Trident: NPF reps need your views

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Click to lobby your NPF reps.

George McManus is a member of the National Policy Forum from Yorkshire and the Humber region, and sits on it’s Global Role Commission.

Here he explains why you need to tell your NPF reps your own views on Trident replacement which will discuss Trident before Annual Conference.

 

“In recent weeks, senior Labour figures have been getting stuck into the Trident debate and the question of whether the UK should develop a new nuclear weapon system.

Des Browne, Labour’s former Defence Secretary, recently wrote in the Daily Telegraph, ‘Since 2006, important things have changed and it is time for a more honest debate about the defence choices facing the country’.

John Hutton and George Robertson hit back, writing ‘there is no magic alternative to Trident’

More recently, John Prescott, in the Sunday Mirror this week, said, ‘for David Cameron to claim that the North Korea situation proves why we must spend £20billion on a new Trident nuclear defence system is just absurd … let’s not be conned into replacing Trident, which as well as the £20 bilion price tag will cost £3 billion per year for the next 30 years to maintain.’

And former chief whip Nick Brown, wrote, ‘The answer to international uncertainty is not to buy the most powerful weapon system available and threaten all comers.’

So MPs and Peers are having their say – and they’re not all saying what you might expect. But what are the views of the party membership? How can ordinary members contribute to the debate?

Last year a meeting of the NPF’s Britain in the World Commission lots of NPF members expressed opposition to Trident replacement. But how many of you knew?

The official report said there were a variety of views and agreed that the same Commission should discuss Trident again this year.

This discussion may be hinged on the terms of the Lib Dem Trident Alternatives Review, but I think it’s important the party has a much more important debate, about whether we have nuclear weapons at all.

Being frank, my position right now is that we shouldn’t replace Trident – the UK shouldn’t have nuclear weapons.

The UK signed a deal in 1970 that we would get rid of our nuclear weapons. Both we and the Tories say we’re committed to that deal but no-one believes the Tories will carry it out.

I think we should do the right thing and stick to our promises on nuclear disarmament.

As a member of the Global Role Policy Commission, I am delighted that CLPs have been writing to me saying that there is no moral, economic or strategic case for Trident renewal.

But more importantly, I’m glad that we may now be in a position to have a mature debate about the issues. But this will only happen if you, the members, demand that such a discussion takes place.

The YourBritain website is a major step forward in facilitating this discussion and I would urge you to engage with it.

That’s why I’m delighted that Labour CND are encouraging you to write in to members of the NPF’s Global Role Commission and tell us your views on Trident.”

 

 

 

George McManus  

NPF CLP Rep Yorkshire & The Humber

Labour CND AGM 2013

At our 2013 AGM, Marian Hobbs, former Disarmament Minister in the New Zealand Labour government opened the conference and welcomed a room full of young activists.

She discussed the isolation of the UK government in international negotiations on nuclear disarmament, and the isolation of the UK Labour Party in the family of left and social democratic parties around the world in failing to deliver nuclear disarmament.

She said there was no better time than now for Labour to prepare for carrying out nuclear disarmament after 2015, with the perfect storm of the end of Trident’s operational life meeting the changed security requirements of the post-Cold War world and the pain of austerity calling expenditure on major military projects in to greater question.

In the morning panel Owen Jones took up the question of cost and said a Labour government elected in 2015 spending billions on Trident while families suffered under austerity would be ‘a sickening spectacle’.

He talked about the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons, referring to the 80s film Threads set in his hometown. The humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons was the subject of an interantional conference the week before the AGM, but which the UK had boycotted.

Kate Taylor repeated the message, saying, ‘To me, the NHS is essential. The welfare state is essential. Support for the disabled, free higher education, affordable housing, having enough money to heat your home and eat – those things are essential. Weapons of mass destruction – Trident – is not.’

