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Post-election blues

Network for Peace co-ordinator Claire Poyner reflects on the likely impact of the election on anti-nuclear campaigning

The overall majority gained by the Conservatives took a lot of us by surprise. Many were expecting a minority Labour win, with some support from the Scottish National Party. Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats had the worst election night since their formation.

There’ve been many attempts to analyse Labour’s failure to win the election – were they too left or too right? Is he ‘Red Ed’ and a ‘class war zealot’ or middle-of-the-road ‘austerity-lite’? Was it the media that ‘won it’? It depends where you stand politically.

So what now? Well, more austerity of course. They’ve promised a £30bn cuts programme, even though local authorities, including Tory-run ones, have united to warn the chancellor, George Osborne, that another round of funding cuts would devastate local services and harm the most vulnerable in society. (See the Guardian report on 16 May.)

Labour MPs vs Trident?

However, wanting to cut back on public spending will probably not include cutting back on Britain’s nuclear weapons. There will probably be a vote on replacing Trident next year. Although it’s not strictly constitutionally necessary, as the Tories are sure of winning it, they’ll probably opt for a vote.

The efforts of CND and other anti-nuclear groups will be focused on getting a delayed decision. There’ll be attempts to affect party policy, by campaigning with some of the new MPs.

CND’s pre-election online lobbying tool results came in, and CND says: ‘In contrast to the Labour manifesto’s unambiguous support for replacement, Labour candidate responses are overwhelmingly critical of Trident replacement.’

But then: ‘… their 20% response rate is even lower than the Lib Dems and we can only guess the views of some of the remaining candidates. From those who have replied though, an overwhelming number – around 75% – do not support Trident replacement. It is clear, from those who have replied, that Labour candidates reflect their local party submissions to the National Policy Forum in 2014 better than the party’s manifesto does.’

At the moment, CND is working on tying up those responses with those who were elected, and getting a new lobbying tool for supporters to get responses from new-elected MPs.

There’ll be a CND-led lobby of parliament in the autumn.

Hiroshima 70

The 70th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki this August will offer a chance to campaign, and CND hope to get some Hibakusha (Japanese survivors of the atomic bombings) to London for MPs to meet.

The Quakers are planning an exhibition at Friends House in Euston Road, London; as well as Hiroshima/Nagasaki items there’ll be items on nuclear accidents.

At 2.30pm on 6 August, there will be an interfaith service at Friends House – all bishops, other faith leaders, and all MPs will be invited.

There’s likely to be an increase in the number of CND special sections groups (there’s been an increase in membership lately) including LibDem CND and Plaid Cymru CND.

There’ll be an increase in street activity – petitions, supporting demos, street stalls and the like.

Although few Conservatives will be impressed with the financial argument, that if we cancel Trident we could afford X number of hospitals or schools, they could be persuaded if the financial savings helped with regular army items (after all there have been some scandals involving lack of, or failure of, army equipment).

The moral arguments shouldn’t be neglected either, and there’s work being done on that front, some of it involving faith groups. Like the man said, ‘I don’t care if they come free with a packet of Smarties, they’re still wrong!’


CND lobbying results: www.tinyurl.com/peacenews1600

Claire Poyner co-ordinates the Network for Peace: www.networkforpeace.org.uk