Pushing the debate

IssueOctober 2006
Feature by Kate Hudson

Hard on the heels of the great victory at the TUC -- an overwhelming vote in support of an RMT resolution against replacing Trident -- the issue has, however, been kept off the agenda at the Labour Party Conference.

This is another sad reflection of how out of touch the current government is with public opinion; 59% oppose Trident replacement, yet the party of government won't allow a debate on the issue. On the eve of the conference, tens of thousands of people marched through Manchester, displaying their opposition to nuclear weapons and war. As we know, this is the true reflection of British public opinion that is being ignored.

Out of order

At the conference, 17 constituency parties submitted resolutions opposing Trident replacement, but they were all ruled out of order. Why? Because the National Policy Forum document going to the conference says there should be a debate. So that means there can't be a debate. Yes, I thought it was odd too. Needless to say the delegates are livid and have spent a huge amount of time trying to get the issue raised, because if the government make a decision on Trident before the end of the year, this is the only chance for the party to debate it.

Labour CND activist Joy Hurcombe spent hours at the Conference Arrangements Committee, and finally resorted to holding up her “No Trident Replacement” carrier bag throughout the “Britain in the World Debate”. The Chair refused to call any of the constituency delegates wishing to speak on Trident, but thanks to Tony Woodley, General Secretary of the TGWU, there was one voice against war and nuclear weapons.

The question now is how we move forward to prevent Trident replacement.

Strength in unity

What we are achieving from this conference is an ever broader range of opposition to Trident replacement, going hand in hand with genuine anger at the gagging of real debate and discussion. Now we need to build on this to put ever greater pressure on the government.

We already have a great advantage because for a year now the No Trident Replacement core group, drawing together activists from a number of organisations, has met on a regular basis to discuss strategy. This unity has been invaluable, and we have made real progress in effective planning, sharing information, and avoiding duplication of activities.

It was at a discussion of this group that we planned one of the next phases in the campaign -- The Big Trident Debate. Last week, CND, working with a range of organisations and individuals, launched a new website: www.bigtridentdebate.org.uk. The site has been set up with two goals: firstly, to call on the government to facilitate a full public and parliamentary debate, and you too can sign up online to back that statement; and secondly, to provide a space for that debate to begin to take place. Anyone can contribute to the online forum and submit articles for publication.

The site itself does not take a position one way or the other on Trident -- all views are welcome, to make the debate real -- but it is essential that the anti-Trident case is put strongly and coherently. So please visit, get your organisation to sign up to back it, and extend the debate as widely as possible.

Now is the time

Taking initiatives like this together with others through the autumn, we can tackle the government on all fronts, and bring the maximum pressure to bear.

We also need as many public meetings organised locally as possible, letters to the papers -- every conceivable noise that we can make in every conceivable, nonviolent way. The need has never been more urgent.

Topics: Nuclear weapons