Nuclear power: a harmful distraction to climate change? Webinar recording

On Monday 13 May Labour CND hosted a nuclear power webinar with Sam Mason, principle author of Labour CND’s pamphlet Labour, Climate Change, and Nuclear power – Not Cheap, Not Safe, Not Peaceful. We also had contributions from Linda Clarke on the construction side of the industry and Dr Phil Johnstone on the links between civilian and defence nuclear projects.

You can catch up with a recording of the webinar below.

Nuclear power: a harmful distraction to climate change? A Labour CND webinar

Register for the Zoom link

At the COP28 climate talks in Dubai in December, 22 countries including the UK, signed a declaration to triple nuclear energy capacity by 2050.  In March, the first ever nuclear power summit was held in Brussels where Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency said “Today I can assure you that nuclear is coming back, and coming back strongly.”

But can there be a “vision of a nuclear for peace and prosperity” that supports the action we need on climate change? 

Labour CND does not believe this is the case.  In October last year, we set out our arguments against nuclear power in a new pamphlet: Labour, Climate Change, and Nuclear power – Not Cheap, Not Safe, Not Peaceful.  It covers the history of Labour’s support for nuclear power and why the labour movement needs to oppose this technology – whether old or new nuclear.

This webinar will look at the points made in the pamphlet and explore the renaissance in nuclear power. It will lead off with an overview of Labour CND’s pamphlet by Sam Mason, the principle author. Contributions from Linda Clarke will look at the construction side of the industry and Dr Phil Johnstone will emphasis the links between civilian and defence nuclear projects.

As opinions among environmentalists, the labour movement and even some anti-nuclear weapons campaigners remains divided, this is a pivotal moment to ensure a well informed debate. In particular, not just about the technology of nuclear power but the political and social justice dynamics of it.

Labour CND statement on Keir Starmer’s support for Trident and increased military spending

Keir Starmer 2015:
‘I am opposed to the use of nuclear weapons. I am opposed to the holding of nuclear weapons. I want to see a nuclear-free world. I believe it is possible.’

Labour CND has issued the following statement in response to Keir Starmer’s visit to Barrow, Friday 12 April

Keir Starmer used a visit to Barrow-in-Furness on 12 April to announce Labour’s ‘unshakeable absolute total’ commitment to Trident, Britain’s nuclear weapons system, and Labour’s plan to raise military spending to 2.5% of gross domestic product under a Labour government which means billions of pounds more public funds allocated to the military budget.1

Starmer should be under no illusions. He does not speak for the majority of Labour Party members, however, or even the public on these issues. Nor does this allay Tory voter fears that Labour is a safe pair of hands when it comes to defence.2

Trident is the ‘bedrock of Labour’s plan to keep Britain safe’, he said. The UK’s ‘nuclear deterrent’ was ‘maintained on behalf of NATO’. This was ‘a generational, multi-decade commitment’ from a Starmer government.

International tensions are growing, and with them the risk of nuclear confrontation. Politicians may believe Trident guarantees us a place at the top table. But the assurance of Labour and Tories alike that it brings safety for people in Britain is a cruel illusion. Meanwhile UK domestic politics continues to ignore the true international situation which is that Britain has not signed the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which came into force in 2021.

Politicians may believe Trident guarantees us a place at the top table. But the assurance of Labour and Tories alike that it brings safety for people in Britain is a cruel illusion.

The possession of a nuclear weapons system makes the UK a target. The decision to site United States nuclear weapons on British soil – taken without public or even parliamentary debate – puts us on the front line of any nuclear attack.

Britain’s nuclear weapons system is not independent as Starmer claims. Trident is dependent on US technology and know-how.

Even sections of the military recognise that the money spent on Trident would be better deployed elsewhere, arguing for increases in areas of conventional defence.

Disregarding these and many other arguments against nuclear weapons, in a statement shot through with jingoism, Starmer has made three commitments which he argues will defend the UK economy and prioritise British jobs and skills:

  • to build all four new Dreadnought nuclear submarines in the UK, at Barrow-in-Furness;
  • to maintain Britain’s continuous at sea nuclear deterrent; and
  • to deliver all future upgrades needed to properly equip Trident.