As a councillor for a naval port, she took a combative stance against Trident, saying an ‘MOD report found that if they were to relocate Britain’s weapons of mass destruction to Devonport, and there was a nuclear accident, their worst case scenario was that 11,000 people would be killed by radiation poisoning … if these weapons are too dangerous for Plymouth, then they’re too dangerous for Faslane and Milford Haven or for any other community the MOD would want to inflict them on.’

Clive Lewis, the PPC for Norwich South, was asked to look at the 2015 election and gave a wide-ranging speech that condemned New Labour’s ‘Faustian pact with neo-liberalism’ and unfettered dominance of the market and big business’.

On Trident, he said, ‘we know the moral, economic, military and strategic case for non-renewal is overwhelming’ and on international non-proliferation, said ‘we have no right to intimidate other countries into not possessing nuclear weapons when we have them on such a large scale ourselves. It’s this hypocrisy, that undermines the entire nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.’

Annabelle Harle, on the party’s policy making process, and the new Your Britain site in particular, said, ‘The argument can be won across the spectrum … so get on there and write – remember that the views of members, CLPs and party groups count for more, and community groups are popular too – so go back to your constituencies tonight and log on’.

 

AGM

The day finished with an AGM committing Labour CND to working in the party to build opposition to Trident replacement and secure a manifesto commitment to scrapping it as well as urging the Labour leadership to make greater commitments to initiatives to advance negotiations for multilateral disarmament.

 

See also:

 

Labour CND Discussion and AGM

A Labour Government can’t afford Trident

Labour CND discussion and AGM

11am – 4pm
Saturday 9th March
Birkbeck College, Malet St, London

Join us in discussing how we ensure Labour acts on its commitment to nuclear disarmament and secure a commitment to rejecting Trident replacement at the 2015 election.

 

Agenda

11am
Registration

11.30am – 11.45am
Marian Hobbs, former New Zealand Labour Disarmament Minister

11.45am – 1.15pm
A Labour Government can’t afford Trident

  • Owen Jones, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Annabelle Harle (NPF rep, Wales), Cllr Alice Perry (Islington and NPF rep, London) and Cllr Kate Taylor (Plymouth).

 

2pm – 3pm
A conversation with Walter Wolfgang

  • After the recent publication of a biographical pamphlet, Carol Turner interviews Walter Wolfgang on his campaigning life.
  • You can buy the pamphlet here.

 

3.15pm – 3.30pm
Clive Lewis, PPC for Norwich South, on the 2015 manifesto

 

3.30pm – 4pm
Labour CND AGM

  • Labour CND members are welcome to submit motions in an individual capacity (deadline of 22nd February).
  • We are keen to expand our executive committee. If you would like to join, please email expressions of interest.
  • Email address regarding motions and joining the executive committee is info@labourcnd.org.uk

 

* Discussion sessions are open to all.
* AGM open to Labour CND members. If you hold Labour Party and CND memberships you are a member of Labour CND and entitled to vote at its AGM.

Clive Lewis: Trident and the manifesto

A short while ago, the 50th anniversary of an event so profound it almost wiped humanity from the face of the planet passed us by – with little media interest. 22 October, 1962 – the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Sat on a ringside seat for humanity’s brush with oblivion was Robert McNamara – US secretary of state for war. McNamara oversaw much of the Vietnam war and the build-up of US nuclear capability at the height of the cold war. And yet in 2004, he declared: “The indefinite combination of human fallibility with nuclear weapons leads to human destruction. The only way to eliminate the risk is to eliminate nuclear weapons.”

He developed what became known as “McNamara’s Dictum”: 1. nuclear weapons make nuclear war possible; 2. human fallibility means that a nuclear exchange is ultimately inevitable; 3. a major nuclear war has the capacity to destroy civilisation and threaten the survival of the human race.

In all likelihood the UK’s current independent nuclear deterrent could, on its own, achieve point 3. Each Trident warhead, of which there are 40 per submarine, is estimated to be able to kill over 1 million people outright. The vast majority of those killed would be civilians. Countless more would subsequently die from secondary radiation exposure. All of this possible at the mere push of a button or, as McNamara feared, as the result of simple human error or a technical glitch.

