Thinking about the important things

‘Think in Kingston’ is a Festival of Ideas and it was certainly a brilliant idea to invite Kate Hudson to speak on ‘Now More Than Ever - 50 years of CND – what will the next 50 years bring?’ Kate provided an excellent account of the organisation’s history. She reminded us how weapons development had always been met by CND with protest, together with information and lobbying, with membership peaking at times of heightened threat. She pointed out that CND itself, with its well-focused campaign for a nuclear-free world, had become a prototype for a range of campaigning groups which developed after World War 2. Greenham too was an inspiration not just for campaigners but also for women across the world.

And today? There are still 27,000 nuclear weapons in the possession of 9 countries. The UK has around 200 warheads, each 8 times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Last year in the run-up to the Trident debate in the House of Commons 72% of those questioned for a poll (Populus/More 4 Survey, February 2007) were against the renewal of Trident. It is worth remembering too that over 180 countries don’t have a nuclear arsenal. Are their citizens in constant danger and less safe than us? Even Henry Kissinger and George Schulz, previous US Secretaries of State, are now working to alert the world to the dangers of nuclear conflict. This may make satirists despair but it’s still a good thing. Work is also being done on a UN Nuclear Weapons Convention to outlaw all nuclear weapons.

Some people suggest that with the end of the Cold War nuclear weapons have faded into a twilight zone and the threats posed are much reduced. Readers of this newsletter will know this is not the case. As Noel Hamel pointed out, “ Current talk is not of nuclear deterrence but of who should be nuked – not military targets but the elimination of whole cities and people”.

The first step to getting rid of nuclear weapons is raising awareness. We were pleased to have taken part in the Festival of Ideas. One suggestion for next year is that we might invite a speaker but hold the meeting in Kingston University and try and encourage students to come along. So members of Kingston Peace Council are planning for the future, but we hope to see a weapons free world before another 50 years have passed. Meanwhile if it’s Easter Monday it must be Aldermaston  . . . .

Mary Holmes