Thursday, 28 May 2015

UK wrecks nuclear conference by backing Israeli nuclear WMDs over meeting disarmament obligations

In the UK Government’s official statement of 23 May on the conclusion of the 190-member state Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT Review conference that finished at the United Nations in New York on 22 May, Tobias Ellwood, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister responsible for international security said that NPT is “vitally important for the international community as a whole” and has  played an “unparalleled role” in curtailing the nuclear arms race. He added that  “despite the best efforts of the UK and others, this year’s Review Conference was unable to agree a substantive outcome. (
But what he omitted was the reason for failure. This  directly arose because the United Kingdom  disgracefully joined Canada  in backing  the United States in blocking the  final NPT Review conference  declaration because it  promoted a nuclear free zone in the middle east,  as championed by Egypt.
In pig-headed fashion, UK blocked the consensus agreement  in support of Israel  which opposes Egypt’s proposals, even though Israel  is not even a party to the NPT.
The other option for the UK was to  join with 107 NPT member states who called in New York  for a nuclear weapons ban, which is widely supported  by civil society groups led by the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
Instead, the UK obsession with nuclear WMDs over its NPT nuclear disarmament obligations was a  significant contributing cause  in wrecking a month-long diplomatic conference. Well done atomic aficionados, you myopic fools: the British people salute you!

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Hope lies in resurrecting middle east WMD-free zone post NPT failure

Letter sent to the New York Times on 23 May
Re: “Dispute Over Mideast Nuclear Arms Ban Torpedoes U.N. Conference” (May 23)

It is politically perverse that the month-long review conference on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ended in failure on Friday because of disagreements over Israel, a nation which is not even a member of the NPT.

You report that the United States delegation to the conference held at the U.N. headquarters in New York blamed on Egypt, with Under Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller accusing Egypt and other Arab states of bringing "unrealistic and unworkable conditions" to the negotiations.

Before diplomatic despair sets in, may I draw attention to the Paris Summit of Mediterranean countries, held on 13 July 2008, under the co-presidency of the French Republic and the Arab Republic of Egypt, and importantly in the presence of Israel, which was represented by its then Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, the issue of peace within the region were explored in depth, and the final declaration stated the participants were  in favour of:

"regional security by acting in favour of nuclear, chemical and biological non-proliferation through adherence to and compliance with a combination of international and regional nonproliferation regimes and arms control and disarmament agreements.."

The final document went on to say:
"The parties shall pursue a mutually and effectively verifiable Middle East Zone free of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical and biological, and their delivery systems. Furthermore the parties will consider practical steps to ….promote conditions likely to develop good-neighbourly relations among themselves and support processes aimed at stability, security"


I think hope lies in resurrecting this agreement.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Professing ingnorance over nuclear disarmament

This letter was sent to the Times on 17 May:

Professor emeritus of Strategic Studies, Colin Gray, berated the Scottish National Party (SNP) for “spouting dangerous nonsense” in SNP’s opposition to Trident.(“SNP and Trident, letter, May 16).
But the SNP has many hitherto unsuspected allies in its support for nuclear disarmament.
Conservative defence secretary, Michael Fallon, told MPs in a Parliamentary debate on Trident in held on 20 January this year:
“we also share the vision of a world that is without nuclear weapons, achieved through multilateral disarmament.” (emphasis added) (
Shortly after, on 6 February, a statement was issued by the Permanent Five (P5) nuclear–armed members of the United Nations Security council (US, UK, Russia, France and China) after a meeting hosted by the Foreign Office in London that :  
the P5 reflected on the contribution that the P5 Process has made in developing the mutual confidence and transparency among the P5 that is essential to make progress towards multilateral nuclear disarmament…The P5 reaffirmed that a step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament that promotes international stability, peace and undiminished and increased security for all remains the only realistic and practical route to achieving a world without nuclear weapons.”
More recently, late last month in New York, in her address to the 9th United Nations  quinquennial review conference (RevCon)  of the 190-member state Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), when it opened at the UN for a month-long meeting (on 27 April) Foreign Office minister, Baroness Anelay of St Johns, told the conference plenary on Monday27 April :
 “Let me be clear: the UK is here to negotiate in good faith, and we will continue to strive to build the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. That is why we are making parallel progress on the building blocks for global nuclear disarmament.”
These words followed those of US President  Obama,, who told the NPT RevCon delegates in a message read by US Secretary of State John Kerry also read a message from President Obama to the Conference in which he stressed:
 “We have not yet achieved the ultimate goals enshrined in the Treaty—on this, we all agree—but it is only by seeking common ground and reinforcing shared interests that we will succeed in realizing a world free of nuclear dangers.”
I think all of these senior politicians - from right and liberal wings of politics - cannot be collectively wrong about nuclear disarmament. I think it is Professor Gray who is out of touch, not the SNP, over Trident.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Time for better scrutiny in the Westminster Parliament

