Thursday, 9 April 2015

It's a Bomb

Congratulations to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and the Scrap Trident Campaign. Two tiny organisations that have pushed over the Goliath of Government and made Trident the issue of the day.

CND's total campaigning budget in 2013 was £295,968. Scrap Trident is a coalition of 15 groups including Scottish CND, the Scottish Green Party and Quakers in Scotland. Most of the work of most of the 15 groups is carried out by volunteers. For comparison, the Ministry of Defence budget is around £35 billion. Financially, that is David in one corner with one very tiny 100 gram pebble, and Goliath in the other with a boulder weighing twelve tonnes.

This is a case study in commitment, planning and campaigning strategies. It might also illustrate how people with a firm (in some cases faith-based) belief can eventually topple a global power. CND, founded in 1958 with an Easter march to the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston near Reading, has played a long, slow game. At many points (this writer has been on many CND marches) the campaign seemed hopeless because it was the impotent little people against the huge geopolitical forces of the US, of the Cold War, and of the UK's so, so expensive seat on the UN Security Council. The Scrap Trident Coalition is much more recent, and is a cleverly designed one-issue lobbying campaign with a published list of supporters including many MSPs, writers (Noam Chomsky is one) trades unions and communities.

The campaigns have focused on gathering a wide range of groups around them, and on capturing individual MPs. They are now old enough to have nurtured some of today's leaders; famously, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been a supporter of CND since her youth.

Now that long slow burn appears to be paying off. Trident has become an issue in this election, with candidates in the SNP, Greens and Plaid Cymru all stating their opposition to its renewal. An army of lobbyists funded by the defence industry will be deployed after May 7th to persuade the new Government to renew, but it is at least possible that the next Government will scrap the bomb.

The implications go well beyond the simple removal of a nuclear cloud over Glasgow. The "deputy-sheriff" role to the US military, a seat on the UN Security Council, the old colonial power, now toothless... 

Removing one horrible piece of military hardware will help the nations of the British Isles to come to terms with a new place in a different, safer, world.

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