A few PMQs ago, David Cameron claimed that “under the Conservatives, we won the Cold War.” That was off putting enough but what I found most reprehensible was his continuation: “and we all remember who was wearing the CND badges at the time!” This was met with jeering, laughter and finger pointing from the Tory benches. It was vile. Nuclear weapons are uneconomical, unusable and unethical and to be mocked for campaigning for their removal sums up that we still face a very nasty opposition.
Cameroon soundbites aside, it raised a far more important issue. One of the leading members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was also a leader of our party. Since Michael Foot resigned the leadership, the Labour Party has transformed in its position from supporting unilateralist disarmament to the continual renewal of Trident. During the Cold War perhaps it was arguable that nuclear weapons acted as a deterrent. This is the only justification for possessing them, and even that’s based on the notion of “you destroy our country, we’ll destroy yours, and the planet in the process.”
I’m aware that suggesting nuclear disarmament is the kind of idealism that kept Labour out of power in the Foot days, but it makes sense. Trident renewal will cost £97 billion. Think what £97 billion could bring to the NHS. Think how many people could be lifted out of poverty with £97 billion. This money is being wasted as Trident itself can never be used. No Labour, Tory or Lib Dem government would ever attack a country on such a scale and despoil the environment for centuries. And Trident doesn’t even defend us. Any nuclear weapons being developed by a ‘rogue state’ can be destroyed using conventional weapons. They are what Paul Smith rightly describes as “vanity weapons.”
Despite Michael Foot’s campaign for unilateralist disarmament, rearmament has historically been a Labour policy. As Tony Benn says in his diaries: “Attlee built the bomb, Chevaline was endorsed by Callaghan and now were coming along with Trident.”
After Hiroshima, the world said never again. To stay true to this, we need a world without nuclear weapons. The current process of multilateral disarmament is, and will continue to be, expensive and arduous. Nothing sends a clearer and more principled message than adopting a policy of unilateral disarmament. We’ll be better off economically and just as safe internationally and personally; despite Tory scoffs, I’d like to see Labour politicians wearing CND badges again.
At the moment, Britain is a small island trying to prove it’s might with big missiles. It’s pure Freud.