With the General Election fast approaching I have been calling on PPCs everywhere to listen to young people’s views on Britain’s nuclear weapons. It has been reported that many hold differing views to their main party-line, so I thought I’d have a chat with the candidates standing in my area – Erith and Thamesmead – to see what they really think.
I had already been lucky enough to speak to the leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett, in an interview last year. Natalie laid out her stance to me very clearly and promised the Greens would get rid of Trident NOW. Natalie also gave one of the most compelling arguments against Britain’s nukes: that she cannot foresee any circumstance under which we would ever choose to use Trident.
This is something Ed Miliband also agreed with during one of the televised debates so I took this view to my local Labour representative, Teresa Pearce. Teresa also agreed that there were no circumstances under which she could ever see us using a nuclear weapon, and admitted that she is against the renewal of Trident and believes that the amount we spend on these weapons of mass destruction can be used to make our NHS better, to invest in the economy and to make our education system better.
My local Conservative representative, Anna Firth, truly surprised me by saying that in the past she was very much against Trident and ‘did not see the point of it’. She also said that in the long-term she believes the UK should and would get rid of these weapons.
But the difference between the two is clear: Anna believes that we need nuclear weapons in the current foreign policy climate. Citing the Bay of Pigs invasion and Vietnam as historical examples of why this is the case, she believes that the fact that we have Trident dissuades state and non-state groups from attacking us.
I challenged Anna’s view by explaining how the defence challenges we face today are very different from those faced historically and how, in my view, investment in conventional forces would be much better than the huge waste of money spent on a weapon we are not planning on using anyway.
It was definitely interesting to meet my local candidates and has helped me a little further along the route to making a choice for the upcoming elections. The fact that they all agreed that there was no circumstance where they believed it would be OK to use a nuclear weapon shows that there is some cross-party agreement, especially at grass roots level to get rid of Trident in the long term.
I admire the fact that each of these representatives are women (my local Green Party MP is also female) and it made me immensely proud of my area for championing strong female leaders. The debate on Trident is such a male dominated forum – restricted to party leaders whose voices are the only ones we hear talking about this issue in the media. I couldn’t help but wonder: if more women were in positions of power would we have any nuclear weapons in this world?
Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party, has also made her party’s stance against Trident very clear. I believe if we had more women in government across the country more people would get the opportunity to have their say on whether they believe £100,000,000,000 should be spent over the course of the next few decades on nukes, or something better. Never mind a referendum on the EU, when will we have a referendum on Trident?
This is something we should keep in the forefront of our minds when we go to the polls next week. What kind of world do we want to live in, one where we spend more on education and healthcare or one where we spend more on an extremely expensive weapon with the potential to destroy mankind, a weapon which we keep saying we are never going to use anyway.
It is not too late to email your local party representatives to see where they stand on the issue of Trident. Remember they are pledging to represent you so make sure you ask the questions which are important to you before you go to the polls next week. And don’t forget to let us know what they say by commenting below or Tweeting us @WMDAwareness.