Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Labour's big nuclear disarmament election opportunity

Because the Prime minister set her call for a General Election in the context of delivery of Brexit, and  many people’s eyes have been on Syria and North Korea in recent weeks, I expect foreign affairs, defence  and security issues to play a much bigger part in the Election campaign than they may have hitherto.

Labour\s 1964 General Election manifesto under Harold Wilson stated “We are against the development of national nuclear deterrents”  (http://www.politicsresources.net/area/uk/man/lab64.htm). Labour won, disproving the old chestnut that you cannot win General Elections  in the UK on an anti- nuclear weapon platform


Labour followed up this manifesto policy by initiating international nuclear disarmament negotiations at the United Nations fifty years ago.

Papers available in the National Archives in Kew show that on 23 January 1968, Fred (later Lord) Mulley, as the UK Labour Government's minister of state for foreign affairs, addressed the 358th plenary meeting of the Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament (ENDC) in Geneva, the predecessor committee to the CD, explaining why nations should sign up to the newly negotiated NPT, where he told the ministerial delegations:


"As I have made clear in previous speeches, my government accepts the obligation to participate fully in the [nuclear disarmament] negotiations required by [NPT] Article VI and it is our desire that these negotiations should begin as soon as possible and should produce speedy and successful results. There is no excuse now for allowing a long delay to follow the signing of this treaty."


Last month Labour, uniquely amongst British political parties, sent its shadow disarmament minister, Fabian Hamilton MP, to be an active observer at the United Nations  negotiating conference for a nuclear weapons ban treaty, in  which 130  countries participated ((‘Why efforts to secure a deal on banning all nuclear weapons are so important’ 10 April  2017;Joelien Pretorius ; http://theconversation.com/why-efforts-to-secure-a-deal-on-banning-all-nuclear-weapons-are-so-important-75484?utm_content=buffer45dc0&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer)


The British government refused to participate, despite declaring its belief in negotiated multilateral nuclear disarmament, and the Government withheld its disarmament ambassador.


Jeremy Corbyn now has an opportune chance to build on Labour’s  trailblazing international disarmament tradition, committing Labour to put Trident nuclear submarines and weapons into multilateral negotiations, sending a strong message to nuclear outriders  North Korea, Pakistan, India and Israel.

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