Monday, 26 September 2016

Armed with nukes in the "conference chamber"?

The major headline from Labour's UK conference in Liverpool on Monday will no doubt be John Mcdonnell's pledge that a labour government will raise the living wage to 10 pounds, a welcome and progressive measure we should all support. In economically deprived parts of the UK like the south wales valleys and the north east of england too many employers get away with paying the basic mimumum wage, leaving many people in work still well below the poverty line. Of course it's one thing to adopt a living wage but it's another thing to enforce it, and the current tory government at westminister has unsurprisingly failed miserably in that task. Enforcing a living wage is something a Corbyn government would have to address if its going to make real a dent in the huge numbers of the working poor.

Equally welcome were pledges to abolish the tories Trade Union act, a promise to ban fracking and to embark on a large scale public investment programme. Course to enact any of its radical economic programme Jeremy Corbyn's labour is going to have to win a british general in the first place - no easy task under first past the post (but the unfair electoral system the UK parliament at Westminister uses for elections is a matter for another post).

Sad to report however that some of John Mcdonnell's good work was undone later on by the frankly extraordinary speech given by Labour's defence spokesperson Clive Lewis. The MP for norwich south and former Sandhurst trained army officer announced that labour was committed to maintaining the costly trident nuclear submarine programme and furthermore that a future labour government would match the tories commitment to spending 2% of the UK's GDP on defence. He also went out of his way to reaffirm labour's support for NATO, lavishing praise on the US led military alliance.

To say Clive Lewis speech was a disappointment would be a massive understatement and both the Greens and CND rightly condemned Lewis's pledge on Trident - in a speech which frankly could have been made by any labour defence spokesperson under Tony B-liar. The case against renewing trident is overwhelming and is ironically a case Jeremy Corbyn has made many times in recent years. It's cost is exorbitant - 100 billion and rising - and of course it could never be used well not unless a future British PM wanted to unleash a nuclear holocaust. It wasnt for nothing that scores of former UK defence chiefs lined up to oppose Trident's renewal last year. No one is going to invade our beloved island - nuclear weapons serve no purpose at all. And just why a Corbyn led government would maintain cold war levels of defence spending is hard to fathom - even tory George Osbourne watered down that commitment on 2% of GDP while he was still chancellor.

And Clive Lewis's impromptu fawning over NATO was a particularly depressing spectacle. NATO was set up primarily to pursue and preserve US military and economic interests in europe after the second world war. It was under the umbrella of NATO that the US has been able to station hundreds of thousands of troops and missiles - sometime nuclear ones - all over europe. NATO is an aggressive military alliance with a first strike nuclear policy. It was under this same NATO umbrella that the Reagan administration drew up plans to conduct a 'limited nuclear war' in europe in the 1980s.The thinking behind this insane idea being that parts of western europe would be sacrificed and incinerated in order to allow the US the opportunity to nuke the Kremlin and much of the soviet union. 

While since the cold war ended NATO forces have particpated in the illegal invasion of iraq and the equally disastrous intervention in libya. Perhaps worst all NATO forces dropped cluster bombs on Serbia in 1999 - or rather the RAF did as part of nato - another war crime which tony blair seems to have avoided being held to account for. So leaving NATO should be a given for any progressive political movement in the UK and in Europe. Interestingly and historically speaking nuclear weapons and membership of NATO were the issues closest to the hearts of what used to be mischievously called the CIA wing of the labour party ie the grouping of right wing labour mps in the 1960s who it later transpired were funded by the CIA and some of whom went on to launch the breakaway SDP in the early 1980s.

News emerged tonite that Clive Lewis wanted to be even more gung ho on trident and related issues but was prevented from doing so at the last moment - much to Lewis's chagrin - by Jeremy Corbyn's office. Frankly it would have been better if they'd ripped Clive Lewis's speech up in its entirety - in the form it went out it could have been written by someone in the Pentagon.

Emily Thornberry Labour's shadow foreign secretary who co-authoured Labour's defence 'review' with Clive Lewis later tried to put a gloss on the decision to maintain Trident by making reference to Nye Bevan's about-turn on the subject of nuclear weapons at the 1957 labour party conference. But it's the sad examples of Nye Bevan - and Neil Kinnock - which show that abandoning deeply held beliefs on nuclear disarmament and embracing nukes has never done anyone on the left any good.

And the really depressing thing is that 60 years after Nye's infamous and frankly tragic climbdown at Brighton people are still putting forward the same discredited case for so called 'multilateral nuclear disarmament'. Meanwhile there are more nuclear weapons in the world than ever before and more and more countries are acquiring nuclear weapons than ever before. So why not give unilateralism a try? Things could hardly get any worse! Because let's face it multilateral nuclear disarmament means no nuclear disarmament.


It has been pointed out to me by one very irate Corbynista that despite the decision of the Labour conference both Jeremy Corbyn and John Mcdonnell personally remain very much opposed to trident and will still campaign against its renewal. Amen to that.

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