For a CND and Labour supporter in the present Labour leadership election there is no other candidate who counts. Jeremy Corbyn is a Deputy Chair of National CND and National Chair of The Stop the War Coalition. Corbyn has pledged to end the madness of spending an estimated 100 billion on the proposed replacement of Trident Nuclear submarines, a system which many military figures themselves admit is outdated and ineffectual as a so-called ‘deterrent’. Instead, Corbyn would introduce a positive programme of rebuilding the UK’s battered infrastructure, which is presently suffering badly under Tory cuts. This is especially important to Birmingham which has been hit particularly hard by these cuts. We all know how difficult it is in Birmingham to get a GP appointment. How many people queue outside in the cold early in the morning these days to get one? Has anyone sat with someone they love who is desperately ill, in a hospital waiting area praying they will get admitted? We know what a premium hospital beds are at, and that the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham is too small. At present we face a new threat of reduced councillor services: local councillors to be cut from 120 to 100 at a time when other help agencies are also losing funding. The new Birmingham Library has severely restricted hours and the important and rich collection of historic documents in Birmingham Archives is set to become all but inaccessible. Birmingham’s heritage is being hit hard in another way too: with only two conservation officers where there used to be eight more important historic buildings, and buildings of period style are likely to be lost.
All three of the other candidates support the renewal of the four nuclear submarines, regardless of the nationally crippling cost of this outdated and dangerous system.
Corbyn has made it clear however, that a priority would be the redeployment of those currently working on the nuclear weapons industry into more socially productive industries – a move welcomed by National CND.
We know there is huge support for Corbyn in Brum, but there is a nervous political climate here. In this not very radical part of the UK, Hall Green CND is proud to report that we played our own small part in gaining Birmingham’s only Constituency Labour Party nomination for Jeremy Corbyn in Birmingham, Yardley. This was the only constituency in Brum which took the leadership nominations to a full meeting vote. And we praise the organisers (who we know were not supporting Corbyn themselves) for their courage in that. Here, for the constituency meeting, we helped to secure the services of Darrall Cozens, from Coventry who put across the Corbyn values powerfully, using the CND research to explain the cost of Trident. Three members of Hall Green CND, three small women over 60, as it happens, and a companion, all from Acocks Green (one of the areas covered by our group) attended the meeting and voted for Corbyn. In a narrow vote, in an historically never very radical CLP, even by Birmingham standards, this proved important. However, we were also impressed by the number of eloquent speakers from the floor, including several we had never met before. A mixture of young and older people too, spoke up for Corbyn in the debate. We also met friends who we did not even know were supporting Corbyn. We made other new friends that night. It was very exciting. It has become very clear since then how fast the tide is turning. People want a new kind of Labour leader: a new kind of Labour Party.
CND does not exist to endorse any political party, but rather, primarily to achieve the end of nuclear weapons in this country. We feel confident however in endorsing the Corbyn leadership campaign for the Labour Party because we know that Corbyn, who also leads Parliamentary CND, has consistently supported CND throughout his entire political career. This is certainly a change from the situation at the General Election in May when, in line with standard national CND practice, and with a Labour candidate who supported full replacement of Trident submarines, we could not recommend a Labour vote in Yardley. We hope that in 2020, and with a new party leader, endorsing a new party position on the abolition of Trident (a position which was already supported by 75% of Labour MPs and prospective parliamentary candidates at the last election, so we know he will have support) we will be able to endorse the Yardley CLP candidate in the way in which, in our area, we were last time confidently able to endorse the election campaign of Hall Green Labour MP, Roger Godsiff.
Now, a little history …
‘In the Nuclear Election Vote for Them’ Who now knows where that comes from, or who said that?
Some people at the Yardley CLP nominations meeting wanted to talk about 1983. All of us in Hall Green CND have been here for a long time. All of us remember that 1983 election. CND had huge support in the early 1980s. Bruce Kent, the leader spoke to packed halls in a way reminiscent of Corbyn now.
