Nuclear Education Trust

Labour Party Attitudes to Nuclear Disarmament: Past and Present

The results of a long-standing study into attitudes within the Labour Party on nuclear disarmament, funded by the Nuclear Education Trust, were presented at a seminar in Portcullis House, London, on 28 February 2017 chaired by Kelvin Hopkins MP.
The study's findings were presented by author Carol Turner, who conducted the study, who explained how Labour's policy on nuclear weapons began to develop in the period immediately after World War II, when the Attlee government decided to acquire nuclear weapons, and how it became a defining but contentious issue for the Party in the 1980s.  Many of the current views within the Labour Party on nuclear weapons have been shaped by the experiences of the 1980s – but are not always based on accurate perceptions of the politics of the era.

John Edmonds, former General Secretary of the GMB trade union, gave a personal recollection of how Labour's policy had evolved and emphasised a number of factors which he felt were important in the debate on nuclear weapons within the Labour Party: jobs and employment conversion, how to genuinely address national security concerns, the UK's role in the world, and the view held by some that a desire to achieve a world without nuclear weapons does not automatically equate to Britain's 'unilateral' disarmament.  He stressed that the view that the UK should abandon nuclear weapons on a matter of principle does not necessarily resonate with ordinary Party members unless it is underpinned by more pragmatically based arguments.
Carol Turner's new book, 'Corbyn and Trident: Labour's Continuing Controversy' draws on many of the themes identified in her research on this topic, and is available from Public Reading Rooms.  Further information drawn from the study will be published on the Public Reading Rooms website in due course.