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Support London CND: a message from our Vice-President Catherine West MP

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It’s been a busy year, and with activities in the pipeline, our Vice President Catherine West MP is appealing for financial support for London CND’s work in future: ‘Thank you to everyone who's played a part in London CND’s work this year. I’ve enjoyed meeting many of you at our annual conference and Hiroshima Day film show – a terrible reminder of why we do what we do. And what good news it was to get recognition of this with the Nobel Peace Prize award. I write to share some of our plans for the year ahead, and ask you to make a financial contribution towards London CND’s work.


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Hiroshima Day 2018

 Raised Voices choir performing at our ceremony

Raised Voices choir performing at our ceremony

London CND held our annual ceremony to commemorate the victims of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Monday 6th August. In a powerful and moving ceremony, we heard from a range of speakers and and performers, and were joined by around 100 attendees. 

Councillor Maryam Eslamdoust, the Deputy Mayor of Camden, lay a wreath at the memorial tree, and we were sent a message from the Mayor of Tower Hamlets which you can read below, alongside the statement from the Mayor of Hiroshima which was read out by Shigeo Kobayashi at the ceremony.


Statement from the Mayor of Tower Hamlets

The 6th of August is an important point of reflection each year, where we take the time to remember the terrible events of World War 2, particularly Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

This day is marked around the world as a vital moment to pause, reflect, and think about how we can all work together to avoid and agree to prevent such events in the future. This has become increasingly important in a world which can sometime feel ever more fragmented.

The last century also marked an increased targeting, particularly with modern and more powerful weapons and particularly those able to strike remotely, of urban populations in war.

The events of 1945 feel increasingly distant as each year passes, yet we must not forget them. They are a reminder of what can happen in the darkest of days, and a reminder that we must always strive for peace.

- Cllr John Biggs Mayor of Tower Hamlets


Statement from the Mayor of Hiroshima

It’s 73 years ago and a Monday morning, just like today. With the mid-summer sun already blazing, Hiroshima starts another day. Please listen to what I say next as if you and your loved ones were there. At 8:15 comes a blinding flash. A fireball more than a million degrees Celsius releases intense radiation, heat, and then, a tremendous blast. Below the roiling mushroom cloud, innocent lives are snuffed out as the city is obliterated.“I’m so hot! It’s killing me!” From under collapsed houses, children scream for their mothers.

“Water! Please, water!” come moans and groans from the brink of death. In the foul stench of burning people, victims wander around like ghosts, their flesh peeled and red. Black rain fell all around. The scenes of hell burnt into their memories and the radiation eating away at their minds and bodies are even now sources of pain for hibakusha who survive.

Today, with more than 14,000 nuclear warheads remaining, the likelihood is growing that what we saw in Hiroshima after the explosion that day will return, by intent or accident, plunging people into agony.

The hibakusha, based on their intimate knowledge of the terror of nuclear weapons, are ringing an alarm against the temptation to possess them. Year by year, as hibakusha decrease in number, listening to them grows ever more crucial. One hibakusha who was 20 says, “If nuclear weapons are used, every living thing will be annihilated. Our beautiful Earth will be left in ruins. World leaders should gather in the A-bombed cities, encounter our tragedy, and, at a minimum, set a course toward freedom from nuclear weapons. I want human beings to become good stewards of creation capable of abolishing nuclear weapons.” He asks world leaders to focus their reason and insight on abolishing nuclear weapons so we can treasure life and avoid destroying the Earth.

Last year, the Nobel Peace Prize went to ICAN, an organization that contributed to the formation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Thus, the spirit of the hibakusha is spreading through the world. On the other hand, certain countries are blatantly proclaiming self-centered nationalism and modernizing their nuclear arsenals, rekindling tensions that had eased with the end of the Cold War.

Another hibakusha who was 20 makes this appeal: “I hope no such tragedy ever happens again. We must never allow ours to fade into the forgotten past. I hope from the bottom of my heart that humanity will apply our wisdom to making our entire Earth peaceful.” If the human family forgets history or stops confronting it, we could again commit a terrible error. That is precisely why we must continue talking about Hiroshima. Efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons must continue based on intelligent actions by leaders around the world.

