Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
Nuclear policy – and the hugely expensive decision to replace Trident – ought to be an election issue, but it is barely even discussed. Despite more than 65 per cent public support for nuclear disarmament, the two largest parties still act as though Britain needs nuclear weapons, refusing to acknowledge that the world has changed and that replacing Trident is incompatible with British and international non-proliferation and security objectives.
Both the Conservatives and Labour voted for Trident replacement in March 2007. The decision, opposed by nearly a hundred Labour MPs, was pushed through by Tony Blair on the basis of a threadbare White Paper, a dishonestly low price tag and a resolution that let MPs off the hook by also pledging ‘to take further steps towards meeting the UK’s disarmament responsibilities under Article VI’ of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), as though Trident replacement was consistent with our treaty obligations to disarm.
Trident wastes money that could create far more sustainable jobs than those involved in manufacturing the Trident submarines in Barrow. Deploying the current weapons costs more than £1 billion a year, and the Liberal Democrats estimated in 2006 that obtaining and operating a similar system would cost more than £76 billion in total. (Subsequent estimates of the full cost have put it as high as £110 billion.) The Lib Dems oppose replacing Trident with another massive submarine-based ballistic missile force. But they are still undecided on whether to renounce the possession of nuclear weapons altogether and work for a new international compact on verified nuclear disarmament, as many advocate, or build a different, smaller nuclear force.
The Greens, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru are all committed to getting rid of British nuclear weapons as an early step towards the global abolition of nuclear weapons. The issue is particularly relevant in Scotland, where the UK’s nuclear weapons are deployed and stored at Faslane and Coulport.
How, then, can we ensure that Britain does not repeat past mistakes and commit huge resources to an outdated weapon that cannot be used without violating international law? The year-long ‘Faslane 365’ peaceful blockade made Trident replacement a hot election issue in Scotland in 2006-2007, showing the importance of grassroots mobilising and a higher media profile. By treating nuclear disarmament as a marginal issue, UK politicians are lagging far behind the rest of the world, where creating a nuclear weapons-free world is now a mainstream, global goal.
We have to point out that Trident doesn’t protect us and that the major parties are depending on scare tactics and a voodoo/placebo effect when they assert that Britain needs nuclear weapons as an insurance policy but can’t demonstrate how deterrence works in the face of overwhelming evidence (not least from recent wars) that it doesn’t. The fact that the NPT’s important review conference takes place in New York in May provides opportunities for Britain to contribute to reducing the role of nuclear weapons with practical steps such as cancelling Trident replacement, taking the current system off continuous alert and ceasing to build facilities to develop new warheads at Aldermaston.
Instead, Aldermaston should work on dismantling nuclear weapons safely. As much of the world is now laying the groundwork to negotiate a nuclear weapons abolition treaty, the UK would have much to gain by being in at the beginning. A first step would be to implement Labour’s commitment to become a ‘disarmament laboratory’ and develop verification techniques to support the international obligation (and the UK’s stated goal) of nuclear disarmament.
Dr Rebecca Johnson is director of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy and a member of Women in Black
The Big Blockade, Aldermaston, 15 February 2010
When parliament decided, in March 2007, to replace the current Trident nuclear submarines, the government stated, and has continued to repeat, that a decision on whether to replace the UK’s current nuclear warheads would not be made until the next parliament. From outside the wire at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston, however, it looks as if this decision has already been made.
A multi-billion pound government-funded programme that will equip AWE with the facilities to research, test, design and build replacement warheads has been under way since 2004. While environmental and anti-nuclear groups have repeatedly urged the local planning committee to return each planning application to the government, so that a full public inquiry may take place, there has been no parliamentary discussion or any other public scrutiny of developments at AWE.
With the deliberative democratic process sidelined, the only option, it seems, is civil disobedience. So, on 15 February 2010, Trident Ploughshares, CND and the Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp(aign) brought peace activists from all over Britain, and several dozen from other Nato countries, to close the gates of the AWE bomb factory at Aldermaston, Berkshire. By daybreak, well-organised groups, many in effective lock-ons involving heavy-duty metal pipes and concrete blocks, were were sitting, standing and lying at all seven gates of the Aldermaston base. The protesters successfully denied employees access to their workplace for several hours.
Media coverage of this symbolic and nonviolent direct action carried its message to voters and candidates of all parties. Financial crisis? Spending cuts? Cancel Trident renewal and spend the billions saved on improving schools, health and social services.
Women from Women in Black, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, AWPC and a Europe-wide anti-Nato mobilisation were responsible for blockading one of the principal access gates to AWE.
And we were supported by two Nobel Peace Prize winners: Mairead Maguire, honoured for her work for peace in Northern Ireland, and Jodi Williams, who won the prize for her contribution to an international ban on landmines.
The Aldermaston Big Blockade is only the latest action in an energetic campaign against the illegal, immoral, pointless and profligate renewal of the UK’s nuclear weapons system. n
Cynthia Cockburn, London Women in Black, and Sian Jones, Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp(aign)
and sign the CND petition at: www.ipetitions.com/petition/nuclearweaponsconvention
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun
Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh
With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook
‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali
Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.
Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent
Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art
Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs
Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox
Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite
Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead
Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee
Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power