On my bookshelf of hefty political tomes stand 4 volumes steeped in relevance to the Labour Party: Aneurin Bevan by Michael Foot, Red Queen (Barbara Castle) by Anne Perkins, Kinnock by Martin Westlake, and Courage: 8 Portraits by Gordon Brown, the latter two signed by the Labour leaders past and present themselves. Yet how today’s announcement about nuclear power has put views of courage and party history in stark contrast. Nuclear weapons and disarmament, and nuclear power, have divided Labour since Bevan, but Kinnock (pictured) made it a point of principle – despite internal opposition – to speak at the major CND march in London on 22 October 1983 and committed the party to multilateral nuclear disarmament in a resolution at the 1988 Labour Party conference. Where is the principle on show today?
While the debates in the 1980s about nuclear weapons drew millions onto the streets, Labour supporters and members prominent among them, today’s decision to commission a new generation of nuclear power stations has drawn barely a whimper within the party. Peter Hain opposed nuclear during the Deputy Leadership election but maybe he’s too busy dodging scandals to put his head above the parapet. Then there’s Joan Ruddock, one time chair of CND – I wonder what’s going through her mind? How has the party become so beholden to the nuclear lobby?
And party members – what do they think? Well, if today’s means of political activism – blogging – is anything to go by, the members don’t give a damn either. Paul Linford has an excellent piece, while LabourHome has a measly 4 lines in favour of nuclear (NEC hacking is obviously much more important) and my previous post on the subject is the only one that deals with the issue in the Bloggers4Labour recent posts for today. Other parties are more predictable – Iain Dale is positive, ConservativeHome quotes Alan Duncan, while LibDem Voice has a couple of critical articles.
What has happened here? Labour is losing its soul it seems. For goodness sake, the Chernobyl Disaster was in 1986 – it’s not as if the controversies of nuclear power are old history. That’s even in living memory for most Labour bloggers. So stand up for your beliefs on important questions like this!
[UPDATE – 11.1.2008, 0900]
Seems that at least Ken Livingstone has not lost his principles. He said this yesterday:
“New nuclear power stations will do little to combat climate change, but will poison Britain’s future with a legacy of radioactive waste for which the government has advanced no serious strategy for dealing with.”
[UPDATE 2 – 11.01.2008, 1730]
This from Dizzy makes me want to cry.
[UPDATE 3 – 19.2.2008]
Sussex University is organising a big public debate about the issue – go along if you care about this issue!