Birmingham alone sent 26 coaches to one big CND rally in London, and West Midlands CND booked four trains for the one in 1983.. People in the street, in Solihull, Hall Green, Acocks Green and Yardley, readily took our leaflets and signed our petitions. For years many talked of the torch-lit procession CND led around Acocks Green Village. (Led, as it happens by the ex-wife of the present leader of Birmingham City Council!) In 1983 we followed our brief, walking the streets of Yardley, a target area, delivering the simple black and white A5 national CND leaflet: ‘In the Nuclear Election Vote for Them’ it announced hopefully. On the front it showed a picture of some children, and then on the back it listed the positions of the main parties. We got rid of every single leaflet out of the huge pack Birmingham CND put aside for Yardley. We had one left and, late on the evening before the election gave it to the then Conservative Candidate, David Gilroy Bevan: we flagged down his car, plastered with posters, and a loud speaker on top (‘Vote Bevan’) when it rolled past. He took it graciously … and went on to win Yardley the next day.
So what went wrong? Well: the leaflet was weak, bland, indeterminate and carried little conviction. (Privately we all knew that.) How could it carry conviction when there was no party CND could sincerely endorse? Labour did NOT support getting rid of nuclear weapons. Oh how memory plays tricks! How many people have lapped up the false memories which have been fed to us! Labour had been at war with itself, and the warmongers had already won before the election had started. Labour was supporting keeping Polaris (the pre-Trident nuclear sub With such a weak and indecisive position from Labour suddenly frightened of its own shadow and effectively (Deja vu , after loosing two General Elections anyone?) trying to mirror the Tories, why should anyone bother to vote Labour? Where was the anti-nuclear voter to go? For that matter, what was the point of CND if no party would support us? That awkward embarrassed leaflet (and the terrible ones put out by Labour itself) effectively helped to banish our once famous organisation into obscurity for a generation. (We have heard young people say ‘What’s CND?’) And what of Greenham: that huge nuclear weapons base which was so often surrounded by women, including again members of Hall Green CND? Many of us never stopped ‘carrying Greenham home’. Some of us carried on in CND. Some of us joined political parties (Not necessarily Labour, who had let us down so badly) some of us trained for and went into jobs where we thought we could make a small difference. Some of us carried on working in the community as community activists. You never forget Greenham.
So much for the past. Let’s look at now: CND is an independent one issue campaign. But a vital campaign, one which is concerned not only with securing safety from a terrible weapon which could destroy the world, but also,quite simply a very hefty expenditure which is now helping to destroy this country: ‘It’s the economy stupid’. We cannot, and should not, support any party or any candidate who is not firmly and unequivocally backing the removal of nuclear weapons from British soil and British waters. This time we have a Labour leadership candidate who understands that: someone we can be proud to endorse: truly one of our own: a member of the campaign since the age of 15, someone who was a positive presence at all those long ago, and recent, anti-nuclear and anti-war rallies, someone who, elected in that terrible year which nearly destroyed both CND and the Labour Party, never compromised but has supported us in every single nuclear vote since 1983. And we believe that Corbyn never will compromise. And guess what: just like Bruce in the early 80s, but bigger than Bruce, he is extremely popular.
In the nuclear election (It’s ALWAYS the nuclear election, every every time until they are gone.) In the nuclear Labour leadership election of 2015 vote for Jeremy please. It is so important. Then help us build and help us help Labour to build to win in 2020. We never stopped carrying Greenham home. We never gave up hope. We are still here. Now we are being joined by a new generation. Let’s keep on working. Win or lose this time (and we think we will win, but even if we don’t) remember there’s plenty of work ahead. But this time let’s go on and on Join us. No-one ever said this was just about principles. This is about winning! Let’s carry the spirit of Greenham all the way home to Number 10 . Remember: if you have that polling paper vote now. Vote Corbyn. Then let’s work to give our children and our children’s children a future. In the nuclear election vote for them. Vote Corbyn.