    A commitment to increase the military budget means cuts elsewhere in government investment and public spending. Figures released by the Treasury as part of the Spring Budget showed that Core Military Spending was £54.2 billion pounds for the year ending March 2024, around 2.3% of GDP.3 How else will a Labour government, committed to fiscal responsibility as well as lowering taxes, find the extra resources to fund Starmer’s commitment to increase the military budget? It will come at the expense of the NHS, education, and the ability to address child poverty or to abolish the two-child cap on child benefits. It will also come at the expense of dealing with the human security threat of climate change.Labour CND says the next Labour government should not allow its priorities to be dictated by the Conservative Party and their establishment friends. We need is a radical rethink about spending priorities and about British foreign policy.The incoming Labour government will face a range of challenges. None of them will be solved by nuclear weapons or spending ever more money on the military.
  1. Keir Starmer, My commitment to the UK’s nuclear deterrent is Unshakeable Absolute Total, Daily Mail exclusive, 11 April 2024 at Trident-new-generation-nuclear-submarines-built-UK.htm ↩︎
  2. See for example the hundreds of reader comments in response to the above, which have appeared within hours of the article being posted online. ↩︎
  3. Dr Stuart Parkinson, Co-Chair GCOMS-UK (UK branch of the Global Campaign on Military Spending) and Executive Director of Scientists for Global Responsibility, Spring Budget 24: Military Spending Continues to Grow at the Expense of Climate Funds and Overseas Aid, at ↩︎

Labour CND statement: why Unite the Union is wrong to attack groups picketing weapons manufacturing companies

Labour CND is extremely concerned to read the letter recently sent to Unite officers, organisers, and staff by General Secretary Sharon Graham and Chair Andy Green, which is now circulating in the public domain.  

The GS and Chair alert recipients to ‘a number of extremely troubling actions being undertaken by a tiny minority of individuals, inside and outside of our union… a small number [of whom] are linked to groups who want us to make decisions detrimental to our membership and their jobs.’

We reproduce below that section of the letter which relates to Palestine – described by Graham and Geen as one of their ‘key areas’ of concern – together with Labour CND’s statement.


Labour CND is aware that, since 2020, the Labour Party leadership has sought to prevent CLPs and individual members discussing important areas of policy on pain of suspension or expulsion. These include what Keir Starmer has described as Labour’s ‘unshakeable commitment’ to NATO, Labour’s support for the Tory government’s position on the war in Ukraine, and (more recently but less successfully) Israel’s war on Gaza.

We are alarmed that Unite, a Labour affiliated union, shows signs of moving in the same direction. This raises serious questions about the conduct of legitimate, democratic debate about UK defence policy.

Graham and Green say there is ‘no contradiction for a trade union to hold a position of solidarity with Palestinian workers, while at the same time refusing to support campaigns that target our members workplaces without their support’.  Labour CND says solidarity is not just a sentiment, but something that is demonstrated in action. Whether in Palestine or elsewhere, it cannot be acceptable to protect the interests of workers in UK arms industries while thousands are being slaughter by the products of their labour.

Labour CND believes that in a democracy campaigners have the right to target workplaces that are employed in making weapons of mass destruction which render the world less safe. This does not and should not include attacks on individual workers. It does include weapons that will be used to further genocide in Gaza; and those used by NATO, which is a nuclear first-strike military alliance, as well as projects such as AUKUS. Labour Party conference 2021 voted to oppose AUKUS with the support of Unite the Union.

The threat of nuclear war has never been greater. Labour CND believes the international labour movement, including trade unions in Britain, should be working to uphold the principles of international solidarity, justice and peace, including support for a world free of weapons of mass destruction.

That is why we have consistently argued the need for a real defence diversification strategy so workers are protected and able to transition to alternative work. We support the role of trade unions to play a leading part in that process.

Protecting members interests does not stop at pay or terms and conditions. It is about putting forward alternatives, to ensure workers can apply their skills for socially and ecologically useful work as in the tradition of the former Lucas Aerospace workers in the 1970s.

