Ellie Kinney, founder of the Goldsmiths campaign for nuclear disarmament society, tells us why the UK should scrap the Trident programme.
“I can assure you that this Government is committed to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons,” writes Nigel Evans, conservative MP for my home constituency Ribble Valley, in reply to my letter inquiring how, in the midst of austerity and cuts to vital resources, our government could pay out £100 billion on new nuclear weapons. Trident, our current nuclear weapons system, consists of 4 submarines, each carrying up to 8 missiles, each containing 5 nuclear bombs. Each of these bombs could cause destruction and devastation eight times greater than the bomb that shattered Hiroshima in 1945, killing over 140,000 people.
When 1 in 5 people in the UK live below the official poverty line, how can £100 billion be thrown away on a defence system stuck in Cold War mentality? Money that would otherwise be spent on:
- Enough wind turbines to power all UK households,
- 5 million affordable homes,
- Funding for A&E services for over 40 years, or
- Scrapping tuition fees for 4 million students.
But don’t we need Trident? Doesn’t it keep us safe? Trident was designed as a replacement for Polaris, Britain’s previous nuclear weapons system from 1968, which was created to protect us against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. However, in 2015 this threat is no longer present. We may face aggressive threats of behaviour from certain countries, but nowhere near the point of needing a £100 billion nuclear defence system. A major argument against Trident is that it’s not suited to combat the modern threat of international terrorism and if we must spend £100 billion on defence, then logic would suggest we spend it on something more appropriate to that threat. These submarines will reach the end of their lives in 2028, and whilst this seems like very far in the future, the final decision on whether to replace Trident will take place in 2016.
The Scrap Trident campaign has been set up by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and is reaching a vital point with the general election looming. The next government will have a huge impact on the future of Britain’s relationship with nuclear weapons as well as international relations. We must ask every political party just how committed to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons they really are. It’s not shocking to question how a government, supposedly against nuclear weapons, could justify spending £37 million in November alone on materials for the potential Trident replacement, materials to launch destructive missiles from submarines that have not yet been built or even authorised by parliament. It took thousands of emails from CND supporters to MPs to finally make our government join 150 other countries to discuss the obvious humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons – this shows that people can make a difference.
On Saturday 24th January, I invite you to join us in sending out a clear message to our government that we pick people, healthcare, jobs and education over Trident. Join CND, Action AWE and Wool Against Weapons (knitters, unite!) in linking government and parliament buildings in a peace scarf knitted by thousands of supporters, followed by a rally in Parliament Square.
We will also be launching the newly established Goldsmiths CND Society on Monday 19th January with an event from Goldsmiths CND, Green Party and Stop The War societies, including guest speakers Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, and Kate Hudson, general secretary of CND. See posters or Facebook for more details!