MP for Kingston & Surbiton and Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change
Five KPC/CND members had an informal meeting with the MP on 13th December at the Druid’s Head pub (since there was a KPC meeting the previous day only a limited number of members were able to attend). Mr Davey was happy to discuss a range of issues, and for KPC members to decide on the topics. The points covered were:
We talked quite a bit about energy issues since this is Ed Davey’s departmental brief. He said he used to be against nuclear power but has changed his views. He thinks we should use nuclear power if it is competitive in cost and other factors can be dealt with. He made the point that the Government would not subsidise nuclear power. The UK safety record is bad – he has visited Sellafield and there is still evidence of radioactive material lying around the site, but he thinks standards are now considerably improved. (It didn’t seem he had a lot of evidence for this.) He acknowledges that the problem of the disposal of nuclear waste is considerable, but his argument seemed to be that the amount of waste produced per unit of power in the latest generation of nuclear power plants is very small by comparison, so wouldn’t make a significant difference to the problem. (This seems a very weak argument.) He had no real answer to the problem of waste, but said that over half his department’s budget is spent decommissioning nuclear power stations. Local Councils will get financial rewards if they agree to site nuclear waste in their area.
Mr Davey said he is very keen to promote renewables, and there is research & development going on into tidal energy, which is more promising than wave energy, on-shore and off-shore wind power, solar power and thermal power. Work continues too on energy efficiency and demand reduction. He is enthusiastic about getting co-operatives to work on energy provision and encouraging community-purchase energy schemes to tackle fuel poverty. He has been pushing this sort of scheme in Kingston and also collective action on home insulation.
Ed has recently returned from the Climate Change Talks in Doha. He is proud of the commitment by the UK and other countries, including Germany, who have pledged money to help poor countries deal with climate change.
Ed felt the Lib-Dems had been able to influence the Coalition and delay the renewal of Trident but thought if the next parliament was made up of Labour + Lib-Dems it might be possible to do more to reduce the UK’s nuclear weapons (the Coalition had agreed that no decision on Trident should be made till after the next election). KPC members suggested that there is much less support for Trident among ordinary members than among the party hierarchy. We reminded him that the NPT required nuclear powers to give up their nuclear weapons. He acknowledged this, but felt we should simply aim to reduce the number of our nuclear weapons and increase security measures to prevent any possible nuclear response. He said he was concerned that unless we could get Iran to stop any work on nuclear weapons we were unlikely to get the US taking a positive view of disarmament.
Mr Davey felt we had to try to work with Russia on a number of issues, including the ballistic missile shield being developed by the US, and until we could there would be no progress on Syria. He felt that it would be irresponsible to withdraw precipitately from Afghanistan.
Ed said he would be happy to help us try to extend our programme to more schools in Kingston. We said we would contact him on this in the Spring Term.
All agreed that it had been a very useful meeting and appreciated the amount of time Ed Davey was prepared to give up at the end of a busy day.
KINGSTON PEACE COUNCIL/CND
2013 is the year when the screws are really set to tighten on the government’s austerity programme and the campaign for scrapping Trident hots up on the back of public concern about the deficit. In 2012 Kingston Peace Council became part of an alliance of local organisations campaigning about government support for the arms trade almost unquestioningly. Issues for Trident and NATO membership are raised by possible Scottish independence, an assortment of people are eventually released from indefinite detention, parcelled off and dispatched to US justice whilst others are treated differently. Islamophobia, generated to further war aims over ten years ago, is alive and well.
Obama is re-elected but Guantanamo was conveniently not mentioned. ‘Drone-warfare’ escalates below the news radar. Israel attacked Gaza again, shows no inclination to engage with any peace strategy and builds more settlements – some in retaliation for the Palestinian’s UN “observer” status - a possible route to full membership. The war of words about Iran’s nuclear intentions drags on irrespective of evidence. (Any nuclear energy refinement process could be extended for ‘bomb grade’ manufacture and inspections are intended to ensure it doesn’t.) Speculation continues about Israel’s plans. Syria is two years into a bloody civil war and the ‘Arab Spring’ continues to work its way through political phases. A side effect of the turmoil in Libya is that Gadaffi’s pet militia, with a cache of western arms, decamped to unstable neighbouring regions where terrorist atrocities attract headlines. Copycat Al Qaida groups often pop up where self-determination and independence movements create unrest such as Syria or North Mali. One day maybe the world might wake to the realisation that secret western subversion, the dubious Afghan and Iraq wars, and “war on terror” tactics help to foster anti-western terrorist attitudes; and Taliban militancy shows little sign of decline. But where to now, is a Blair II about to emerge to goad us into a trans-global conflagration? Al Qaida invited retribution when, motivated by hatred of western intervention, a ‘global jihad’ was declared which inspired some young men to crash planes into New York buildings. However local conflicts and atrocities may be more about differing ideas of Islam. Can we tell the difference? Is western military intervention the answer or are we going round in circles?