Defence policy, the UK’s support for NATO, and the AUKUS project cannot be decided on the basis of how they impact trade union members in the arms industry alone. They have wider social, economic, and political implications. They should be part of a healthy debate within the labour movement, just like education, welfare, the health service, climate change, and so forth.

This last point gets to the crux of Labour CND’s concern. We work actively within the labour movement to advocate for a nuclear free world, and opposition to NATO and the AUKUS project.

Trade union members have a right to be informed, engage in debate, and take up these issues through the democratic structures of their union. That includes policies to address the most challenging issues of our times such as climate change, inequality and the cost-of-living crisis.

Any suggestion that groups such as ours, which include many trade union members, should be prevented from building support for our position is undemocratic, and carries undertones of bans such as those we are witnessing in the Labour Party.

The predecessors of Unite the Union have a long and strong tradition of supporting peace and  nuclear disarmament, and putting forward defence diversification alternatives like the report of May 2015. Defence Diversification Revisited argued for a Defence Diversification Agency ‘with teeth’.

That argument remains valid today. Labour CND is open to discussing with Unite how we can work in unity within our movement and the Labour Party to achieve this.

Extract on Palestine from Unite letter

Of all the issues that have been used in these attacks, probably the most abhorrent is the attempted weaponisation of the conflict and the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians and the collective punishment of the people of Gaza.

Unite, through the General Secretary and the Chair of the Union and the Executive Council, was the first major union to publicly and unambiguously call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. We were very clear. We have watched on with horror the bombardment and destruction of Gaza, and the unbearable terror, suffering and death of its innocent civilians. We have been unequivocal that the deliberate killing of civilians, hostage-taking and collective punishment are war crimes and should be identified as such.

Unite has also donated £50,000 to Médecins Sans Frontières/ Doctors Without Borders specifically to help the many victims of this horrific conflict. Most recently the General Secretary has written to the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) offering our solidarity after the horrific bombing of their Gaza headquarters which, alongside providing services to workers, was also functioning as a kindergarten and bakery.

However, we cannot and will not endorse any organisation which decides unilaterally and without any discussion (let alone agreement) with the workers themselves, to support the targeting of our members’ workplaces or their jobs. To be clear, this will not happen. No outside body, no matter what their political position, will be allowed to dictate terms to our Union and our members.

It is important to highlight here that it is a core principle of Unite that as a trade union the ‘first claim’ on our priorities is always the protection and advancement of our members’ interests at work. It is very simple. Unite cannot and never will advocate or support any course of action which is counter to that principle. We are a trade union, not a political party or single-issue campaign group.

Therefore, there is no contradiction for a trade union to hold a position of solidarity with Palestinian workers, while at the same time refusing to support campaigns that target our members’ workplaces without their support. Similarly, we cannot be expected to affiliate to organisations that actively work against our members and their jobs.

Examples include groups that look to build networks inside trade unions to undermine the defence industry or demand the disbandment of NATO and AUKUS. Whatever anyone may think personally about those objectives is irrelevant. We are a trade union with thousands of members employed in the defence industry. It is the views of affected members that take precedence in a trade union. That will not change and nor should it. Unite members have recently been attacked directly, been spat at and called “child killers”.* We cannot and will not endorse this…..

* Labour CND has no evidence that Unite members have been attacked in this way. We include the sentence for the sake of completeness.

Zarah Sultana leads call from UK parliamentarians to halt arms exports to Israel

Top marks to Coventry South MP Zarah Sultana who was quick off the mark in responding to Israel’s refusal to implement the UN Security Resolution calling for a ceasefire. She has successfully coordinated a cross party letter signed by a 134 MPs and Lords calling on the government to ‘immediately suspend export licenses for arms transfers to Israel’. In this context, the 134 say, busines as usual for arms exports to Israel is totally unacceptable.

Earlier this month, Richard Burgon MP wrote to the Foreign Secretary demanding an investigation into whether UK-supplied military equipment was used in the bombing of British doctors volunteering in Gaza.

