Amidst all the publicity for Tony Blair’s new book, there has been relatively little attention paid to his remarks on the replacement of Trident. I feel that his admission (quoted in the Guardian 1 Sep 2010) that his decision on Trident renewal was less than clear cut, is of enormous significance. “I hesitated over it. I did not think this was a ‘tough on defence’ versus a ‘weak or pacifist’ issue at all.... [however] in the final analysis I thought giving it up, too big a downgrading of our status as a nation”.
Is this the same Mr Blair who used to claim that without Trident we should be left defenceless in the face of nuclear threat from North Korea, Iran and all their successors — and who arm-twisted gullible M.P.s to support government policy? It is very much the story of Iraq all over again: one version for the loyal and simple-minded and the real story for a trusted inner circle. Economical with the truth, to put it mildly.
Blair the supreme politician knew that the non-specialist M.P.s and journalists would be uncritical if they were assured that without Trident, national security would be at risk. National security is paramount, so that by implication governments have to spend whatever it takes to keep us all ‘safe’. How different it would have been if Blair had publicly admitted that the billions of pounds he was proposing to commit to Trident replacement were simply to retain a status symbol. Would the government have won the 2007 Commons debate? I doubt it.
The other huge question arising from the Blair view of the world is whether the UK can possibly continue to justify its moral right to such status symbols. Does he not realise that any small but ambitious country might feel equally entitled to the purchase of similar status, so it too can punch above its weight? This is a recipe for nuclear proliferation and only the most blinkered politician lost in an imperial past could fail to see it.
Our Chair Maisie Carter put down a question to the leader of the Council at Public Questions (Council Meeting on 15th September). “The UN Secretary General, speaking in Hiroshima on 6th August, thanked Mayors for Peace for promoting a nuclear weapons free world, as follows: ‘if the mayors of the world are uniting, the world is uniting’. Why has the Council not followed his advice and signed up to Mayors for Peace?”
The written reply was disingenuous. “This is a decision for the Mayor of Merton as the initiative is named Mayors for Peace. I understand that the Mayor, Cllr Oonagh Moulton, has responded to the request as follows: ‘My understanding is that the Mayor of London has already signed up to the Mayors for Peace initiative on behalf of the whole city. As a Civic Mayor, rather than an Executive Mayor, I do not therefore feel it necessary to sign this petition myself’. However the council is certainly committed to peace and has arranged a programme of activities to celebrate the Week of Peace.” (There then follows a digest of Merton’s Peace Week programme, amusingly omitting our showing of the Rotblat film on September 21st — International Day of Peace.)
As a piece of political wriggling this is superb, particularly as our previous attempts to raise the issue of Mayors for Peace with the Council have been stonewalled on the grounds that the position of the Mayor is strictly non-party-political and it would not be proper to involve the Mayor in any such decision!
All questioners are entitled to ask a supplementary question, and Maisie followed up the written reply by asking whether it would not be more democratic if the decision were put as a resolution to the Full Council rather than being delegated to a single councillor — even if this were the Mayor — but this was ruled out of order on the technical grounds that supplementaries are for ‘clarification’ only. Maisie will pursue the matter through her local ward councillor, the Lib Dem Ian Dysart.
As of August 2010, 4,069 member cities in 144 countries and regions have become members of Mayors for Peace (and this includes 61 local authorities and 5 London boroughs in the UK). These are communities formally expressing support for the Mayor of Hiroshima’s proposal at the 2nd UN Special Session on Disarmament for a programme to promote the solidarity of cities toward the total abolition of nuclear weapons: “a way for cities and towns to transcend national borders and work together to create a world without nuclear weapons”.
CND has commissioned a new report examining the relationship between employment, the Trident weapons system and the rest of the defence industry. Key conclusions are:
If Trident is replaced, it will be at the expense of
“It is in marine energy that one of the greatest potentials lies for the UK economy. Here the UK retains the leading role in design and development. Britain has more businesses developing tidal stream and wave power techniques than any other country.” And this technology (unlike wind and solar energy) is not yet fully mature, so this is where a future boom in construction, installation and maintenance can be anticipated. For a copy of the full briefing visit the CND website http://www.cnduk.org or contact Joanna 020 8543 0362 for a printed copy.
The 2010 CND conference will incorporate an international conference discussing key issues for our campaigning. The AGM and election of officers will be held on the morning of Sunday 10th October, where Joanna Bazley will be the delegate for Wimbledon.