If a rational debate on Trident were ever held in the Labour Party, the inevitability of McNamara’s dictum alone should be enough to end our party’s dalliance with nuclear weapons. Common sense and a Darwinian instinct for survival should ensure that.

But it’s a mistaken clamour for political survival not humanity’s survival that motivates the proponents of nuclear weapons within the Labour Party. Elements cling to nuclear weapons like a religious mantra. To even question the need for one is akin to blasphemy of the highest order and would supposedly presage the re-authoring of another lengthy political suicide note. But scaremonger as they will, the cold weight of logic, military reality, economic necessity, political pragmatism and moral rectitude means the terms of debate have shifted out of their favour.

In a recent exchange in the House of Commons, one of Labour’s shadow defence team trotted out the same old tired mantra: “In a security landscape of few guarantees, our independent nuclear deterrent provides us with the ultimate insurance policy, strengthens our national security and increases our ability to achieve long-term security aims.”

On the surface it sounds like an authoritative and credible position. But dig a little deeper and its vacuous nature becomes apparent – namely that an almost unimaginable destructive capability can actually defend us.

To describe “Mutually Assured Destruction” as an “insurance policy” would be comical if it wasn’t such an appalling concept. Nuclear weapons “strengthen our national security”? In the past 30 years, often with national interest or security being cited, the UK has been involved in a number of overseas conflicts but the use of Trident has never seriously been considered.

The one consistent factor throughout all these conflicts was under-equipped conventional forces. In today’s current financial climate, with demands being made on the MoD to cut spending, forking out anywhere between £30-100bn for Trident replacement is unthinkable in terms of the cuts our frontline forces will have to endure. 21st century Britain will become an increasingly toothless tiger that can do little more than posture with its finger over a button it will never use. Our forces deserve better. The country deserves better.

Do nuclear weapons “increase our ability to achieve long-term global security aims”? Since the 1980s, non-nuclear armed Germany and Japan, not nuclear armed Britain and France, have had more clout with Washington. Political status does not necessarily depend on nuclear capability. Increasingly, nuclear weapons are a fig leaf for our political poverty on the international stage. What both Germany and Japan did possess was economic clout.

No doubt relinquishing our nuclear arsenal would irritate Washington but what would the US rather have, the UK able to assist in military operations or an ill-equipped conventional force and a nuclear arsenal which will never come into play?

Ultimately, any decision the Labour Party makes must not only factor in political considerations but military ones too. Understandably, the electorate places great faith in the professional soldiers and strategists that run our military. So, when some of the country’s most senior former officers – Field Marshall Lord Bramall, General Lord Ramsbotham, General Sir Hugh Beach, Major General Patrick Cordingley and Sir Richard Dannatt – express “deep concern” that Trident was excluded from the 2010 Strategic Defence Review, we should pay attention. In fact they went further saying there was: “…growing consensus that rapid cuts in nuclear forces…is the way to achieve international security.”

These men are not doves. They are hard-headed strategists who understand many of the military realities we face as a nation. They have provided an opportunity the Labour Party must not miss.

It is rare in politics that logic, morality, economic sense, political pragmatism and, in this case, military reality converge. And yet, clearly, on the issue of nuclear disarmament they have. Party policy must change on this matter if we are to have any hope of fulfilling our core desire for a better, fairer, safer world.

  • Clive Lewis is Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate in Norwich South. He tweets at @labourlewis.
  • This article was originally published by the New Statesman.

Des Browne predicts new strategic review

December saw the launch of Trident Alternatives Review and the Future of Barrow, a new report from the Nuclear Education Trust looking at the likely decisions of the Trident Alternatives Review, and the implications for Barrow of a decision other than ‘like-for-like replacement’ of Trident.

