Nuclear testing at the Bikini Atoll. (Photo:Getty)
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Exclusive: 75% of Labour PPCs oppose Trident renewal

75 per cent of Labour's parliamentary candidates oppose renewing Britain's nuclear deterrent - including some in the party's safest seats.

75 per cent of Labour's prospective parliamentary candidates are against renewing Britain's nuclear defence system, Trident, the New Statesman can reveal. A representative survey for CND, seen by the NS, shows that Labour's parliamentary candidates - from traditionally safe seats to unwinnable Conservative strongholds through to some of the most vulnerable of Labour's target seats - are overwhelmingly against maintaining the nuclear deterrent when it comes up for renewal. 

The survey includes both longstanding members of Parliament and new candidates. Significantly, the new intake of MPs is much less pro-nuclear than the one that it replaces. Meg Munn, the hawkish Labour MP for the safe seat of Sheffield Heeley, will be replaced by Lou Haigh, who believes "investment in nuclear is immoral in and of itself". In Leeds East, George Mudie, who voted in favour of maintaining Trident in 2007, is replaced by Richard Burgon, who says:

Nuclear weapons pose a threat to the whole of humanity. For the sake of the whole of humanity and for the sake of generations still to come, we need to achieve a world free from nuclear weapons. I oppose the replacement of Trident and support a global ban on nuclear weapons. Opposing the replacement of Trident is not only right as part of a practical strategy to create a safer world – it will also save the UK Government £100 billion, which should be spent on hospitals, schools and job creation.

Outside those seats that Labour already holds, opposition to the deterrent is stronger among the target 106 than the overall pool, at 80 per cent. The Labour PPCs in Labour's target seats who are against the deterrent include Alex Sobel, a longstanding ally of Ed Miliband, who says:

I believe in a Nuclear Free World and believe we should put our weapons up for decommissioning at an international convention, encouraging others to do the same. I do not believe it is enough for the UK to disarm alone and we should use our position and Labour’s willingness to disarm to encourage others to do so. The next Labour government will conduct a Strategic Defence and Security Review, and this should consider the possibilities and implications of scrapping and not replacing Trident. I believe that to be the minimum position. If elected as MP for Leeds NW, I would certainly be arguing for Trident decommissioning in that post-election review. When the next Labour government attends the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York, it will be supporting a nuclear weapons convention or ban, similar to those for chemical or biological weapons? That is exactly my own position.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the nature of her opponent, Purna Sen, Labour's candidate in Caroline Lucas' seat of Brighton Pavilion, is also opposed to maintaining the nuclear deterrent. She says:

My father joined the Aldermaston marches in the early 1960s and he introduced me to CND as a child. I grew up understanding the danger of nuclear weapons. The end of the cold war and the nature of modern conflicts confirm both their danger and irrelevance. Activists and brave governments have moved us away from other weapons of mass destruction. We now need a brave and forward looking government that will act to deliver a world free of nuclear weapons. I will continue to oppose these weapons as an MP, including Trident.

Even if Labour were to make only small gains, the unilateralist cause will be much stronger than in this parliament, even allowing for the likely defeat of longstanding anti-nuclear MPs in Scottish seats, such as Katy Clark and Ian Davidson. Nancy Platts, the PPC for Brighton Kemptown, regarded as low-hanging fruit by party insiders, and Catherine West, the PPC for Hornsey and Wood Green, which the party expects to win even if it loses the national contest by a heavy margin, both say they will vote against renewing the deterrent. Ms West says:

We live in an increasingly complex world where, now, more than ever, peaceful solutions to conflict are urgently needed. We can no longer spend the large amounts of public money on expensive weaponry. Some progress has been made in recent years to dissuade world powers from resorting to the production of nuclear weapons. We have an opportunity now to highlight the progress that has been made towards negotiation and the use of politics and diplomacy in resolving conflict. However, I believe we need to achieve nuclear disarmament once and for all. I support a global ban on such weapons as part of our commitment to nuclear disarmament, as was successful with other weapons of mass destruction such as chemical and biological weapons. I will oppose the replacement of Trident if elected as an MP.

Labour's support for maintaining a nuclear deterrent that is constantly at sea - in other words, a submarine system similar to Trident rather than pared-down version - was passed by the party's National Policy Forum without opposition and will remain in the manifesto. Passing the commitment through the House of Commons after the next election may prove a somewhat trickier ask. 

 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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