Nuclear deterrence and nuclear umbrellas flaunt the destructive power of nuclear weapons and seek to maintain international order by generating fear in rival countries. This approach to guaranteeing long-term security is inherently unstable and extremely dangerous. World leaders must have this reality etched in their hearts as they negotiate in good faith the elimination of nuclear arsenals, which is a legal obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Furthermore, they must strive to make the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons a milestone along the path to a nuclear-weapon-free world.

We in civil society fervently hope that the easing of tensions on the Korean Peninsula will proceed through peaceable dialogue. For leaders to take courageous actions, civil society must respect diversity, build mutual trust, and make the abolition of nuclear weapons a value shared by all humankind. Mayors for Peace, now with more than 7,600 member cities around the world, will focus on creating that environment.

I ask the Japanese government to manifest the magnificent pacifism of the Japanese Constitution in the movement toward the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by playing its proper role, leading the international community toward dialogue and cooperation for a world without nuclear weapons. In addition, I hereby demand an expansion of the black rain areas along with greater concern and improved assistance for the many people suffering the mental and physical effects of radiation, especially the hibakusha, whose average age is now over 82.

Today, we renew our commitment and offer sincere consolation to the souls of all A-bomb victims. Along with Nagasaki, the other A-bombed city, and with much of the world’s population, Hiroshima pledges to do everything in our power to achieve lasting world peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons.

- MATSUI Kazumi, Mayor, The City of Hiroshima

   August 6, 2018

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Programme of speakers from the ceremony

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You can view more photos from the ceremony here

July blog: hello from Lydia!

Hello there, this is your first blog from Lydia! You might have heard of me from Georgia’s blog entry last month. So onto introducing myself: I’m 17 (Year 12, going into Year 13), and I study English Literature, History, Government and Politics, and Religious Studies as my A levels, and I’m very passionate about issues of peace, equality, and social justice.

A while ago I contacted the London CND asking for the opportunity to complete a work experience placement, and –to my surprise-, they said yes!  So after weeks of tiring revision and sleep deprivation that is called exam season, I’m finally here! So far, I’ve had the opportunity to contribute to preparations for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki commemoration activities. In essence therefore, it’s been great! I’m also very excited for the upcoming contributions that I’ll be able to make during my time here.

What made you interested in the CND, you may wonder – and I shall answer. Well, I’ve been a competitive debater for around 4 years now, and although the issues we discuss are wide-ranging (from sports, to social policy, to international relations and economics), what remains their irremovable basis is the ways in which they affect people. Everyone- in ways in which you may not get to think about, until you’re sat down with 15minutes to prepare for a motion which you may not know a lot about, and you find yourself forced to think about stakeholders. There are always many more than you think. So this was my first step into social justice.

This newly critical view that I gained however, does not stop on the individual, regional, or social level. It’s important to care about stopping injustice whether it be down your own road caused by a racist, or across the world by a missile. I first heard of the CND back when I was still doing my GCSE in History, in which we covered its opposition to the Iraq War. The CND had demonstrated to me how holding beliefs that are absolute in protecting the people (whose voices are often muted), most often would result in the better situation. Ultimately, there aren’t many wars which truly yielded peace or justice.

I think therefore that an important step in making sure a message of peace and justice prevails, and is not completely separated from politics is engaging the youth in this. To say that the youth do not have valuable opinions would be a lie, but it is disillusionment that distances us from politics and making a change. We’re often idealistic and most frustrated with injustice, and we really exist! Although, I can say that the CND are making efforts in engaging the youth; for instance, the Peace Education Campaign, and willingly allowing me to join them. So with the importance of peace, justice, and youth engagement in mind, I will be sitting here, enjoying my front seat on giving my share of the effort!

45 Peace campaigners locked to railings at Parliament: video

45  peace campaigners locked on to the railings outside Parliament on Wednesday, with 40-50 supporters nearby.

The activists were highlighting the fact that the UK is refusing to enter into multi-lateral talks to begin the urgent process of eliminating nuclear weapons.