Former Labour Defence Secretary Lord Des Browne chaired the launch meeting, which was addressed by Barrow’s John Woodcock MP, Lib Dem Nick Harvey MP, the TUC’s Paul Nowak and CND’s Daniel Blaney.

Despite a range of views on Trident replacement there was widespread agreement that Barrow needed direct government investment to develop a broader economic base, and that this should happen prior to and regardless of a decision on Trident replacement.

Labour CND has argued in the past that the decision on Trident replacement should be based on the needs of national security rather than economic issues. We do recognise the real concerns of increasing unemployment for a specialist workforce however.

This year we argued, ‘Trident uses skills that could be put to better use in other industries’ and that a Labour Government should ‘introduce an industrial plan for Barrow and other Trident-related facilities to maintain employment and the use of the skills base.’ Representing CND at the launch, Labour CND committee member Daniel Blaney made this very point.

But it was former Labour Defence Secretary Lord Des Browne chairing the meeting who made some of the most interesting points.

Browne summed up the discussion by looking ahead to 2015 and said he was an unlikely an incoming Labour Prime Minister inheriting a stagnant economy and having to deal with a Tory cuts agenda would plough ahead with Trident replacement, but would instead subject it to a strategic review.

Below you can read Daniel Blaney’s contribution.

Read the report here.

____________________________________________________________

Launch of Trident Alternatives Review and the Future of Barrow

Contribution by Daniel Blaney

Today’s report contains much detail on the situation in Barrow. It explores at length realistic but challenging work required for Barrow’s economy, but an over-arching theme is the phrase used: “it appears it is not all or nothing” for Barrow. On occasion it has been asserted by people who defend Trident Replacement, that it would be ‘all or nothing’ for Barrow and therefore the ‘nothing’ cannot be contemplated. CND agrees with the conclusion of the report that ‘there is a need for a wider and better informed debate’. This report is required reading for anyone interested in how government policy on nuclear weapons could develop and its implications for Barrow.

CND’s position

CND campaigns for full nuclear disarmament but it is clear that whatever the policy outcomes on the future of Trident and the potential nuclear or non-nuclear alternatives, Barrow needs a specific programme of alternative investment. The inquiry reports on high levels of unemployment in Barrow today, and notes that even if we were to proceed at Main Gate with full Trident Replacement in 2016, after an initial increase in employment, there would a moderate decline in that employment in the early 2020s – only some ten years away. This is consistent with historic swings in levels of employment in this sector as outlined. Barrow needs an alternative Industrial Strategy.

Our submission

In our submission to the Inquiry, we wrote that CND believes there needs to be a government-supported plan for defence diversification. It is essential for Barrow, and the very high level scientific, design and technical skills held within the workforce at Barrow, are precisely those required for at least some of the technologies required for a transition to a green economy. We are pleased the report discusses this in some detail.

Government-led

Diversification needs to be government led. A government-led defence diversification plan with real resources, early planning and trade union and community involvement could ensure that few if any jobs were lost in the event of nuclear submarine construction at Barrow coming to an end in the course of the next decade. Spending a fraction of the £20 billion procurement costs for Trident would enable local employers and local authorities to absorb many of those made redundant.

Lessons Elsewhere

In relation to lessons from elsewhere, we noted in our submission to the Inquiry that in the United States, the Base Realignment and Closure initiative (BRAC) has been applied to 530 base closures and realignments since 1998. Almost all have achieved most of their objectives and a number have generated more employment than that lost through closure. BRAC is governed by legislation detailing key processes which ensure that redevelopment plans must come from the local community. A Local Redevelopment Authority is formed which must include all major groups and communities affected. Central government has a clear role in facilitating this process. It can ensure fast-track environmental clean-up, funds to provide transitional support for displaced workers and economic planning grants. It can ensure that property changes hands below market value if it is for job creating purposes.

If a programme such as this were implemented in Barrow, alternative employment could be provided and very few job losses need occur.