Guardian Parliamentary sketch writer John Crace's wrote a 5000 plus word essay on Thursday("The Long read, Welcome to the Bubble," 14 May, providing an insider's guide to the Westminster Parliament.(
It was very much written from the perspective of a sketch writer, proving colour and texture to the sometimes baffling and arcane ways of Westminster, as his predecessor, the inimitable Simon Hoggart, undoubtedly the doyenne of sketch-writing, did so well on The Guardian's politics  pages for decades.

Crace makes a few small errors, such as describing MPs' researchers and assistants as SPADs, whereas SPADS (Special Advisors) are only employed by Cabinet ministers.

But his biggest error, based on my own thirty year practical involvement in Parliament is to miss the faults and foibles of both government backbenchers and opposition MPs trying to scrutinize Government policy, and keep ministers to account.

This is less done in the theatrical Prime Minister's questions or ministerial question times (fun for sketch-writers and sound bites, hopeless for policy challenges), but in select committees and in legislative scrutiny committees, which although to non-specialists may  come across as dull, are essential to ensure poorly-worded bills, or unintended consequences of proposed legislation, are challenged and importantly, changed.

In addition, MPs' written questions to ministers are important, as ministers cannot dismiss their content with rhetorical flourishes they tend to employ in the debating chamber when facing oral questions, and rules require them to be factual. Their problem is ministers can -and do - answer questions they have not been asked, thus wasting time and taxpayers' money or ignore inconvenient parts of questions that have.

Both the Speaker and procedure committee need to clamp down on this abuse of Parliament by ministers, which became an epidemic of contempt for Parliament in the closing months of the last Parliament. And the media  needs to pay more attention to this essential Parliamentary scrutiny, and report it

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Ignorant Cameron insults bravery of 27 million slain Russians

In an interview with Sunday's Channel Four News at weekend commemorations in London to mark the 70th anniversary of the Second World War, Mr Cameron observed to interviewer, Matt Frei, "The United Kingdom stood alone against Hitler."
This is an appallingly ignorant and insulting thing to say, considering the Soviet Union lost 27 million of its citizens in the battle to defeat the Nazis. Such ignorance compounds the fact the UK refused to send a senior political representative to Moscow for Russia's own commemorations, due to petty diplomatic differences.
This sends a very poor and ill-considered message Russia as the Conservatives begin majority government.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Dumping Trident: don't take no for an answer!


In his resignation speech as Labour leader this lunchtime, Ed Miliband said: “The course of progress and social justice is never simple or straightforward. Change happens because people don’t give up, they don’t take no for an answer, they keep demanding change.” (

He is right. So it must be with the absolute need  to change Labour’s misguided support of the Trident nuclear WMD system.

As the Labour Party begins its inquest into the catastrophic meltdown in Scotland, there is one positive political choice it can make: it should change its leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, amongst the vanquished at the polls, who until being inexplicably elected to this role last year considering his macho pro-nuclear weapons views, was the party’s shadow defence secretary.

As such, he was a staunch cheerleader for spending 100 billion of taxpayers’ money on replacing the Trident nuclear WMD system, and made this a key stone of the Scottish Labour campaign strategy.

This lemming –like approach ran into the staunch opposition by the very effectively-led SNP, whose leader Nicola Sturgeon argued time and time again in both the referendum and general election campaign against Trident and its renewal.