To address climate change, we need peace

In her latest blog, Samantha Mason addresses issues from the King’s speech on the opening of parliament.

taken a back seat as we’ve watched the horror of events unfolding in Gaza and mobilised around the call for a ceasefire and peace.  However, as climate campaigners have pointed out, including in a letter to Ed Miliband, fighting for the “cause of freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people” is not separate from the colonial violence and dispossession which is also at the heart of the climate crisis.

There’s no bigger action for climate change
than achieving peace for Gaza

The impacts of climate change continue apace as 2023 is likely to be declared the warmest on record. The UN Secretary General’s call for the world to end the madness of the fossil fuel age which is driving don’t seem to have reached the ears of the UK government who is forging ahead with the issuing of new oil and gas licences in the North Sea.

The  oil and gas bill announced in the King’s Speech follows Rishi Sunak’s statement in September pledging a “pragmatic, proportionate and realistic approach to reaching net zero“. This also included the removal of energy efficiency standards for private landlords, condemning renters to totally avoidable high energy bills – a point well made by the UK Green Building Council and Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Of course, this is all part of the new ‘Uxbridge’ narrative of the government being ‘on the side of car drivers’ pushing-back on a number of measures including targets to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars. Unfortunately, the science of climate change doesn’t care about political posturing and the only reality here is that we cannot put off until tomorrow what we should be doing today.

Any new oil and gas in the North Sea won’t benefit
UK energy consumers because we
don’t own it

Likewise, financial and health burdens will also certainly not be ‘eased’ for people as a result. Any new oil and gas produced in the North Sea will not be to the benefit of UK energy consumers as we don’t own it. It is therefore false to say it will help bring down bills – a point the new Secretary of State for DESNZ Clair Coutinho has finally conceded.

There are undoubtedly costs in transitioning to a decarbonised economy and these should not be falling on workers in terms of jobs, pay and other terms and conditions, or hard-pressed communities. These costs should be ‘proportionately’ distributed and socialised by ending the greed of fossil fuel corporation profits and bringing all energy assets back into public ownership. Not least when we see the renewables sector trying to fashion itself on a fossil fuel ‘for profit’ business model.

A crisis in the offshore wind industry, not just impacting the UK but in Europe and the US as well, has seen the main offshore wind farm developers pulling back from bidding in government auctions.  Big players such as Ørsted and Vattenfall have also pulled out of projects due to issues of “profitability” as inflation and higher interest rates have increased costs.

And the idea that nuclear power will be an answer to the energy and climate crisis is also starting to wobble (unsurprisingly) on financial grounds.  The ‘poster child’ for small modular reactors (SMRs), NuScale in the US, has ended a major project on basis of costs defeating one of the primary arguments for SMRs that they can be built more quickly and cheaply.  Indeed, many technological fixes being proposed for tackling climate change such as Carbon Capture and Storage and Direct Airsource Capture are proving to be the false solutions many climate campaigners have always argued.

The idea that nuclear power is an answer to
climate change
is starting to wobble

It is clear that climate change will be one of the battle grounds in the next general election and this should not be allowed to turn into binary choices of cars over clean air or arbitrary fiscal rules. Right now, we need a coherent long-term plan that aligns reducing greenhouse gas emissions with addressing the energy, health, and cost of living crises all of which are inter-connected. Similarly, the plan needs to recognise the need for global cooperation and climate justice. This should be seen as an opportunity for the Labour Party to provide a real alternative to Tory climate and environmental policies that will continue to cause long-term harm to us all.

At the end of November, the global climate talks – COP28 – will take place in Dubai. There is little faith in these talking shops that fail to address the fossil fuels in the room and on 9 December there will be a Global Day of Action with mass demonstrations planned across the globe. In the UK these are being coordinated by the Climate Justice Coalition.  

People everywhere have risen up for Gaza and it’s possible, sadly, we may yet be coordinating joint actions that day.  Whether this is the case or not, one thing is clear, there is no bigger action for climate change than achieving peace for Gaza, or other areas of the world suffering conflicts, and it must remain an integral part of our climate demands.