Recommendations

CND agrees with Recommendation One of the Report that “The Government should make a clear and binding statement of its responsibility to Barrow (as well as other towns exceptionally dependent on military contracts) in the event that military procurement decisions are changed”, but we also endorse the comment that “irrespective of the Main Gate decision in 2016, the government could and should take a number of steps now to support a fragile economy.”

Conclusion

CND will continue to campaign for full nuclear disarmament and we will promote the need for government-led diversification. It is in that context, we strongly welcome today’s report. We hope it will be considered by others and lead to sustained investment in Barrow, as the government and parliament decide what our national defence policy is to be in the years ahead.

Cutting Trident ‘essential to credibility’

Labour CND’s ‘Cutting Trident’ meeting in Parliament on 4th December saw the overwhelming case made for Labour to pledge its opposition to replacing the Trident nuclear weapon system at the next General Election and urged the party to open up to the debate in the coming months.

Addressing the meeting first was Nick Brown, former Chief Whip to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, said, ‘Labour can’t sit back and watch Coalition disagree on Trident – we need our own debate and clear position’. He argued that rather than waiting for reviews by other parties, Labour needs to debate Trident as soon as possible, including at the conference in 2013, then get out and explain it on the doors. He made clear his long-standing concerns about Trident had become outright opposition in the changed circumstances from when it was first commissioned.

His key argument against replacement were the changed security circumstances, when Trident was conceived as a weapon to ‘flatten Moscow’ whereas the latest National Security Strategy made clear that the likelihood of state-on-state conflict was low and decreasing. But the economic circumstances compound the security case against Trident, and in particular the cuts to education that threaten the futures of young people today, should be reversed by transferring the funds allocated to Trident to lowering university fees.

Clive Lewis, Labour’s candidate seeking to retake Charles Clarke’s old seat of Norwich South from the Lib Dems, spoke next and drew on his experience serving with the Territorial Army in Afghanistan in emphasising the security case against Trident replacement. In particular he said there was a strong military case with ‘conventional forces being hollowed out’ and listed the growing number of former senior officers who have condemned the allocation of funds to the submarine programme while conventional equipment ages. In his words, he said ‘I’d rather have more Chinooks than Trident’.

Katy Clark MP arrived fresh from voting against the Public Sector Pensions Bill and attacked the Tories for their public sector spending and welfare cuts while maintaining projects like Trident. She said the Labour Party needed to decide how it deals with Trident replacement in light of the attacks on living standards for ordinary voters and that, in that context, scrapping nuclear weapons would not be an electoral problem for the party. Addressing also the issue of Scottish independence, she said many in the Scottish Labour Party wanted to see Trident scrapped altogether, not just moved south, which was the risk of a yes vote in the Scottish separation referendum.

‘If Ed Miliband can be brave taking on Murdoch, he can be with Trident as well’, was National Policy Forum member Lucy Anderson’s view. On the party’s policy-making process, she said Labour should be talking to both the unions and employers about regional industrial strategies and the prospects for defence diversification. She said it was vital for Labour members to engage with the policy process, contributing directly to the Your Britain website – submitting proposals, voting on others and making comments – but also directly contacting NPF and NEC representatives.

There was wide agreement that the party should urgently debate Trident this year – a number of activists expressed doubt that the party would have such a debate at the conference before an election – so a conference debate and vote in September 2013 is vital. Nick Brown appealed to trade unions to use their influence to facilitate that debate at the conference.

And in rounding up, Walter Wolfgang from the floor said ‘the country is fed up with the Tories but not yet convinced Labour has a progressive alternative’ and that ‘cutting Trident is essential to Labour’s credibility drive ahead of the next election’.

 

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Public meeting: Cutting Trident

Cutting Trident

The debate Labour needs to have

Speakers:

Nick Brown MP
Katy Clark MP
Clive Lewis, PPC for Norwich South
Lucy Anderson, National Policy Forum member

Chair Joy Hurcombe
6.30 – 8pm, Tuesday 4th December
Committee Room Six, Houses of Parliament
Map
Please use Cromwell Green Entrance and allow time to pass through security – Committee Room corridor accessed via Central Lobby.
Cutting Trident the debate Labour needs to haveFollowing a packed-out fringe at Labour Party Conference, Labour CND is organising a follow-up discussion to bring the debate to the heart of Westminster.

