Ed welcomes Trident Alternatives Review – report from an encouraging conference
MPs Cathy Jamieson and Jeremy Corbyn, newly elected MSP Neil Findlay and National Policy Forum representative Sam Gurney, as well as Sonia Klein, who chaired a defence review for Labour Finance and Industry Group, were an excellent panel of speakers for a packed CND fringe meeting at Labour Party Conference this year.
With each giving their own insight into the party’s debate on Trident replacement, and with interesting thoughts from Ed Miliband later in the week, activists went away from the conference with a strong impetus to raise the demand for nuclear disarmament further in the year ahead.
Cathy Jamieson said there was no moral or economic case for Trident and condemned the Tories eagerly cutting people’s living standards whilst providing billions for nuclear weapons. But she also said there was no military case either, and expressed concern that housing and vital equipment for conventional forces was not up to standard.
Neil Findlay, elected to the Scottish Parliament for the first time this year, was particularly concerned that Labour was out of touch with mainstream public opinion on nuclear weapons, and highlighted how in Scotland being anti-Trident (and opposed to the Iraq war, he added) had been to their electoral advantage and he hoped that a new Scottish Labour leader would have the courage to express a difference with the Westminster leadership on such issues.
Sam Gurney tried to explain the complex process of the party’s policy review, drawing together the work of the National Policy Forum in considering submissions from CLPs and members, his own work on the Britain in the World policy commission and the reviews being conducted by Shadow Cabinet members, including Jim Murphy on Defence which would come together at the end of the policy review at the 2012 conference. Sam stressed it was vital that Labour CND members and their CLPs continued to make submissions to the National Policy Forum, and that it was weight of numbers and regular submissions that would be necessary to have an impact on representatives there.
But later in the week there was interesting news. During a question and answer session (start at 0:58:54) with members of the public, Ed Miliband said ‘I think the government has done the right think by commissioning a study looking at whether there are alternatives to the renewal of Trident. Actually, the big decision on this is 2015, 2016. I think it’s right we look at that and see what it comes out with because if there’s a different way of doing things which keeps us as secure and costs less then I think that’s a case certainly worth looking at.’
The government review, which will aid the Lib Dems in arguing for alternatives to Trident, will only consider alternative nuclear weapon systems. But it does challenge conventional Westminster thinking on Trident replacement and opens the door to serious questioning of the government strategy and a serious debate at the next general election, all of which we welcome.
With a great response from members, including the young members on the new conference Youth Days, we’ve made hundreds of new contacts from people across the party, we’re looking forward to a year ahead with growing support for change in the party.