by Theo Russell
AS LAST WEEK’S Trident debate was in session a large crowd gathered in Parliament square for a CND rally addressed by Labour MPs, peace activists and trade unionists.
MP John McDonnell said the Trident debate “was like going back 30 years – all the old arguments are being used; Cold War warriors from the back benches are being dragged out to defend the investment of billions of pounds on weapons of mass destruction.”
He said that although he hoped for a large Labour revolt, “It doesn’t stop there. This is only a vote in principle – they’ll have to come back again and again and we will fight back on every occasion and vote against this proposal on every occasion.”
Fellow Labour MP Michael Meacher declared: “Whatever the vote tonight, it is the start of a long struggle.” Trident, he said, was not an independent British nuclear deterrent.
“We are ultimately dependent on the Americans, and they give it to us because it makes us dependent on US foreign policy”, he said, and warned that Parliament and the British people were being “bounced” into a fast-track decision.
Peace campaigner Jenny Westreich – a veteran of the 1958 Aldermaston march – described nuclear weapons as “absolutely wrong in principle, and ineffective in practice”.
Scottish Labour MP Ian Gibson ridiculed the argument that Trident would provide jobs, pointing out that in Barrow in Furness, Faslane and other towns associated with it have gone down, not up.
“We can change the world far far better,” he said. “What could we do with £20 billion? Build houses for people, build better transport services and schools. The skills used in the Trident programme could be used to build and develop renewable energy. What a legacy for a prime minister to go away with!”
Assistant TGWU General Secretary Barry Campfield said that nurses and teachers would pay for Trident, and pointed out that Britain was running down its defence industries. He called for Britain to become “an advocate for peace and diplomacy in the world – not for war and nuclear power”.
Veteran peace protestor Brian Haw, still encamped in Parliament Square after almost six years, spoke in front of a large photo held by two supporters of an Afghani child whose entire face had been burnt away in a Nato bombing raid. He described Hiroshima as “terrorism at its worst – terrorism at its greatest” and asked, “what else is nuclear war but terrorism?”
Britain, he said, was bombing “any country where the leader doesn’t do what we tell him to” with depleted uranium made from the waste left over from manufacturing nuclear weapons, and demanded: “USA /UK stop your genocide of the innocent peoples.”