National CND Conference 2015

CND 15-1 (lightened)

So How do we Stop a Trident Convey?

Every year since 1958 National CND has had a conference.  This is always a lively occasion where anti-nuclear campaigners from all over the country get together.  We have fun, of course: how do you stop a Trident submarine convey with deadly materials travelling through urban areas at dead of night?  simples: you just borrow a decent sized tank to block it off.  (Thanks East Mids CND!) or maybe you have a carnival on the road at midnight, involving day-glow skeleton suits.  (Joking apart, there is a deadly serious issue here.  If you want to help then check out the info in the download above.) This is also the time when we take stock and consider policy and main issues plans for the year ahead.

Explaining re-joining CND-recropped

A ‘returnee’ to CND explains how this summer’s leadership campaign brought her back to activity

This year, like just about every group left of the Tories, in the UK,  CND reported that they have had been enjoying recent membership surge, with 200 joining in the week before Conference alone.  It was widely agreed that attendance was well-up on last year.  This is obviously due to the recent developments on the British parliamentary political scene, plus of course the up-coming Trident renewal debate.

In the packed hall there were some notable presences.  Not only does it seem old CND campaigners do not die, they don’t fade away either.  So, in usual good form there was Bruce Kent, former National CND secretary and there was 92 year old Walter Wolfgang –  Walter was the star of that eviction from Labour Party conference by Jack Straw in 2008 when he arrested as a terrorist  for heckling.  It was also good to see Joy Hurcombe, a well-known Labour CND voice from the 1980s, still going strong.

But CND has always been proud to be a broad church and the platform also included the SNP and the Greens. Besides these speakers also represented were the International Peace Bureau, Stop the War, War on Want and the People’s Assembly.  In the gathering someone was from the Communist Party of Great Britain.  One young woman was heard announcing that she had ‘just joined the party’ – ‘No, no not that party.  the Lib-Dems’ – Tim Farron has also come out against Trident.

A certain Mr Corbyn, long one of CND’s four vice-chairs,  was star of Saturday evening for everyone though, when he slipped in quietly during the post-meetings Social
Jezza talking to CND delegates-cropped

From the UK’s new ‘threat to national security’ this was a strong message of continued support for CND and about the hard work ahead, particularly in the run-up to the Trident renewal debate in 2016, which may come earlier than expected.

The Motions

There were eleven motions in all.  Full details on all but one emergency motion are to be found in the CND Conference Booklet 2015 Below are some comments on the debates around three selected motions.

Kate on Trident Replacement-cropped

Kate on opposing Trident Replacement Vote

First up was a motion from CND Chair Kate Hudson,  to campaign on the Trident replacement decision expected in parliament in 2016 – carried unanimously:  an obvious no-brainer.   We might as well have packed up, gone home there and then and never come back if we’d voted against that!  An amendment proposed by Newport CND suggested we should demand a national referendum.  This was more tricky.   Kate spoke against this amendment and a number of others followed in support. of Kate. Those in favour argued that a referendum would draw more attention, and even a ‘no’ vote would help to mobilise, as in Scotland. Those against pointed out that not only was CND risking possible damage from a loss (We are re-building well but not of SNP proportions yet!)  but also more specifically (1) There are good arguments in international law to suggest that Trident is illegal anyway and to endorse a referendum would suggest that we accepted some kind of legitimacy and (2) It would be the Government who would word the referendum, not us. The real weasel word at the moment (as Bruce had already pointed out earlier because it urgently needs our attention) is ‘deterrent’. Trident is not a deterrent (Howzabout ‘nuclear invitation’? I’m a big threat to you, so come and get me first.’)  referendum which asked people whether or not they supported a ‘nuclear deterrent’ could, I think, be very bad news – in fact subtle propaganda disguised as an opinion poll. This amendment failed by a large majority.

It was also passed unanimously to support  submariner William McNeilly  on his courageous decision to help expose the Trident nuclear weapons system as a ‘disaster waiting to happen’. Click here for a version of McNeilly’s report Not only have safety procedures on the subs been very lax for a long time, but there have been some very expensive near-misses. A crash near France cost 50 million pounds to put right. . In all there were 451 near accidents between 2009-13.