Speculation abounds about continuing western covert interference throughout the region from Pakistan to Algeria: What was western involvement in instabilities and on the ground during democratic uprisings? Could a politically sympathetic Syria conveniently leave Iran more exposed and why is Bahrain so exceptional that the UK woos them to purchase arms whilst peaceful democracy protestors are ill-treated and imprisoned; subverting UK government’s own guidelines?
We had a resoundingly endorsed resolution at CND Conference about the hazards of nuclear power which were exposed by the disaster. There is clear evidence the public are deliberately not fully informed and that all nuclear plants are intrinsically vulnerable should the continuous flow of coolant be interrupted. Accidents can create unimaginable deadly contamination that is little discussed.
We survived no permanent secretary thanks to the efforts of many, particularly Hilary and Gill. Others cooperated with the newsletter roster to produce good quality newsletters. Thanks to Maggie as the engine behind our regular sales and stalls at Fairs, plus some legacies, our bank balance is healthy and we continue to support the campaigning groups closest to our heart.
In February we had Gregg Muttitt to tell a KPC public meeting about connections between Iraq, war and oil; a contest in which the oil magnates did not get everything their own way.
Vince Cable MP has been pursued relentlessly for around 2 years over his ardour as a government minister in the promotion of arms sales – an issue inextricably associated with corruption, duplicity, disregard for rules and agreed criteria, lavish government expenditure and senior ministerial time, incompetence, and fuelling lethal conflict around the globe. In November TRAKNAT had a packed meeting enabling the public to make its views known. Many thanks to Paul Tippell and others who worked hard to help secure such valuable public participation. After Vince Cable had had his say Mary Holmes and Hilary Evans presented petitions and made strong, telling contributions that distilled audience opinion about selling to unsavoury regimes and putting impoverished populations in hock for generations, depriving them of health and education (even Greece is a victim). Both got resounding spontaneous applause.
In marked contrast with Cable, a few of us met Ed Davey MP informally and had a wide ranging frank exchange for 2 hours despite claims on his time and that we put up only one constituent. The topics were energy, Trident, war, and KPC Peace Day activity in local schools. We were surprised that in the year of Fukushima Ed still believes there is use in pursuing Nuclear power as part of a wide portfolio of energy provision. He believes new technology and practices are so efficient that nuclear could be viable and safe, with less dangerous waste. Trident decision is still pending but there is some agreement it is a pointless extravagance continually patrolling the oceans with an irrelevant cold war weapon. We disagreed about Afghanistan as statistics don’t support claims of significant improvements in health, education and women’s lot. The pro-western government is unrepresentative and not generally popular. Troops are supposed to withdraw in 2014/15 so why build huge NATO bases on contracts due to run till 2024?
Many thanks to Wimbledon CND and PSC for jointly organising a meeting about drones – the high tech computer ‘game’ for assassinations that sometimes hits intended targets and casually eliminates innocent bystanders. (Although aerial bombardment is capricious deadly warfare, clearly an indiscriminate war crime, it was not condemned post WWII because Allies were as guilty as Axis; and who do you think exploits that omission now?)
We each year respond to certain anniversaries and international days such as 11 years of Guantanamo, the International Day of Peace, Remembrance, Hiroshima, Victims of Torture, Gaza bombardment, and Global Day of Action on Military Spending.
Also we were seen at demonstrations about UK austerity, at London’s museums where arms dealer junketing is hosted, at Hinkley Point and at Aldermaston, Troops out of Afghanistan, opposition to Torture and Guantanamo, and outside Vince Cable’s constituency office.
We had our usual Hiroshima ceremony at Thames side with an unusually perceptive contribution from the Deputy Mayor.
Maggie, Hilary and Mary toured schools again reminding assemblies about the ideals and utility of Peace Day., 26th September.
We continue to support the campaign to free Shaker Aamer, the innocent charity worker from Battersea, a victim of Islamophobic prejudice, systematically ill-treated because he is Muslim – not for any wrong-doing; and the annual Interfaith Holocaust memorial day event at Kingston Guildhall reminded me of the virulent corrosive power of bigotry and prejudice.
Concerned that government austerity cutting is hitting ordinary citizens whilst warfare and military spending persist Kingston Peace Council’s Think-in-Kingston contribution advertised a few facts to town centre shoppers with the aid of a gadget that flagged up the pros and cons. We will revisit this idea around budget day 2013.
