Politics: New Labour MPs bring CND back to parliament

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The Independent Online
A great Labour tradition that had died away with the ending of the Cold War has been rekindled, writes Steve Boggan - a parliamentary branch of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Twenty-eight Labour MPs met last month to re-establish the Parliamentary Labour CND, a body which once boasted the membership of Tony Blair, Jack Straw and Gavin Strang, none of whom are expected to rejoin.

The old Parliamentary CND withered away between the general elections in 1992 and 1997. Last summer, however, Harry Cohen, MP for Leyton and Wanstead, Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North), and Alan Simpson (Nottingham South), reacted to growing concern among Labour MPs over an apparent stalling of the disarmament process and the lack of government commitment to speed it up.

They held a meeting with William Peden, CND's parliamentary officer, on 15 July at which it was decided to invite Labour members to rejoin, and to approach Ann Cryer, the Keighley MP whose late husband, Bob, used to act as treasurer. Mrs Cryer volunteered to take on Mr Cryer's old role and an audit of the group's bank account found it to be "very healthy".

On 24 January in room W4 off the Great Hall at the Palace of Westminster, the Parliamentary Labour CND was reborn, with 28 MPs paying pounds 5 subscription. Significantly, 11 were new MPs.

The rebirth, although at first sight a sentimental occasion - CND's 40th anniversary is next week - reflects a more serious groundswell of concern among Labour MPs about cuts in welfare spending while, in their view, defence spending is too high.

Several early-day motions, inspired by CND, have been very well supported by new as well as old Labour MPs. One, put forward by Mrs Cryer last July, reiterated the desire to "rid the world of nuclear weapons and the threat they pose to it". It was supported by 49 Labour MPs, including 19 new members.

Another, which expressed concern over stockpiles of plutonium, attracted the support of 99 Labour members, including 57 new ones.

Mr Corbyn said he expects Labour under Tony Blair to frown upon membership of the group but applications are still flowing in. "I think Tony Blair should worry about this and ensure that when the results of the defence review come out, we don't end up spending more on the military or blowing more money on subsidies for the arms industry," he said. Asked whether old members - listed as T Blair, J Straw or G Strang - were expected to re-new their memberships, he replied: "We're not expecting them to apply. And we haven't had any offers from an A Campbell offering to act as our press officer."