They support the current talks on the United Nations Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. 122 countries have supported this Treaty. 58 countries have signed the Treaty intending to ratify it later. Only 50 states need to ratify the Treaty for it to become law.

So far the UK, which could play a leading role, has refused to be present at the many preparatory round of negotiations.

For too long the British government has claimed that it would support multi-lateral moves for a nuclear free world. Now is the ideal opportunity for this.

The obsession to renew Trident – a misguided allegiance

London Region CND’s evening event on 2 May – “A conversation on social justice: where does nuclear disarmament fit in” – was introduced by Georgia Elander, London CND’s staff member. A platform shared by one of CND’s Vice Presidents, and campaigners from two different political spectrums ensured a lively debate.

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Georgia touched on the interesting times that we are currently living in at home and abroad. There’s the possible denuclearisation of North Korea plus progress with the UN global ban treaty. We have a lifelong CND member as leader of the Labour Party, yet there is deadlock on the issue on much of the left.

The idealistic position taken by young people on the early Aldermaston marches is not really seen nowadays, and we need to find ways to engage young people to be active in the nuclear disarmament movement.

Amelia Womack, Deputy Leader of the Green Party, argued that ‘the nuclear deterrent’ makes it sound like something it isn’t. Other countries – non-nuclear countries – have enjoyed the same level of peace and security that we have. Government austerity has decimated our public services. Trade unions talk about jobs in the nuclear industry, but these are not the best jobs in the world, and it is perfectly feasible to transfer skills into other sectors, such as renewables.

Amelia talked about the obsession to renew Trident, describing it as a misguided allegiance. Is it really strong to press a button to kill thousands of people? Decades upon decades of people defending nuclear weapons has somehow seeped into people’s consciousness so that it is considered the norm, and we need a cross-party approach to tackle the dangers of nuclear power and nuclear energy. “It’s not just about political parties, it’s about political movements.” The government needs to come clean about its defence policy – for example, is the Hinkley power station going to pay for Trident or will we all pay for Trident through our electricity bills?

Young people seem very distanced from the nuclear atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which did not even happen in their parents’ lifetimes. Amelia concluded by saying that we are living in an age of quite violent nationalism, with moral judgements being made that affect all our lives.

Ian Chamberlain, anti-nuclear campaigner, started by talking about President Trump’s tweets over the past year and the way he has been ratcheting up tension and asked whether we felt safer by having Trident.

As a Labour Party member, Ian wants the movement to promote trust, cooperation and solidarity across the world; yet nuclear weapons are antithetical to that. We can’t advocate social justice while holding onto nuclear weapons: the people who advocate war and nuclear weapons are the same people who are responsible for growing levels of inequality, such as advocating privatisation of the NHS.

Although 53 per cent of Labour Party members oppose Trident, there are deeply entrenched sections of the Party who remain in favour, even with Jeremy Corbyn as leader. We also have the challenge of government hypocrisy: while it claims to support multilateral nuclear disarmament in theory, it has actually in practice done absolutely nothing to engage with the UN treaty to ban nuclear weapons multilaterally. Yet even Jeremy Corbyn cannot say in public that the Labour Party would sign up to the treaty. Ian argued that we must not accept this logic. Millions of people voted for Jeremy, who had made his position on nuclear weapons crystal clear.

We also need to question the so-called special relationship between the UK and the USA. Trump wants to tear up the Iran deal, but we cannot accept the establishment view on this. When the Labour Party gets into government it needs to be much more ambitious. We want a government of social justice, and this has to start by abolishing nuclear weapons. Ian said that when a Prime Minister goes to war, it is the most heinous thing and it is at that point (as with Blair and May) that they lose their humanity.

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Bruce Kent, Vice President of London Region CND, started off with a history lesson about how we got nuclear weapons in the first place. He made the connection between war, nuclear weapons and social justice - comparing the world’s total defence budget with the amount it would cost to eradicate world hunger. Trident only feeds national vanity, and people don’t make the connection between this obscene military expenditure and the money we need for our public services.

