After the referendum – what next for Trident?
Thursday 25th September 2014
All eyes have been on Scotland in recent weeks so we must make sure that abolition of Faslane’s nukes remains on the political agenda
AS we wrestle with the consequences of the Scottish referendum north and south of the border, there is no doubt that a return to the status quo is not an option.
Many elements of politics are now in freefall and it cannot be left to the Westminster party leaders to decide our constitutional and political futures — whatever we thought about Scottish independence.
The outcome of any political restructuring has to be an enhancement of democracy, both political and economic, in the interests of all the people in this political union. That will be — and must be — hard fought for.
The future of the Trident nuclear weapons system has to be pretty much top of the agenda when it comes to democracy and popular choice.
Opposition to Trident unites the majority across Britain, in England, Wales and — particularly strongly — in Scotland, across both sides of the independence debate.
Even though some Westminster Establishment politicians shamelessly used the “defence” and “deterrent” argument in favour of a No vote, the majority of No voters also wanted to rid their country of nuclear weapons.
It is this disregard for the people’s views — together with continuing evidence of corruption and cover-ups — that does so much to undermine support for Britain’s political Establishment. In fact this is already delegitimising our government and political structures.
So we continue, across our many progressive campaigns and organisations, to bring pressure to bear for political change and to give voice to the reality of people’s needs.
Above all, the demand to scrap Trident will be intensified, not diminished, following the No vote.
As well as already having been tried, judged and sentenced in the court of public opinion, Trident must be defeated politically in Westminster.
Earlier this week it was great to see anti-nuclear activists Trident Ploughshares blockading the Faslane base where the Trident submarines are located.
Their clear message was: “Yes or No, Trident has got to go.” That is the message that unites us all and which we have to act on with the greatest urgency.
The decision on whether or not to replace Trident is due to be taken in 2016, so the Parliament that we elect next May — and the resulting government — will have a huge burden of responsibility.
All the more reason to ensure that Trident continues at the top of the political agenda and that it is a major factor in the election campaign.
The key problem remains the policies of the three main Westminster parties which, despite the strenuous efforts of activists in Labour and the Lib Dems, remain committed at policy level to nuclear weapons.
The Lib Dems have their “reduced” system option, but are still pro-nuclear. Labour, despite huge opposition in the party’s national policy forum process formulating its manifesto, also remains committed to Trident replacement at leadership level.
But it is absolutely obvious that change is coming in the Labour Party — the leadership remains with its head in the cold war sand at its peril.
Earlier this week a ComRes poll showed that 51 per cent of Labour prospective parliamentary candidates want to see scrapping Trident become a Labour Party manifesto commitment for the general election.
It’s hard to see how the Labour leadership can justify spending billions a year on the current Trident system — as well as planning to spend over £100 billion on replacing it — when Ed Balls says that Labour will reduce child benefit in real terms when it comes into office.
He says that all sections of society will have to make sacrifices, but he doesn’t seem to understand that nuclear weapons can be sacrificed instead — making us safer, richer and a force for peace.
Actually, Balls obviously does understand that is possible — but he chooses not to do it.
We can only speculate about his reasons. Status perhaps?
Tony Blair said in his autobiography that Trident is useless in military terms but that he opted to keep it for status reasons.
Maybe he thinks it will make Labour look weak on defence? But many military figures say Trident is militarily useless and should be scrapped.
Labour needs to make decisions based on what is actually in Britain’s security interests, not on the basis of what was built in decades gone by.
Maybe he thinks scrapping Trident is a vote loser? Well he only needs to look at the opinion polls to see how wrong that is.
Or maybe that it’s a job loser? Again, all the figures show that the money spent on Trident reinvested elsewhere would create hundreds of thousands of extra jobs and help reinvigorate British industry and the economy.
So we need to address the fear and misinformation that underpins the political parties’ attachment to Trident.
We need to expose and defeat the false arguments — and any vested interests — that stand in the way of scrapping Trident.
CND is working to do this over the next few months with a range of partner organisations and supporters through the relaunched Rethink Trident campaign.
We hope that you, both as individuals and with your organisations, will come on board with your support.
Those of you active in the run-up to the parliamentary vote on Trident replacement in March 2007 will remember that we built a huge groundswell of opinion against Trident replacement which resulted in the largest-ever Labour back-bench revolt over defence policy.
We were everywhere in the run-up to the vote, on the streets, holding meetings and debates, engaging in direct action.
We need to do this again — and more.
At that time, Rethink Trident was a broad alliance of organisations and individuals committed to rethinking the role and future of Trident.
Rethink Trident today is committed to cancelling plans for replacing Trident. The response has been fantastic with new signatories contacting us all the time and many celebrities pledging their support.
The initiating organisations, together with CND, include CWU, War on Want and many others. You yourself may have signed up to support the launch statement published just a few days ago in the Guardian on the eve of the Labour Party conference.
There are many initiatives and activities planned by participant organisations and supporters over the next months, including a People’s Ballot on Trident for use at events and on the street. So please join us to help get people’s voices heard.
We need to be out on the streets, at the nuclear weapons factories and submarine bases, arguing, debating, lobbying and discussing.
We must demonstrate that we won’t tolerate Trident any more, and give coherence and power to the views of the majority.
We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to scrap Trident. But it requires all of us to ramp up our activity very significantly.
More of the same campaigning is not going to get us to our goal. So please — we have the opportunity, help us make it happen.
Kate Hudson is general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
8 If you haven’t already signed up to support Rethink Trident, please visit the website on www.rethinktrident.org.uk and add your name.