An emergency motion which caused some controversy and quite heated debate involved the civil war in Ukraine. The motion, which was finally passed was to continue campaigning against all foreign intervention in Ukraine, including by the British Government and to call for a ceasefire, calling for a more realistic analysis of NATO’s involvement than one which presents NATO’s actions as a defensive response to Russian aggression. Some people thought this meant we were pro-Putin.  Others  explained that CND has never been pro-Russia, .but singling out Russia as the sole cause of all the problems in the area is not helpful either. Much as Putin is an unpleasant individual we also need to acknowledge NATO’s own expansionist concern to continue to surround Russian and reduce its power. NATO is the real threat or, as one person put it:  ‘It is not because we love Russia but because we don’t want NATO.’

Catherine West

Catherine West is the new Shadow Foreign Minister.  She spoke in the SundayCatherine West speaking at CND15 section of the weekend: ‘Scrapping Trident: Strategising for Success in 2016.  She was representing Jeremy Corbyn  and she affirmed her support for the Corbyn ‘No Trident position. Imagine a member of the shadow cabinet being willing to speak to CND in support of cancelling Trident pre the 2015 Labour leadership election.  We have come a long way, but there is still work to do.

Len McClusky

UNITE’s general secretary has made contradictory statements, supporting Trident at the 2015 Labour Party Conference in order to protect members jobs  whilst, like many trade union’s the official UNITE policy position is to oppose the retention of the Trident system.   A 2010 UNITE conference resolution states:

[…] Britain should therefore give a lead in discharging its obligations by not seeking a replacement for Trident

CND 15 - audience - making a point-2 - cropped

Tony Staunton from Plymouth calls for a debate in the Trade Unions about Trident

Some people expressed concerns that, despite the official support for Corbyn. there is an ‘old Blairite guard’ in this Union, and also in the GMB and these issues need attention.  A number of members who were in these unions spoke up and said they did not support the McClusky statements and were concerned about them. It was also pointed out that the total stated possible loss of jobs if Trident is cancelled appears to have been massively overstated.  The true figure may as low as 520 –  many more jobs than this are likely to be lost, with far less present publicity,  in the government’s recent Green policy reversals up to 30,000 job losses are estimated in solar power alone).   There has already been a highly useful study commissioned by Scottish CND and the Scottish Trades Union Congress.  You can download it here: STUC-CND Trident Report

Julie Ward MEP on the need to replace Trident jobs

Julie Ward MEP on the need to replace Trident jobs

This shows that jobs since the arrival of Trident in Barrow in Furness have actually dramatically decreased.  Trident does not ‘create’ job opportunities but destroy them, and their are many possibilities for redeployment in the public and environmental improvement sectors.  Anyone who is concerned about job losses in connection with the cancellation of Trident should study this accessible and comprehensive report.

Trident and the Law

One workshop explored this subject and later circulated a documen which can be downloaded here: Nuclear weapons and the law  Points here include that Trident appears to be illegal under the International Non-Proliferation Treaty concerning nuclear weapons, and signed by 190 states including the United Kingdom.  Ask anyone who claims to be a ‘multilateralist’ (This phrase has been the standard and beloved refuge of those who want to retain the UKs nuclear weapons for many a long decade)  if they support the NPT – or even know about it!

The Cost of Trident

Everyone who has paid attention already knows that Trident will cost at least 100 billion by 2060, probably more, and with £25 billion up front in the initial stages.  To intend to spend this money in a time of deep economic instability and drastic cuts hitting especially the poor.  (See Tax Credits debate this week) is craziness beyond imagining as Sam Fairbarn of the People’s Assembly outlined.

In Conclusion

All in all an enjoyable and informative conference working towards upholding our constitution

CND Aims - constitution-tuned upIn the company of many well-informed and hard-working campaigners

CND 15 - audience - croppedDon’t forget we are planning a huge ‘Stop Trident’ national demo, London, February 27th 2016 If you would like to join us for the urgent work ahead you can sign up to become a member of National CND here, for as little as £3.00 a year (depending on status) or contact Hall Green CND below by completing the form.

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In the Nuclear Election … Vote Corbyn

Corbyn + CND symbol

Jeremy Corbyn speaking in front of the famous symbol used by CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) since 1959

VOTE CORBYN!!

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.

South-East Birmingham CND, Sunday October 26 1980 - the first of the 1980's Great CND Demos

South-East Birmingham CND *Now Hall Green CND) London,  Sunday October 26 1980 – the first of the 1980’s Great CND Demos

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 this hall in Coventry this summer there were people who went to those 1980s CND rallies sitting with many people who had not then even been born ...

In this hall in Coventry this summer there were people who went to those 1980s CND rallies sitting with many people who had not then even been born … The writer is in both this photograph and the previous one.