Support Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance candidates in Labour’s internal elections

Labour CND urges you to vote for Centre Left Grassroots Alliance candidates in this year’s internal elections. Details, including candidate statements are available on the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy website, CLPD

The six candidates for National Women’s Committee have also published a joint platform, including committing to: ‘support for an ethical foreign policy with peace, conflict resolution and nuclear disarmament at its core. Labour must support women struggling against oppression across the globe.’

Labour CND’s statement on the decision to block Jeremy Corbyn from standing as the Labour candidate for Islington North

Jeremy Corbyn at Glastonbury Festival.. Hundreds of thousands of new young members joined the party when Corbyn became leader, making Labour the largest social democratic party in Europe.

Keir Starmer’s resolution to block Jeremy Corbyn from standing as the Labour candidate for Islington North constituency at the next general election is an attack on Party democracy and on the rights  of local Labour Parties.

The right of Party members to choose their own candidates is fundamental to the democracy of the Labour Party. In 2020 Starmer said ‘local Party members should select their candidates for every election’. His about-face at the National Executive Committee in March 2023 represents an attack on the rights of all Party members and affiliates.

It is a shameful disregard of natural justice and of the wishes of the electorate of Islington North who have shown their support for their MP at successive elections over the past 40 years. The implications, however, go beyond one person and one CLP.

It should go without saying that the Party’s processes and procedures must be fair and transparent. The means by which Starmer banned Corbyn from standing as a candidate was neither.

The wording of his NEC resolution was based on the view that Corbyn is an electoral liability. If Labour leaders were to be banned from re-standing as Labour parliamentary candidates on the basis of a bad election result, then Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock, Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband and many other past leaders would have suffered a similar fate.

In reality, elections are won or lost for a number of reasons. In 2019, Brexit played a significant role in Labour’s defeat. Starmer, Shadow Brexit Secretary at the time, will undoubtedly be aware of this.

This procedure adopted for preventing Corbyn from standing takes power away from the party membership collectively to decide what they believe to be in the best interests of the Labour Party. It transfers that power to a small group of individuals to impose their subjective, and often contested, view of what Labour’s best interests are.

On the basis of such a procedure, the NEC is able to remove whomever the Party leadership may decide should go and for whatever reason. This process encourages factionalism and fosters a climate of suspicion and fear in the Party.

Opposition to removing Islington North CLP’s right to reselect Jeremy Corbyn extends beyond supporters of Corbyn. Labour CND stands with the many local Parties, individual members, and affiliates who believe this decision is wrong and profoundly dangerous.


Islington North CLP Officers
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs
John McDonnell MP

Nominate for Labour’s national committees

The Centre Left Grassroots Alliance (CLGA) has agreed unified slates for the National Women’s Committee, the National Constitutional Committee and the Conference Arrangements Committee. Although members’ eyes are inclined to glaze over at the mention of elections to these bodies, all of them are vitally important for defending democracy and members’ rights in the Labour Party.

The CLGA supported members of the National Women’s Committee have done excellent work supporting women and calling for the reinstatement of a standalone Women’s Conference. Unfortunately, despite their campaigning, this year’s Women’s Conference is just one day tacked onto the beginning of the Annual Conference in Liverpool. The members of the Women’s Committee will be elected by delegates to the Women’s Conference, so it is important to select delegates who support the work that has been done and needs to continue.

There are also positions up for election on the National Constitutional Committee (NCC) which deals with disciplinary issues, and the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) which organises conference business. They are also to be voted on by delegates to Annual Conference, part of anti-democratic moves away from one member, one vote ballots. OMOV was only brought in for national committees in the first place because the then General Secretary couldn’t ensure that there was no interference from Party staff during elections amongst Conference delegates!

The NCC is very important to try and ensure due process and justice for members faced with disciplinary action from the Party. The CLGA members on the CAC are vital to try and prevent constituency resolutions being ruled out of order for spurious reasons, and to try and allocate more time at Conference for delegates and less for the platform.

Members have until 12 noon on Friday, 23 June to get their CLP to nominate the CLGA-recommended candidates, but don’t leave it till the last minute! CLPD have made candidate statements for all three elections available on their website. That is also the last date to nominate Conference delegates and putting forward Constitutional Amendments (Rule Changes).

There are no National Executive Committee elections this year.