The guest post below is an open letter from former CND Chair and General Secretary Bruce Kent to Labour Party leader Ed Miliband.
Dear Ed Miliband,
Why are you throwing away votes in advance of the next general election? If people are asked whether they want £100 billion spent on yet more nuclear weapons OR on their real needs – a decent health service, modern schools, fair pensions, affordable housing, cheap public transport and the like – the response is almost entirely one way. Not just in Scotland where over three quarters of the Scots, SNP or not, do not want Trident at all. Here in England opposition ranges from 55% to 70%.
A new Trident is needed, we are told, to add to our security. It will do nothing of the sort. It does nothing to protect us from the real threats which face us – terrorists, global warming, nuclear weapon accidents, nuclear power plant meltdowns or epidemics. It actually adds to our insecurity because if we say we need nuclear weapons for our security other countries will want their own. It does not stop proliferation – it encourages it. The risks of catastrophic accidents, too frequent now, continue.
We are told that – dreaded word – it means unilateralism. So what? Many times in our past we have given up weapons because they were too expensive or did not add to our security. We got rid of battleships after the First World War and chemical weapons after the Second World War unilaterally for exactly those reasons. Unilateral actions can have very positive results. The ending of the Cold War had a lot to do with Gorbachev’s courageous near 18-month unilateral end to all Soviet nuclear weapon testing. That sign of good will helped to change the hostile West/East atmosphere.
We keep hearing about our ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent. Independent my eye! Without United States technology, satellites and missiles we would not have a nuclear weapon at all. Deterrent? Who is it meant to deter? Not, in our case, the Argentinians. Or, for the US, the North Vietnamese or, for the Soviets, the Afghans.
Some rogue nuclear weapon state? Any one deliberately using a nuclear weapon in the world today, knowing the fallout consequences, has to be irrational and the irrational are not deterred by threatening to kill them. The best way to get rid of nuclear weapons is by negotiations resulting in a treaty and then obligatory international inspection. We now have treaties, in place or in progress, along these lines for chemical weapons, bacteriological weapons, landmines and hopefully cluster bombs.
Labour party Briefings endlessly go on about multilateral negotiations without seeming to be aware how obstructive Britain has frequently been over nuclear abolition negotiations ever since the NPT was signed in 1968. Only four countries opposed the setting up in 2012 of a new UN multilateral negotiating body aimed at getting rid of all nuclear weapons. Britain was one of them. Of course we should negotiate and thus get rid of the lot globally. It is perfectly possible. A draft treaty exists. But we are not willing even to start on it.
The British people are not stupid. The Cold War is over. The threats of today are very different. A new, massively expensive Trident, with its on-going threats of mass murder, is a response to none of them. Your party conference is coming up. At least make sure that a serious debate is held on the issue. It must be based on fact, not bogus history and Union Jack waving. We can indeed help to build a fairer and more peaceful world. But not by spending billions on a new Trident. We expect better from the Labour Party. If you, or one of your Labour front bench, want to discuss these issues please let me know.