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.

Election 2015: Will YOUR candidates vote for Trident in 2016?

Trident Vote 2015A decision on whether or not to replace the UK Trident nuclear submarine system – at a cost of £100bn – is due in 2016 and successfully elected Members of Parliament in the forthcoming 2015 General Election will have to vote on this.  CND wondered how parliamentary candidates are intending to vote.  We wrote to candidates in our area of Hall Green, Yardley and Solihull and asked them the four CND questions about their views on Trident at this time.  We are publishing the views received by CND (nationally or locally) in response to these questions.

The four questions asked are:

  • The UK’s submarine-based Trident nuclear weapon system is approaching the end of its operational life. Do you think the UK should replace its nuclear weapon system?
  • The next government will conduct a Strategic Defence and Security Review. Do you think that should consider the possibilities and implications of scrapping and not replacing Trident?
  • The next government will need to attend the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York. Do you think it should support a nuclear weapons convention or ban, similar to those for chemical or biological weapons?
  • The next government will have to decide whether to carry out the current coalition government’s projected austerity programme. Do you think spending £100 billion on Trident replacement can be justified?

To find out whether the person you are thinking of voting for has answered these questions, or otherwise whether they have given any indication of how they feel about Trident click on your Constituency name below.

Hall Green

Solihull

Yardley

Your chosen candidate missing?  It may be that they are still planning to respond, when they have time.  However, in a few days we will also give email addresses for missing candidates, so that you can write to them yourself, if you would like to.

 

Debate in Parliament

There was a debate in Parliament 20.01.2015. The motion was:

Trident should not be renewed

Roger GodsiffRoger Godsiff was present and voted for the motion. He spoke at length. Here are some points he made:

Roger Godsiff (Birmingham, Hall Green) (Lab):


I have always believed that NATO is the most successful mutual defence pact in history […]

I am one of the people who regret the change in strategy that resulted in NATO becoming the world’s policeman. That was dangerous, and it has put enormous strain on NATO, but it is still an effective mutual defence pact. I shall argue that that is how we get our security, rather than with the mythical idea that we have an independent nuclear deterrent […]

The UK does not own the missiles on its submarines. It leases Trident II D5 missiles from the United States […] I would say that we are totally dependent on America.

We acquired these weapons from the USA.

I would argue that we are far better off maintaining and developing our conventional forces […]

I also believe that the greatest threat to this country comes not from other countries but from groups, some of which operate outside this country but some of which operate within this country. In a choice between spending money on conventional weapons and improving our international security of committing £100 billion to a mythical so called independent deterrent, I know which I would choose. That is why I will be voting against my party and in favour of the motion.

You can read more of what he said and the whole debate here:Trident Renewal [20 Jan 2015]

John Hemming was not present at the debate but his stated position is that he believes that less money should be spent on Trident, and more on conventional forces.  less money on Trident and more money on conventional forces

It is worth reminding us of the workings of politicians: billions of pounds have been spent on the renewal of Trident already, i.e. before the Main Gate decision. So when the final Gate decision is going to be taken the arguments will be that we have spent so much already so that it will be wasteful not to continue.

(The development of the replacement submarines was broken down into three phases: concept, assessment and construction. The concept phase lasted from March 2007 (House of Commons vote) to May 2011 (publication of Parliamentary Initial Gate report). The assessment phase will last from May 2011 (Initial Gate) to the Main Gate decision, expected to take place in 2016 (as stated in the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010, and again in the initial Gate report). The Main Gate decision is where authorisation for construction is taken.)
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The Hall Green CND aim is to ask Hall Green and Yardley election candidates about their views on the renewal of Trident and post their answers on this site.

Xmas 2014

Christmas Fair - sharpenedFind  us on Saturday 6th December 12 noon – 3 pm  at St Michael’s Christmas Fair,  17 Redstone Farm Road, Hall Green, B28 9NU  Grab yourself a piece of bargain bric-a-brac at our stall,  try some homemade goodies or just come along for a chat and find out how to get involved.  

cropped-cnd-christmas-stall-08.jpgThe St Michael’s Christmas Fair is a popular and lively community event which has now been running for many years – many other stalls too – and some people do most of their Christmas shopping here!  You can find St Michael’s on the map below. 

St Michael's Xmas Fair

double-click to enlarge map

 Offers of help, bric-a-brac, books, jams, cakes would be most appreciated.  Please bring  to Hall Green CND on the day – we start setting up from 11 a.m.