left (1999) and The Formation of the Labour Party, Lessons for Today are worth reading for any student of modern British political history.

Mortimer remained General Secretary until 1985, and as a member of the Finance and General Purposes Committee of the National Executive Committee I know it was he who staved off bankruptcy. He remained active in the union movement and was one of six Manufacturing Science Finance (MSF) members who made a legal challenge to Labour’s disqualification of London MSF votes in the mayoral candidate selection process of 2000. The courts found in Labour’s favour since London MSF had not paid its party dues for three years. Mortimer and five colleagues were ordered to pay costs.

Mortimer acted out of a concern for doing right in the Party. In my last conversation with him he expressed his dismay at how the Party conference had become a rally, discussion dampened to the point of extinction. He was proud to be “Old Labour” and believed people would only really work for a party if they believed they had some influence in its decision-making.

Tam Dalyell

James Edward Mortimer, trade union official, politician and writer: born Bradford 12 January 1921; official, Draughtsman and Allied Technicians Association (General Secretary 1958-68); General Secretary, Labour Party 1982-1985; married firstly Renee Horton (deceased; two sons, one daughter), secondly Pat Mortimer; died Portsmouth 23 April 2013.

Originally published by The Independent