Someone once said: “Democracy means having the right every five years to choose a new government to misrepresent you.” Probably never have these words been truer; though they’ve been true enough in the past. On issues which are basic to the survival of the human race, the three main parties are practically unanimous with policies which fundamentally threaten that chance of survival. Our present Foreign Secretary, for example, acts less like a British minister and more like a US ambassador, never short of an excuse for Bush’s latest act of madness, be it spy planes provoking China, or warning us that North Korea is about to set out to conquer the world. But be it noted: if New Labour is like this, there’s no evidence to suggest either of the other two ‘main’ parties would be different.
So who the hell do you vote for?
There’s a mighty inclination to show disapproval of the whole jamboree of mindless and unprincipled politicians by refusing to condone any of them, and not voting at all. Let the number of non-voters be a measure of the people’s contempt and opposition to the lot of them.
However, the Lobby Pack that CND has produced suggests a less negative approach to the democratic con-trick. In brief, approach the candidate in your constituency and ask him/her how they personally stand on issues such as Trident, ‘Star Wars’, bombing Iraq, etc., etc. Your very raising the points may give them pause for thought, even if they’re after nothing else but your vote. It could perhaps even sow seeds in otherwise sterile minds. There’s a recent example of an MP in a neighbouring constituency being approached about the bombing of Iraq. He said at first he approved it. Later he got back and said that he had now had second thoughts and decided to oppose it.
So it does work. Who knows but that sufficient pressure, even in the form of merely raising the question, could finally produce a fundamental change, enough to make a majority?
It works. Just try! Yes, you....
Note: all candidates in Wimbledon have been sent the briefing on p4 of this Newsletter. Joanna
This was a remarkable film about a remarkable woman. Sylvia Boyes saw the film The War Game in the 1970s and this experience changed her life. She is still an ‘ordinary’ housewife, married to an Anglican vicar, with four children and four grandchildren, but she is also a peace campaigner who has taken part in countless direct actions resulting in more than 20 criminal convictions. Her faith as a Quaker has led her to the certainty that, for her, intellectual debate and political activity are not enough. She feels she must take direct action against the nuclear weapons which threaten the safety of future generations. During her absence her husband suffers endless anxiety, mingled with pride and bewilderment, and at one point remarks wistfully “It’s rather like being married to Joan of Arc... I have to let her get on with her vocation.”
The film followed Sylvia Boyes’ experiences during the autumn and winter of 2000–2001. First at Coulport she and other Trident Ploughshares activists attempt to blockade two gates of the military base. Their first plans are frustrated because the military police change the entry routes into the base, so the activists decide to chain themselves underneath a police bus so that it cannot be moved. They are forcibly removed and charged with breach of the peace.
The second action is timed to take place just before the commissioning of the nuclear submarine Vengeance, and she and one other colleague plan to swim out into the Loch under cover of darkness, carrying tools with which to damage the vessel. It would be intriguing to know how the BBC filmed these sequences — it makes tense and compelling viewing. You may remember a few small headlines when it was all over on January 18th 2001: “Jury found Sylvia Boyes and her co-defendant Not Guilty of conspiring to commit criminal damage.”
We have a copy of this video and if you would like to borrow it please get in touch with Joanna (8543 0362). There is also a copy of one of the BBC2 series on ‘The Middle Classes’ which deals with the growth of the CND protest movement, which can be borrowed.
This year the Fête took place in heatwave conditions which may have caused a slackening of customers in the afternoon, but takings of around £1,000 only just failed to meet last year’s record total. It was a real team effort and we thank all our helpers.
Please support the following local businesses who generously donated to our Fête:
• ‘Bottoms Up’ wine store, Wimbledon Hill Rd • Lansdales florists • Elys • Wimbledon Fotos, Wimbledon Station Approach •
This conference will take place at the Bloomsbury Central Baptist church in the Forum Room, at 235 Shaftesbury Avenue, off New Oxford Street, and there is no registration fee. At the recent national UNA conference in Swansea, it was agreed that campaigning against National Missile Defence should be a major UNA focus for the coming year.
The conference will review current progress on disarmament and hopes to “inform and stimulate delegates to come up with practical recommendations for future action”. Speakers include Malcolm Harper (UNA-UK Director), Nigel Chamberlain (CND Press Officer) and Bruce Kent. Workshop themes will include small-arms and landmines as well as NMD.
Further information from Helen Hughes, Disarmament Programme Officer UNA-UK, 0207 930 2931 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Shirley Williams’ article in the Guardian newspaper (5·5·2001) and her contribution to Any Questions (Radio 4) that same weekend, made a powerful intellectual case against US missile defence policy, all the more powerful coming from a politician of her diverse experience and background. In other words, nobody can accuse Shirley Williams of being a CND stooge!
She makes a historical analogy between the initiative of Ernest Bevin (British Foreign Secretary in 1947) in securing a united European response to the proposals of US Secretary of State George Marshall for the post-war reconstruction of Europe. “Bevin laid before the Truman administration a detailed plan for European co-operation... with the united [European] response Bevin had engineered, Washington had no choice but to take Marshall’s proposals seriously.”
She argues that today a similar opportunity exists for a British Prime Minister to bring together the countries chiefly affected by US plans for missile defence. “The purpose is of fateful importance — to save and update the fragile network of multilateral arms agreements and arms control mechanisms that have helped to keep peace between the nuclear powers for 50 years”.
In the post-war period, the nature of military threat has radically changed to include terrorism, civil war and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction outside the ambit of the old Cold War powers. More importantly, there is a whole range of new challenges such as organised crime, drug-resistant disease, people-trafficking, AIDS and climate change. “None of these challenges can be countered by military response. They require multilateral responses, and these need trust between nations. The danger of the Bush proposal is that essentially it is unilateral in tone.”