The Scottish Labour campaign disenfranchised many excellent Labour candidates, such as former MPs Katy Clark and Cathy Jamieson, who opposed wasting scarce money on Trident, but nevertheless lost to SNP challengers whose party fully backed this sensible stance. Ian Murray, the only Scottish Labour candidate to be elected, was noticeably an overt and vociferous opponent of Trident.(

When Labour MPs gather, bruised, at Westminster, they should reverse Labour’s mad support for multibillion pound nuclear killing machines- and with SNP partners -  force the Conservative defence secretary to implement what  pre-election Tory defence secretary, Michael Fallon, told MPs in a  Parliamentary debate on Trident in January, when he said:

“we also share the vision of a world that is without nuclear weapons, achieved through multilateral disarmament.” (emphasis added) (

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Labour's love lost

  letter  to the The Guardian on 6 May

Labour peer Lord Prescott suggests voting Labour rather than Green to achieve strong UK governmental representation at the climate change  negotiations in Paris later this year. ("Only Labour is able to protect our future letter," 6 May

I have voted for Labour  many times, and seen its senior politicians bit -by- bit abandon sensible policies to counter climate change ie a  country-wide energy conservation and energy efficiency programme, investment in renewable energy and construction of "zero carbon" buildings.

But firstly under the influence of David Miliband as environment secretary and foreign secretary, and subsequently his brother, Ed as energy and climate change secretary, Labour turned its back on this sustainable energy strategy to  support the unsustainable, very expensive, dangerous and unnecessary   energy policy dominated by a massively taxpayer-subsidised nuclear energy programme.

In the past five years in opposition  shadow energy secretary, Caroline Flint's speeches on energy policy have been  barely distinguishable from media  hand-outs from nuclear promoter, the French Government owned  EDF Energy, who have sought guarantees and subsidies for their exorbitantly expensive reactors, all backed by ordinary electricity bill-payers ( whom Labour claim to want to protect) and  hard-working  taxpayers.

Nuclear power is irrelevant in combatting climate, change as its contribution or overall national energy supply is less than 3%, but it totally distorts  the budgets for real sustainable strategies.

Lord Prescott, who once swam down the Thames opposite Parliament to highlight the dangers of nuclear waste dumped at seas, is right the Green Party will not be our government at the Paris talks, but wrong that a vote for the Green Party, especially in Brighton Pavilion for Caroline Lucas, will do little to bring about a an ambitious deal in Paris.

Dr Lucas was the most assiduous advocate of sustainable  energy  strategies in the last Parliament, despite being outnumbered by hundreds of Labour MPs;  Labour would do  well to listen to her wise counsel in the next.

This view is supported by  many environmentalists of all parties and none

Only Labour is able to protect our future
Guardian letters, 6 May 2015
It is understandable that Caroline Lucas would urge readers to vote Green (Letters, 5 May). However, what she has not said is that a vote for the Green party will do little to bring about an ambitious global agreement to tackle climate change. Within months of the polls closing on Thursday, world leaders will gather in Paris at the conference of parties to adopt an agreement that must set the world on a path towards limiting global temperature increases to two degrees. That agreement can be negotiated only by the next prime minister. If Caroline Lucas goes to Paris it will be to protest, not to negotiate.
The real choice, therefore, is between David Cameron, who long ago abandoned his promise to lead the “greenest government ever” and has taken to referring to environmental policies as “green crap”; and Ed Miliband, who, as secretary of state for climate change, brought in the first national piece of legislation in the world to set legally binding targets to reduce carbon emissions (an approach that is now being replicated around the world) and, as leader, has committed to making climate change one of the highest priorities for a Labour government.
The important point for voters to bear in mind is that it will be the next prime minister, not the Green party, who will be negotiating on behalf of the UK in December. Miliband has committed a Labour government to pushing for an ambitious agreement in Paris, with a goal of net-zero global emissions in the second half of this century. The best way, therefore, for voters to tell world leaders that they support urgent and ambitious action to tackle climate change is to elect a Labour government.
John Prescott
Labour, House of Lords

To get Greens, you need to vote Green
Guardian letters, 5 May 2015
Your editorial (2 May) recommending a Labour vote at the general election acknowledges that “it would be good to hear Green voices in Westminster to press further on climate change and sustainability”. I agree - which is why I’d urge your readers to vote Green.  The Greens are the only nationwide party to commit to urgent and ambitious action on climate change, and we have been almost alone in championing the very fossil fuel divestment movement the Guardian has acknowledged is so critically important.
Not only that. A group of leading academics, Academics Stand Against Poverty, has analysed the different party manifestos from the perspective of poverty eradication and concluded that “none of the main parties, except the Greens, have an effective strategy to address poverty at this election. The Greens seem to consistently propose innovative policies to address long-standing public policy challenges.”
Moreover, when it comes to safeguarding our precious NHS, I was privileged to be the MP who introduced the NHS reinstatement bill in parliament a few months ago - a bill that goes far further than Labour in not only repealing the government’s Health and Social Care Act 2012, but also in reversing the past 25 years of marketisation in our health service.
And since neither of the bigger parties is on course to win anything like an overall majority, the role of the smaller parties will be more important than ever. Greens have been clear that we would never prop up a Tory government, but that we would support a minority Labour government on a case-by-case basis – and would never support a vote of no confidence in it. If people want to hear to continue to hear Green voices at Westminster, it’s crucial they vote for them on Thursday.
Caroline Lucas
Green candidate, Brighton Pavilion