Very many thanks to all who worked on KPC’s twice-monthly stall, that is our way of communicating directly with the public.
Halos all round.
Noel Hamel. February 2013.
By Angela Cooper.
Noel and I went to this well attended meeting held at the House of Commons. It was chaired by Labour MP Paul Flynn. Also present were the MPs Caroline Lucas (Green Party), Jeremy Corbyn (Labour) and Michelle Gildernew (Sinn Fein)
The two speakers were Mitra Qayoom, a young Afghan woman whose family left Afghanistan during the civil war in the early 1990s and who now lives in London. Mitra has worked with women’s organisations, interviewing women in refugee camps and on the streets of Kabul. She works closely with Stop the War Coalition, and, Dr. Elaheh Rostami-Povey from the School of Oriental and African Studies whose research focuses on Afghanistan, Iran and the Middle East and the author of ‘Afghan women, identity and invasion’ published by Zed Books.
Mitra returned to Afghanistan after 20 years in 2011 and she gave a depressing account of the current state of women’s lives. Afghanistan is now the second most dangerous place for women in the world. With high rates of premature births, reported increases in domestic violence due to the poverty of their men-folk and with the men’s addiction to opiates; harassment both in the street (with the wearing of burqas acting as no deterrent) and the home, acid attacks, forced marriages of girls as young as 13 years (even though the legal age is 16 ), who are often sold off to pay family debts. Not surprisingly mental health issues are on the rise for men, women and children with half of the women being depressed, 78% suffering from anxiety disorders and 2,300 having attempted suicide in one year alone. In addition only 5% of the girls now pursue their education. But there has also been a detrimental impact on the men. With young men having known nothing but war which has raged for 30 years, adolescents are magnets for the warlords to target and recruit. Poverty and drug addiction are rife , whilst an elite have benefitted financially as evidenced by the growth in palaces being built and expensive cars driven.
Dr. Rostami-Povey visited Afghanistan in 2002 and again in 2004/5. She reported that 7 million refugees, many of them women and children, have fled Afghanistan as a consequence of these many years of conflict. Six million refugees have fled to Iran and Pakistan and one million to the West. Her research of the women refugees in both the US and UK found that they shouldered an additional prejudice not only of racism and sexism, but also of Islamaphobia. These women have failed to get support from the Women’s Movement in the West and as a result have been forced to rally round their religious identity rather than their gender. Dr. Povey was very clearly of the view ,as was her co-speaker, that this war was not to do with women’s liberation, but of domination by the West and its expansionist policies. Any attempt at nation building from the outside had ignored the wishes of the native population. She gave the example of the opiate farmers wanting the heroin they produced to be used for medical purposes worldwide thus cutting out any benefit to the warlords whilst providing an income for these extremely impoverished people. Currently, according to Oxfam, some 4 million people are dependent on aid.
Both speakers urged that the Afghan people be left to determine their own future which admittedly would take some time,ut they were emphatic that they didn’t want to be governed by the ‘criminals’ who are currently in power, reportedly the 2nd most corrupt government in the world. They stressed that it is possible to reconstruct the country without the troops and that the warlords should be brought to justice. Also, any dialogue with the Taliban was not welcome as they believed the outcome would result in civil war, with factions siding with the different groupings.
Shockingly, women and children are more likely to be killed or injured, according to a UN report, than the combatants. These speakers argued strongly against the West bargaining on behalf of the native population, it would result firstly, in the Afghans failing to be left alone and secondly, the West’s continued interest and interference in the country. Only with economic reconstruction, not unlike that modelled on Japan after the 2nd World War, will things change politically and socially thereby allowing women to pursue their own self-determination.
Einstein and Freud discuss why the problem posed by war remains unresolved.
A new series by Harry Davis
In 1932 Albert Einstein was asked by the League of Nations to invite someone of his choice to reflect with him in a series of public letters on a pressing problem or question. The question Einstein selected was: "Is there any way of delivering humankind from the menace of war?" He invited Freud to discuss the question, and a famous exchange followed between these two intellectual giants of the 20th century.
It was a time after the first of the world wars but before the second even more disastrous conflict, before the invention and use of nuclear weapons, and before the series of wars that have occurred up to the present day, when there were rational grounds for optimism. Provoked by the carnage of the 1914-18 ‘war to end war’, the League of Nations, the first international institution with the remit of outlawing war had been formed, and there had as yet been no reason to expect it to fail. Yet if there was a general sense of optimism in the air, neither Einstein nor Freud felt it. They saw the causes of war as being deep-seated, subtle, and impossible to eradicate: prevention would require an understanding and cooperation between nations that would be extremely hard to achieve.
