A big missed opportunity

By Jeremy Corbyn MP

Only a day after the Prime Minister launched his Security Review Global Britain in a Competitive Age, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament organised an emergency meeting with over 500 present.

An impressive array of speakers led by veteran campaigner Bruce Kent outlined their concerns about the nuclear danger and its questionable claims on security being gained by more arms. There was a riveting description of the corruption of the Arms Trade by former South African (ANC) MP Andrew Feinstein.

The headlines coming out of the bizarre, verbose and bellicose publication confirmed only one thing: Boris Johnson’s personal involvement.

It proposes a 40% increase in nuclear warheads to 260, each with a killing power fifteen times greater than the bomb which destroyed almost all life in Hiroshima in 1945. Britain will have the capacity to kill several hundred million people.

It is unclear who these weapons of mass destruction are directed against and how that relates to Britain’s legal obligation within the terms of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Article Six requires the declared nuclear weapons states -the USA, China, Russia, France and UK – to “take steps towards disarmament” and not allow any weapons proliferation.

In the context of the United Nations Global Ban on Nuclear Weapons Treaty, supported by over 80 countries, it shows just how out of step this country is. The Global Ban movement is real and huge; the British media choose to ignore it. One assumes that they will barely report the Conference later this year in Vienna, as they have shown no appetite for any serious reporting of this remarkable movement so far.

We ought to be defining what security really means.

Real security is being able to eat, receive health care when you need it, have your children educated and your air, water and natural world protected – not destroyed.

Covid has shown just how divided the world is – poverty and desperation laid bare on a global scale with a developing economic strategy that will increase the wealth divide both within countries and on a global level.

So, to meet these challenges, Britain is cutting its aid budget, not supporting effective debt write-off for the poorest countries and wrapping itself in the flag of xenophobia.

Harold Wilson, in 1966, quite rightly concluded that Britain could no longer afford a global role and withdrew forces from east of Suez.

Fast forward fifty years and Johnson is sending an aircraft carrier to the South China Sea and encouraging NATO to promote a cold war with Russia and China.

It reads like a throwback to a Tory 1950s plan to carry on the pretence of empire while gladly lining up with American foreign policy and spending more and more on arms. The lobbyists for arms sales have done well, as Britain will be amongst the highest spenders on the military per head.

Raising military spending, increasing arms exports, not taking the climate and biodiversity crisis seriously are a recipe for the conflicts of the future.

70 million refugees in the world are victims of poverty, wars, human rights abuses and climate change. The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have not made us safer but laid the ground for terrorism and hate.

Isn’t it time we really embraced a green industrial revolution, really stood up for human rights and recognise that arms sold can and do kill people? There is little point objecting to human rights abuses if we supply the arms that enables them in the first place.

We need to use this opportunity to promote the restructuring of our economy to provide full employment and divert spending into civil research and development – not saddle ourselves with one of the biggest military bills, while ignoring inequality and poverty in Britain and the global consequences of the chasm between the richest and poorest.

This should be an opportunity for Labour to challenge the Government and develop a realistic, credible alternative that protects existing jobs, creates a green economy and allows us to be effective in promoting human rights around the world.

A message that we will never repeat the tragedy of the policies that led us to wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya would be a good start and give us a hearing for a new, more exciting direction.

Earlier this year, Jeremy Corbyn launched the Peace and Justice Project. You can sign up to its campaigns at thecorbynproject.com/action    

Image: Jeremy Corbyn. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulnew/28243001503. Author: paulnew,  licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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