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Nuclear disarmament tops debate agenda…in New York, not in UK

“For over 45 years, the NPT has embodied our shared vision of a world without nuclear weapons…There are no shortcuts in this endeavor, and each step must be carefully taken to ensure that the security of all is increased along the way. We have not yet achieved the ultimate goals enshrined in the treaty – on this, we all agree – but it is only by seeking common ground and reinforcing shared interests that we will succeed in realizing a world free of nuclear dangers. …. When I was a young man, fresh out of college and newly minted in the Navy, I was sent to train at the Nuclear Chemical Biological warfare school. And I learned in graphic detail about what nuclear war would look like, about the damage that weapons of mass destruction can inflict. I learned about throw weights and circles of probable damage. And I learned about radiation – not just the immediate harm, but the long-term trauma that it can cause. And when I considered the huge number of nuclear weapons that we were living with back then – late 1960s – I was left with only one conclusion: This defies all reason…… Thankfully, I was and am today far from alone in that assessment. The vast majority of the world has come to the conclusion – united around the belief that nuclear weapons should one day be eliminated… Can we really create a future in which nuclear weapons exist only within the pages of history books? The answer is yes.”

Those were the words of US Secretary of State John Kerry, in his address to the 9th  United Nations  quinquennial review conference (RevCon)  of the 190-member state Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), when it opened at the UN for a month-long meeting on 27 April.

Secretary Kerry also read a message from President Obama to the Conference in which he stressed:

“We have not yet achieved the ultimate goals enshrined in the Treaty—on this, we all agree—but it is only by seeking common ground and reinforcing shared interests that we will succeed in realizing a world free of nuclear dangers. Over the next few weeks and beyond the time of this conference, let us come together in a spirit of partnership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, advance the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and continue our journey on the path to peace and security.”

(Secretary of State John Kerry, Remarks at the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference,

On the next day, the United States Government released new information about the size of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. (“Obama Administration Releases New Nuclear Warhead Numbers; April 28, 2015,   Hans M. Kristensen, an analyst for the respected Federation of American Scientists, explained in a recent blog posting..

Kerry updated the Department of Defense nuclear stockpile history by declaring that the stockpile as of September 2014 included 4,717 nuclear warheads, ie  a reduction of 87 warheads since September 2013, when the DOD stockpile  had  included 4,804 warheads. This comprise  a reduction of about 500 warheads retired since President Obama took office in January 2009.

Kerry also revealed for the first time the official number of retired nuclear warheads in line for dismantlement. As of September 2014, the United States had approximately 2,500 additional warheads that have been retired - but which are still relatively intact and deployable -  and awaiting dismantlement.

Moreover, Kerry also unveiled that the Obama administration “will seek to accelerate the dismantlement of retired nuclear warheads by 20%....” adding “Over the last 20 years alone, we have dismantled 10,251 warheads.”

All of this adds up to an important unilateral diplomatic gesture by Britain’s closest  political ally, which  also provides the UK with its nuclear missiles, warhead designs and calibrations,  and nuclear safety R&D support for Trident. It is a very important piece of international news. But not one word of it has appeared in the British print or broadcast media, as a range of key political issues has been deliberated and debated in the 2015 General Election Campaign.

Only Twitter has done this diplomatic development justice.

What does that say about the news values of the British media, which instead has swamped viewers, listeners and readers with hours and pages of political trivia and tittle tattle for weeks?

The issue of Trident has only been discussed in the media as part of the mischief-making over whether the Scottish National Party (SNP) , which opposes Trident and wants it dismantled, would cosy-up to Labour in a post- election political pact.

Publicly, the main political (biggest) parties have given the impression they all want to replace Trident with a vastly expensive - 100 billion pounds over its operational  lifetime- nuclear weapon of mass destruction: As CND summarized:

The Conservatives are committed to a four submarine replacement fleet operating around the clock – what’s become known as a 'like for like' replacement. They pledge, 'We will retain the Trident continuous at sea nuclear deterrent to provide the ultimate guarantee of our safety and build the new fleet of four Successor Ballistic Missile Submarines - securing thousands of highly-skilled engineering jobs in the UK.'
Labour's manifesto states its commitment to a new fleet, also operating round the clock, but has not said whether this will mean four new submarines – it’s possible the same level of patrol could work with three subs.
In Labour’s words,
‘it remains committed to a minimum, credible, independent nuclear capability, delivered through a Continuous At-Sea Deterrent. We will actively work to increase momentum on global multilateral disarmament efforts and negotiations, and look at further reductions in global stockpiles and the numbers of weapons.’
The Liberal Democrats, credited with the Coalition government’s decision to delay the Trident replacement decision to 2016, offer something different.
They would also develop a new nuclear weapons submarine fleet, but would take it off round the clock patrol,
by 'moving from continuous at sea deterrence to a contingency posture of regular patrols, enabling a surge to armed patrols when the international security context makes this appropriate'. This would allow them to 'reduce the UK nuclear warhead stockpile'. The Liberal Democrats have also stated they would be open to coalition negotiations with either Labour or Conservatives.

Labour leader Ed Miliband asserted in last Thursday's BBC Question Time TV leaders’ debate with the audience in Leeds "I’m not going to give in to SNP demands around Trident".

Later that night, former Conservative Defence Secretary Michael Portillo slammed the notion of  Trident replacement, when appearing  on BBC’s  This Week asserting:
"A former defence secretary and some Generals [this week] wrote a letter demanding the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons programme. You're probably familiar with these men who are worried about their own virility and buy large sports cars, and this I think is a case in point. Our independent nuclear deterrent is not independent and doesn't constitute a deterrent against anybody that we regard as an enemy. It is a waste of money and it is a diversion of funds that might otherwise be spent on perfectly useful and useable weapons and troops. But some people have not caught up with this reality."

Moreover, in a Parliamentary debate on 20 January  on the Trident WMD programme the current Tory defence secretary  Michael Fallon told MPs
"we also share the vision of a world that is without nuclear weapons, achieved through multilateral disarmament.” (emphasis added) (


Why have these issues  been ignored by the mainstream media? In whose interests is this beyond a smooth run to making huge profits from the taxpayer by arms sales company BAE Systems, who would build the replacement submarines for Trident?

Friday, 1 May 2015

Labour undermines its own disarmament credentials

Ed Miliband asserted in Thursday's BBC Question Time TV debate with the audience  in Leeds "I’m not going to give in for SNP demands around Trident". Even assuming he sticks to this pledge post-election, if he is prime minister, he will still have to negotiate on Trident, not with SNP, but with 190 governments. 

As the Leeds debate was being held, the biggest global conference addressing nuclear security and disarmament was under way at the United Nations in New York. (, having opened  on Monday, and running until 22nd May.

The190-member state Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), dating from 1968, and for which the UK, along with United States and Russia, is a 'depositary state', sets out at its article 6:

 “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament….”

Foreign Office minister, Baroness Anelay of St Johns, told the NPT conference plenary on Monday afternoon:

 “Let me be clear: the UK is here to negotiate in good faith, and we will continue to strive to build the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. That is why we are making parallel progress on the building blocks for global nuclear disarmament.”

She also asserted hypocritically: “Some would like to force the speed of disarmament without taking into account wider security considerations. This risks jeopardising the achievements of the NPT and undermining its future.”

In papers I uncovered at the National Archives in Kew, they show that on 23 January 1968, Fred (later Lord) Mulley - as the UK Government's minister of state for foreign affairs - addressed the 358th plenary meeting of the Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament (ENDC) in Geneva, explaining why nations should sign up to the newly negotiated Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), he told the ministerial delegations:


"As I have made clear in previous speeches, my government accepts the obligation to participate fully in the negotiations required by [NPT] Article VI and it is our desire that these negotiations should begin as soon as possible and should produce speedy and successful results. There is no excuse now for allowing a long delay to follow the signing of this treaty." (my emphasis)

Labour ministers were responsible for the drafting of the NPT in the late 1960s.  They should be proudly proclaiming their role in establishing this diplomatic triumph. Instead, Labour's pro-Trident renewal  policy is undermining the credibility of this multilateral treaty, and shredding Labour’s political credibility.