The international meeting will take place at Mary Ward House, Tavistock Place, on Saturday 9th October, to look at prospects for scrapping Trident and achieving a nuclear weapons free world in the light of the outcome of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. A range of international guests will help discuss the following NPT themes:
A sale of second-hand books at 43 Wilton Grove on Sunday October 17th will be our final fund-raising effort of 2010. It will be an all-day occasion (11am–4pm) and we shall need helpers to set up from 9am onwards. Please publicise the event (find a place to display the enclosed leaflet or pass it on to a friend) and come on the day to pick up a bargain and enjoy a cup of tea and a chat.
Ben died peacefully in his sleep on September 12th and we send our deepest condolences to Anne and her family. WDC/CND was represented at his funeral by Maisie and Brigitte.
Despite ill health, for many years Ben served on the door at the Fête of the Earth, and he was present at the August Bank Holiday Fair in Morden Park, performing his final service for CND — teaching us how to handle the new gazebo!
We took our rightful place in Merton’s Peace Week with a showing of the beautiful Canadian film “Strangest Dream”, celebrating the life and work of Professor Sir Joseph Rotblat, to a large and appreciative audience at the Mansel Road Centre on September 21st.
The evening was introduced by National CND Chair Kate Hudson who spoke about the current anti-nuclear campaign in the context of the recent Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference and the new Coalition government. In Kate’s view there is more uncertainty than ever about the future of the Trident replacement programme, with deep divisions within government: it is very unlikely that David Cameron is as keen on like-for-like replacement of Trident as is his Defence Secretary Liam Fox, for example.
It is essential to keep up the pressure on MPs and we are urged to sign the petition, send in postcards, write letters and harness public opinion in any way we can. We must not forget that the polls are now consistently showing a majority against Trident replacement.
Now that the role of Trident is at last being questioned in the current government spending reviews, it is a good time to write to the Secretary of State for Defence, emphasising our opposition. If the missiles were ever fired they would cause massive indiscriminate casualties, making the use of Trident contrary to international law; in replacing Trident Britain is hindering progress towards comprehensive nuclear disarmament, while our possession of such weapons in the past has done nothing to halt proliferation; and in signing the recent Final Declaration of the United Nations’ Non-Proliferation Treaty Review on 28th May 2010, Britain has now committed itself to “accelerate concrete progress” towards nuclear disarmament, scarcely in accordance with constructing a new nuclear weapons system.
Address letters to Dr Liam Fox M.P., Secretary of State for Defence, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA (or e-mail via http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/ContactUs/AskAMinister.htm), and increase the impact of your message by sending a copy to your own M.P., whom you can ask to contact the MoD if you do not receive a reply from there.
The Morden Park Playing Fields Association’s August Bank Holiday Fair was a great success — a tribute to community effort, after the collapse of the local Lions Club which ran a Bank Holiday event here for so many years. We were kept so busy on our stall that we were seriously short of helpers. Bob and Brian made several transport trips each and Maisie, Julie, Joanna and Anne were selling all day, taking a total of £175. Thanks to you all.
We also had a stall at the Heathfield Ecology Fair in Croydon (courtesy our colleagues in Croydon CND) where business was much less brisk but the campaigning possibilities correspondingly greater. Working with our Croydon colleagues, we collected several pages of signatures to the new CND petition from amongst a very sympathetic public and our fellow stall-holders. It was a good opportunity to emphasise the direct links between war, poverty and environmental degradation, and the sheer waste of money and resources when governments indulge in status symbol military projects such as Trident.
Enclosed with this Newsletter is a copy of the latest petition from National CND head office. It is a new petition so you will not have signed it before.
CND collected over 43,000 signatures on the “No to Trident replacement: Yes to a Nuclear Weapons Convention” petition and these were handed over by CND vice-chair Dave Webb to the UK mission at the NPT Review Conference in May, part of a 16 million global hand-in. This latest petition builds on the outcome of the NPT conference: “Now is the time to make a concerted push to get a Nuclear Weapons Convention. Such a convention will comprehensively ban nuclear weapons for everyone, reinforce what is best in the non-proliferation régime and establish stronger verification and safeguards mechanisms to prevent nuclear proliferation or terrorism,” writes Rebecca Johnson (CND Vice-President) in the Summer 2010 issue of Campaign.
Sign the petition yourself and please try to find other people to fill the page — family members, visitors to your house, work colleagues, neighbours.... This is an excellent way of raising the subject with the ‘outside world’.