The National Policy Forum document presented to the Conference stated that due to ‘different perspectives’ on Trident replacement there will be ‘further discussions’ next year.

These discussions should be held as widely as possible throughout all levels of the party, and must ensure those who believe we should cut Trident – and scrap nuclear weapons entirely – are listened to.

Trident does not address our real threats. Its replacement is unaffordable. A Labour Government should introduce an industrial plan to maintain employment and the use of the skills base in the related industrial sites – and commit to scrapping Trident.

We are delighted that Nick Brown and Clive Lewis are joining us for this meeting, and further speakers are set to be announced.

Join us as we begin the debate on 4th December.
For more on the debate at the pre-conference National Policy Forum, and the document itself, see Jon Lansman’s blog. 

Labour cannot remain silent on Trident

By Tom King

Labour’s policy review, much needed after 13 years in Government and a drubbing in May 2010, was said to have started from a blank page and would review all our commitments across the board. All, it seems, except Trident.

There has been some positive movement, the Britain in the World policy document stated there will be a discussion about Trident –

but only once the Lib Dem alternatives review has been completed. The fact that Ed Miliband welcomed the review is in itself an important step in itself. But why should Labour let the Liberal Democrats lead this debate?

At a grassroots level, this discussion is already being had. While the National Policy Forum proposal for a debate at some point in the future was presented to conference, MPs, MSPs, AMs, councillors and activists packed out the CND fringe in Manchester.

Neil Findlay MSP said spending £100 billion on renewing Trident would be “economically incompetent” and Katy Clark MP a

nd Julie Morgan AM both agreed that nuclear disarmament would be an electorally popular policy for Labour.

With the Government now pledging to spend £350 million on the next stage of Trident renewal, whilst cutting benefits from the disabled and slashing vital public services, its clear just how little economic sense nuclear weapons make. It also demonstrates that the Tories are determined to plough ahead with renewing our nuclear arsenal, regardless of Lib Dem opposition.

Labour’s lack of response to the latest announcement is remarkable and, in Scotland, the SNP are already atta

cking Johann Lamont for failing to respond when Trident’s submarines are based in Faslane.

Lamont has previously stated her opposition to Trident; saying in 1999 that she would support a motion calling for the weapons system to be decommissioned. If the party is truly to renew under Ed’s leadership then, Lamont should, as leader of Scottish Labour, be able to restate her belief in nuclear disarmament and show she’s in touch with public opinion.

The party cannot remain silent on Trident.

When even Tony Blair now admits that Trident is of no use as a strategic deterrent and itssignificance is purely political, surely Ed can admit its time to ditch this cold war relic.

If the Labour leadership are serious when they talk of making tough econom
The ‘Promise of Britain’ is not to deliver a future for the next generation where security is based on mutually assured destruction, it is about providing a society in which everyone has a fair chance to get on. Ed Miliband must be frank and say, in the words of the former chief whip Nick Brown, “we don’t need Trident and we can’t afford it”.ic choices in the next Parliament, there’s no way they could then go on to spend £100 billion on weapons of mass destruction that could kill millions.Scrapping Trident will send a bold signal to the world that the nuclear age needs to be put behind us and, as Nick Brown advocates, would allow the next Labour government to deliver a tuition fee cut that would re-open the doors to higher education for ordinary working class young people.

Labour must reject Trident

By Michael Meacher MP

Hammond’s jumping the gun by pledging a £350m contract to signal the Tories’ embrace of a Trident replacement should be met by a resolute pronouncement from Labour that neither the arguments nor the figures stand up to any serious scrutiny. At the present time the biggest danger we face is the threat of terrorism on our mainland, and against that nuclear weapons are useless.

