From demos to FO memos: CND grows up

Steve Boggan on protesters coming in from the cold

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, whose members were regarded as enemies of the state during the dark years of the Cold War, has been secretly briefing senior civil servants and MPs on future defence policy.

Leading members of the campaign - including one who was once arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act - have held meetings with officials from the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office, and with Ian Soutar, Britain's new ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

Since Labour's election victory in May, CND's role has changed from that of an outside irritant of government to a valued partner in developing policies. It is hiring an advertising agency to spread the message that nuclear disarmament is still a live issue.

In Parliament, it was behind a submission on disarmament proposals signed by 30 left-wing MPs and presented to George Robertson, the Defence Secretary, as part of his strategic defence review. And, in the next few weeks, CND officials are expected to meet Tony Lloyd, minister for arms control and disarmament.

Most remarkably of all, CND has been invited into the heart of Whitehall to help formulate policy. It has held two meetings, one over tea and biscuits in the office of Richard Grozney, head of the Foreign Office security policy division, and the other at CND's north London offices with Mr Soutar, arranged at his request shortly after his Geneva appointment was announced.

CND was represented at the first meeting, in June, by its chairman, Dave Knight, and its parliamentary officer, William Peden. On the Foreign Office side was Mr Grozney and two other FO officials. A representative from the Ministry of Defence was also present. Political sources described the meeting as "bizarre but ground-breaking".

"We got the impression that Mr Grozney expected the CND people to be hippies and wear sandals, and that the CND people expected the civil servants to be very stuffy - but they got on very well and left understanding each other's point of view a little better," said one source.

The meeting with Mr Soutar was held the following week. It is understood he requested the meeting to establish CND's position and, according to one source, to "ask for advice".

Present at both meetings was Mr Peden, 31, CND's parliamentary officer, a softly-spoken Scot who founded the peace camp outside the Faslane nuclear naval base in 1983. From 1983 to 1987 he was routinely arrested during protests, his phone was tapped and he was held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for publicising the movement of nuclear missiles. No charges were ever brought.

He refused to discuss the meetings yesterday but he did agree that CND's outsiders have come in from the cold.

"Under Tony Blair's government, there is a new openness and a willingness to discuss fresh ideas," he said. "Doors are now open to us that years ago would have been slammed in our faces.

"After being treated as an enemy of the state, it is nice to be regarded as someone who can make a positive contribution."

Founded in 1958 by, among others, the philosopher Bertrand Russell and the author JB Priestley, CND has always been viewed with suspicion by the security services due to the early support it received from members of the Communist Party, to which it was never affiliated.

Its profile was highest during the 1960s when protests were held at the nuclear research establishment at Aldermaston and during the 1980s when American Cruise and Pershing missiles were stationed in Britain.

However, from a high of 100,000 in 1984, membership has fallen to around 40,000 since the end of the Cold War and the removal of the missiles, prompting a fresh campaign to recruit members and raise its profile.

A week ago, it appealed for advertising agencies to run its campaigns for free. Ten applicants have since been considered and the successful agent will be announced soon.

"We want to raise the issue first, and our own image second," said Louise Edge, CND's spokeswoman. "It has gone from people's minds a little, but we have to remind them that disarmament is by no means complete - there are still thousands of nuclear weapons out there."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine