Talking Trident with… Labour Students

Our Ambassador Andrew Gibson has organised a series of events to talk about Trident at Universities in the north of England. Here are his thoughts so far…

Students at a recent Talking Trident event

Students at a recent Talking Trident event

As part of WMD Awareness’ fantastic Talking Trident tour, I recently helped organise three campus events in partnership with Labour Students clubs. For each event, a guest speaker and I visited a club, gave presentations on nuclear weapons from different perspectives (i.e. political, environmental etc) and tried to start a bit of an argument. The sessions closed with straw polls to gauge the views of tomorrow’s Tony Blairs (and by ‘Tony Blairs’ I mean ‘successful Labour politicians’).

The series is ongoing but here are a few quick reflections.

Firstly, I was struck by how seriously attendees took the issues. The discussions focused not on whether the UK needed to be defended but rather what combination of forces worked best: conventional, cyber, nuclear or even non-military approaches, like economic sanctions.

Secondly, Labour Students members were, like the national party, divided on whether the ageing Trident nuclear weapons system should be replaced. When it came to voting, one club was in favour of like-for-like Trident replacement, another club opposed, and a third wanted nuclear weapons but did not want Ed Miliband to control the stockpile!

Thirdly, no attendee voluntarily raised questions of international law or disarmament treaties. The previous Labour government made major contributions in this area, such as by signing up to bans on land mines and cluster munitions. However, when it came to debating nuclear weapons, a recurrent theme was ‘mutually assured destruction’. This worried me.

So far, this has been a great initiative to be involved with. Each club were thoughtful, friendly and good-humoured, despite my encouraging them to contemplate nuclear Armageddon.

Thanks to guest speakers: Dr Stuart Parkinson (Director, Scientists for Global Responsibility) and Daniel Blaney (Exec Committee, Labour CND)

Special thanks to our hosts: York University Labour Club, Lancaster University Labour Club, and Hull University Labour Club

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