The dialogue took the form of three letters. Einstein wrote two letters to Freud, the first inviting Freud to discuss the question of war prevention, the second an open letter intended for publication along with Freud’s response. Einstein’s view on the question, which follows, is taken from both his letters. Actual quotes in quotation marks.
Einstein saw a critical role and a responsibility for ‘great’ men (and of course women) in the prevention of war.
‘I am convinced that almost all great men who, because of their accomplishments, are recognized as leaders even of small groups share the same ideals. But they have little influence on the course of political events. It would almost appear that the very domain of human activity most crucial to the fate of nations is inescapably in the hands of wholly irresponsible political rulers.’
Rulers get there either by force, or by election by the masses, who are subject to the effects of charisma and to the persuasions of the media, and not because they, the rulers, are particularly bright.
‘In our time, the intellectual elite does not exercise any direct influence on the history of the world.’ ‘Do you not share the feeling that a change could be brought about by a free association of men whose previous work and achievements offer a guarantee of their ability and integrity?’
Men ‘of real stature’, ‘whose good intentions are today paralysed by an attitude of painful resignation’, in combination with religious leaders, could be organized as a formidable force against war.
Einstein had chosen Freud to discuss war, as there existed in mankind ‘certain psychological obstacles’ which made it easier for leaders to take their peoples to war. ‘You, I am convinced, will be able to suggest educative methods, lying more or less outside the scope of politics, which will eliminate these obstacles.’
Though writing before the invention of nuclear weapons, Einstein notes that ‘It is common knowledge that, with the advance of modern science, this issue [the menace of war] has come to mean a matter of life and death for Civilisation as we know it.’
For Einstein, a supranational organization such as the League was an essential part of the solution, but one with more power than the League. ‘But at present we are far from possessing any supranational organization competent to render verdicts of incontestable authority and enforce absolute submission to the execution of its verdicts.’ Such an organisation was going to be very difficult to achieve, in view of ‘psychological factors at work which paralyse these efforts’. ‘The craving for power which characterizes the governing class in every nation is hostile to any limitation of the national sovereignty.’
Looking at how wars have been initiated, he asks, ‘How is it possible for this small clique [the rulers] to bend the will of the majority, who stand to lose and suffer by a state of war, to the service of their ambitions?’ He adds, ‘An obvious answer to this question would seem to be that the minority, the ruling class at present, has the schools and press, usually the Church as well, under its thumb’.
He asks Freud to explain ‘How is it that these devices succeed so well in rousing men to such wild enthusiasm, even to sacrifice their lives?’
To be continued in subsequent issues of KPC/CND newsletters
From Carol Clisby.
In spite of the ongoing problems in Palestine and the lack of progress towards any sort of solution, the day was positive, energising, and on occasions very amusing----in particular the closing speech made by the Palestinian ambassador to the UK---Manuel Hassassian, which cheered us up considerably.
The meeting started with a minute’s silence for the 6 unarmed Palestinians already killed in 2013. This was followed by the Treasurer’s report---PSC is now breaking even, but it was stressed again how important the PSC members are, providing as they do, a regular income that the organisation can depend on. Any new members would be very welcome---the current subscription is £24 per year or £12 for the unwaged. An alternative would be to join the 100 club and commit to giving £100+ per year to the organisation.
The annual report focused on the massive disconnect between politicians and their electorates---it is a big challenge for PSC to transform public opinion into political pressure, which will actually change government policy. Emphasis was also placed on communication with the media, challenging misrepresentations and also challenging Israel’s constant accusations of anti-semitism, whenever it is criticised.
Eight motions were discussed in all, (seven passed, one rejected), and several were connected to the BDS campaign, in particular targeting:-
Veolia and Alstom Transport, both involved in the Jerusalem Light Rail project
Sainsbury’s, with the overall view of persuading the organisation to end agricultural trade with Israel. Sainsbury’s does not sell settlement goods, and in the first instance, and in view of Sainsbury’s claim to be the market leader in fair trade, the aim would be to bring Sainsbury’s in line with the Co-op, and not to engage with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from settlements
Sodastream, operating from Israeli settlements and trying to establish itself in the UK---makes carbonated drink siphons
UEFA, with a view to persuading the organisation to suspend the membership of the IFA, (Israel Football Association), until Israel observes international law and respects Palestinian human rights---UEFA has currently scheduled two tournaments to be hosted by the IFA in Israel, and PSC is also calling for both these tournaments to be moved to a European country.
G4S---very heavily involved in security systems in Israel in particular in relation to the prisons and the wall
In addition the AGM supported the ending of the JNF’s UK charitable status. The Jewish National Fund is very heavily involved in settlement expansion.
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Rosemary Addington
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND