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.