Friday, 29 January 2016

Why did UK boycott nuclear disarmament negotiations this week?

Letter to London Evening Standard:

Your news report "Corbyn at odds with voters over his policy on nuclear deterrent, new poll reveals," and accompanying leading article "Voters' clear message to Labour on Trident" (28 January) both mislead your readers.

The opinion poll question does not assess the support for negotiated - so-called multilateral - nuclear disarmament which is the regular default position of the pro-Trident re-armers, which includes the Prime Minister, Defence Secretary and shadow foreign secretary,

Voters in the 1964 General Election, at the height of the Cold War stand-off with the Soviet Union, elected the Labour Party led by Harold Wilson that stood on a Manifesto platform that asserted boldly: " We are against the development of national nuclear deterrents."

Wilson’s Government subsequently backtracked on this commitment because the unelected  Royal Navy top brass convinced him - despite Defence Secretary Denis  Healey’s misgivings - that  development of the Polaris nuclear submarine system, the forerunner of Trident “had  passed the point of no return” according to a brilliant new account of the decision by London University historian, Professor Peter Hennessy in his new book The Silent Deep: the Royal Submarine Service since 1945 (page 242)

So Mr Corbyn needs to argue the case for negotiated nuclear disarmament over the next four years, not passively accept that some opinion polls suggest the voters currently don’t agree.

Ironically, on the very day your ran the report on this opinion poll, the United Nations hosted in Geneva  the first  multilateral open-ended working group (OEWG) on nuclear disarmament to address concrete effective legal measures, legal provisions, and norms that will need to be concluded to attain and maintain a world without nuclear weapons.

The United Kingdom boycotted this multilateral forum. Why could that be?

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