The only basic argument used by the government to justify the Trident replacement is that we may face at some point in the future either ‘rogue’ states or a re-emerging nuclear Russia or a nuclear-armed superpower such as China. There are three strong counter-arguments to that which profoundly undermine it plus a very strong opposing argument.

First, it is not, as everyone knows, an independent British deterrent. We depend on the Americans for warheads, fuse and firing systems, nuclear explosives, warhead casing, and missiles (‘rent a rocket’). We cannot fire missiles without US-supplied data and satellite navigation, so that if we ever needed to stand alone in a situation where we did not have US approval, we could not do so.

Second, we geta all this kit from the US at a high political price. The Americans offer it to us, not because they need us for the defence of the West, but because it makes us subservient to US foreign policy, as we see all too clearly over Iraq and Iran. I say that continuing that vassaldom for the next 30-40 years is an unconscionably high price to pay. Of course the proponents of Trident will say that it gives us political status, but to them I would say that we will get far more credit the day we cease being a US puppet.

Third, if on some creditworthy estimates the Trident replacement will cost the UK up to £100bn over the next 30 years, can that conceivably be the most apposite and efficient defence expenditure when it means that conventional forces are squeezed by continuing cuts to the point where, for example, essential equipment had to be denied to troops in Afghanistan?

In addition there is a very powerful counter-argument. One is: what have nuclear weapons ever achieved or are likely to achieve? None of our wars was ever won by them, and none of the enemies we fought was ever deterred by them. General Galtieri was not deterred from seizing the Falklands, though we had the nuclear bomb and he did not. The US had nuclear weapons, but that didn’t prevent their defeat in Vietnam. The French had nuclear weapons, but that didn’t stop their being ejected from Indo-China and Algeria. Israel has nuclear weapons, but that didn’t prevent their defeat by Hezbollah first in 2000 and then in 2006.

 

Neil Findlay: Cook on Trident more relevant than ever

Nuclear conflict is a scenario too horrific to contemplate. The existence of weapons of mass destruction like Trident is bad enough but plans to replace our current stockpile with newer, more powerful and eye-wateringly expensive warheads at time of financial crisis is morally as well as practically questionable.

Not only would the replacement of Trident contribute to a new arms race it would also, quite simply, cost too much money at a time when the country can ill afford spending such gross sums; money which could and should be better spent on job creation, public services, health and social care.

Shortly before his tragic death in 2005, Robin Cook said, “nuclear weapons now have no relevance to Britain’s defence’s in the modern world.” When we consider producing the new nuclear submarines will cost an apparent £25billion alone, and that the whole project could exceed £100 billion over its lifetime, Cook’s words seem more relevant than ever.

Supporting Trident’s replacement just as the British people are facing an onslaught on public services, the welfare state, jobs and living standards will understandably be a hard sell. Rightly, people will ask how we can afford Trident when we face the loss of 710,000 public sector jobs by 2017.

Currently, the Tory-led government has confirmed that despite the crisis in the country’s finances, it will be ploughing ahead with Trident replacement. But if the Tories are making a mistake, it is clear that Labour needs to re-evaluate our position and fully debate Trident.

Unfortunately, Labour pursuing Trident in Westminster has, up until now, given the SNP an easy ride.

Scottish Labour has watched as many natural allies have sat down with the SNP to discuss working together on an issue that should be own. Currently the SNP are moving towards abandonment of their long standing policy of opposition to membership of NATO – this will inevitably be followed by at best a fudge or more likely an end, to their opposition to Trident.

This presents an opportunity for Labour.

An increasing number of polls show the public sees no future in nuclear weapons, and an even greater majority of Scots oppose Trident based at Faslane. Labour should move with popular public opinion. The trade unions, the churches, and civic society stand against nuclear weapons.

This is the agenda Labour should also champion.

 

Neil Findlay is Member of the Scottish Parliament for Lothians region.