Bruce quoted from the preamble to the 1945 Charter of the United Nations: “We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and[…] to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom…”

Introducing London CND’s Vice Presidents

We pleased to announce that three well-known Londoners – Bruce Kent, Jenny Jones and Catherine West – have agreed to take up honorary positions as our Vice Presidents. They will be helping attract support and increase interest in nuclear disarmament among Londoners in the months ahead.

Bruce Kent needs little introduction. Ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1958, Bruce became a monsignor before he left the priesthood in 1987 to take a more active role campaigning on some of the issues closest to his heart. Our ‘meddlesome priest’ was already a prominent opponent of nuclear weapons, as CND’s General Secretary from 1980 to 1985, then Chair for three years, and nowadays Honorary Vice President of CND UK. In his spare time you’ll find him speaking at public meetings big and small across the capital and beyond.

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Jenny Jones settled in London in 1991. By way of contrast, Jenny had a wide range of jobs before rising to political prominence – from mucking out horse stables, through crafts teacher and office manager, to qualified archaeologist. A former Chair of the Green Party, she’s best known in London for her role as an elected member of the Greater London Assembly and as Deputy Mayor of London in 2003-4. Nowadays Jenny is Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, the first Green Party representative in the House of Lords from where she continues to campaign on the dangers of climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse emissions. Jenny took her title from the Brighton council estate she grew up on, she tells us, and despite becoming a peer of the realm has no car and still grows her own vegetables.

Catherine West is MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, a former leader of Islington Council – and proof positive of London’s cosmopolitan character. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Catherine took her master's degree in Chinese politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies and worked for a time in Nanjing. As a China expert and Mandarin speaker, she’s served on Labour’s front bench as Shadow Foreign Office Minister with responsibility for Asia Pacific. Catherine is a Quaker, which perhaps helps explain her trenchant opposition to Trident and frequent appearances on CND platforms. She also keeps a wary eye on UK arms sales from the benches of the Select Committee on Arms Export Controls.

 

‘Plenty of time to recall parliament’ before Syria attack

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Speaking in the emergency debate on Syria, Catherine West MP argued there had been plenty of time for the Prime Minister to recall parliament to debate a military attack on Syria. Reminding the government that the ‘dodgy dossier’ on Iraq has haunted political debates for years, she said:

The role of parliament is important because there is an element of having to persuade not only one another but the country of our views, our principles and our ideas. That is an important principle that came out of the very lengthy Chilcot inquiry.…Today, we have to reflect on what we have learned from the report, not just about the importance of parliament and our role in scrutinising the Executive, but about two other key elements.

One of those involves the need for a plan. My hon Friend the Member for Wirral South [Alison McGovern MP, co-chair All Party Friends of Syria group – ed] made a fantastic speech yesterday in which she mentioned the cross-party group on Syria and its steadfast commitment to the Syrian people. She spoke about the importance of having a plan, and one of the sticking points over the past week has been the lack of a sense of what we should do next. There has been a sense of ‘this feels fine for this weekend, but what happens next?’

The second element is the need for high-quality intelligence and evidence. This goes back to what was crudely referred to as the ‘dodgy dossier’, which has haunted us in our political debates from many years. We still need to ask those questions. Many of us will make no apology for asking questions. That is our job as back-bench members, whatever role we might have…. there was plenty of time last week to recall parliament, and I wish that we had had yesterday’s debate—perhaps not with every single security detail—at that point.

Many of us could have taken losing a vote—or, indeed, winning a vote. Whatever might have happened with that vote, at least we would have done what we always do, which is to debate, to contend, to get cross, to get sad, or to get happy. We would have done what we do in this place and gone through the lobby to produce a result for the people we represent.

  • Catherine West MP discussed the UK attack on Syria on the BBC’s Daily Politics. Listen to what she had to say here

Syria shows the need for a War Powers Act

Following Theresa May’s decision that Britain would participate on an attack on Syria, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for a Wars Powers Act so that governments are held to account by parliament for what they do in our name. He called for the UK government, through the UN, to take a diplomatic lead to negotiate a ceasefire in the Syrian conflict