27 Sep 2009

Four parties in Stroud debate defence

On Thursday Bruce Kent was in Stroud - see here with links to actions on Trident - this was followed on Friday night by a debate sponsored by the Green party in The Space in Stroud with spokespeople from all four parties.

Photos: Panel from left to right: MP David Drew for Labour, Parliamentary spokespersons Cllr. Martin Whiteside for the Greens, Chair Jane Mace, Lib Dem spokesperson Cllr. Dennis Andrewartha and Neil Carmichael for the Tories. Plus other pics from the evening.

But before I get to that please email Miliband before 1st October here on arms control. While Governments talk, over 2 million people have died from armed violence. As the campaign Control Arms website says: "Irresponsible arms transfers fuel conflict, poverty and human rights abuses. In the past, David Miliband and the UK Government have shown leadership in promoting a strong Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) at the United Nations. But right now the Treaty is stuck in the slow lane – governments have been discussing the ATT since 2006, meanwhile over 2 million people have died from armed violence. The UK Government needs to finish what it started, it's time to get down to business."

Anyway to the evening of discussion - a turnout of around 80 people with most engaging in challenging and informative discussion on topics including the replacement of the Trident missile system and the military alliance of England and America.

All four parties were represented and spoke from the platform: MP David Drew for Labour, Parliamentary spokespersons Cllr. Martin Whiteside for the Greens, Neil Carmichael for the Tories and Lib Dem spokesperson Cllr. Dennis Andrewartha. This was the first meeting of party spokespeople ahead of the elections that will take place before May 2010.

During the course of the evening Green Party Parliamentary candidate Cllr. Martin Whiteside – who has wide ranging experience of poverty and war - been to Afghanistan 5 times - found support for his views on non-proliferation and democratic solutions to international problems. Perhaps not so surprising being so many Greens in the audience - only the Conservative spokesperson spoke in favour of the need to retain Trident. Anyway there is now a more full report on the evening here.

Next month the Coffee House discussion returns to Star Anise cafe and looks at planning locally: Where should housing go? Where should wind turbines go? And more - but before signing off this blog wanted to quote Stop the War Coalition, of which the Green party is a member -- they said today: Much is being made of UN calls for nuclear disarmament this week. Every missile nuclear or otherwise that is scrapped is welcome. Anything which reduces tension between big powers is to be applauded. But the cuts proposed will leave enough nuclear weapons in play to destroy the planet many times over and the changes taking place amount to a shift to new military priorities not a move away from intervention.

Long range nuclear weapons, even aircraft carriers and big tanks may be de-prioritised because of the kind of wars the west will be fighting. The new British Chief of staff General Richards outlined the new thinking last week. Afghanistan was a "signpost" indicating the nature of wars in the future - "asymmetric" conflicts with less need for traditional military hardware like tanks and warplanes.

"Future conflicts are more likely to involve non-state actors and failed states, like Afghanistan, rather than traditional wars between states... How we deal with the threat posed by violent extremism, often embedded in dangerously radicalised states, will be an issue that will dominate our professional lives." In reality the big powers will keep enough nuclear weapons and hi-tech hardware to continue to intimidate potential rivals, but they are clearing the way to spend more on targeted, infantry-led interventions round the world. General Richards also made clear the military sees no choice but to fight to the end in Afghanistan - whatever that is - and he explained why defeat is not an option. Imagine he said, the "enduring grand strategic impact on the UK's authority and reputation in the world of the defeat of the British Armed Forces, and its impact on public sentiment here in the UK." The war in Afghanistan is not about the well being of the Afghan people, economic, social or political, it is about the projection of American and British power abroad.

We can also remember that there is a national Bring the Troops Home demonstration on Saturday 24 October at Hyde Park at midday. It will be lead by anti-war military families, army veterans and soldiers and will march to Trafalgar Square for a mass rally. Unfortunately this clashes with the 350 Internatioonal Climate Day when here in Stroud we will be planting 350 trees and finishing 350 beehouses.

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