CND membership booms after nuclear U-turn

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Indy Politics

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has signalled its resurgence by agreeing a 50 per cent increase in its staffing levels and campaigning budget as it fights the Government's plans to replace Trident and allow a new generation of nuclear power stations.

CND's membership fell from a peak of 110,000 in 1983, when the Cold War made nuclear weapons a burning issue, to 32,000 last year. But since Tony Blair's announcement in May that nuclear power was "back on the agenda with a vengeance", the organisation has had a 300 per cent rise in new members.

At its two-day national council meeting in north London at the weekend, CND, which employs fewer than 100 people, agreed to launch an imminent recruitment campaign and to take advice on promoting awareness of Labour's proposals. "There will be a major expansion in all our activities, and new ways of working," said Kate Hudson, the organisation's chair. "We are ratcheting up our work several gears. With Trident replacement, in particular, we have a very tight timescale." A decision is due on Trident by the end of the year.

The rebirth of CND, which was launched in 1958, and is best known for its Aldermaston marches, will see the reappearance of one of the most iconic logos of the Seventies - the cheery sun symbol bearing the words: "Nuclear Power? No Thanks." CND has just taken possession of a consignment of badges featuring the logo, which in the CND heyday was translated into 47 languages and stamped on badges sold by the million. A British ethical trading company, Fairganic, has been granted a licence to print T-shirts using the logo. "Everybody, either intelligently or emotionally, remembers that," said Ms Hudson. "We want to use it in much that we do."

In the Seventies, Labour Party members wore the badge, and in the autumn of 1983 CND claimed an attendance of 400,000 (detractors said 100,000) at a rally. But after the fall of the Iron Curtain it became harder to imagine nuclear Armageddon and membership fell. The long-standing peace camp at the Faslane naval base in Scotland, where Trident submarines dock, now comprises just half a dozen protesters. A blockade is planned from October.

But the Government proposals apppear to have turned the tide for CND, with 200 people joining in the first week of July. "We've not experienced an explosion like this for a long time," said Ms Hudson. "We have been opening envelopes with £1,000 contributions and the local groups who have been out with our No Trident Replacement petition are reporting an extraordinary reception."

CND is aware that harnessing mass support requires more sophistication than it did in the Cold War and it will take advice on how to reach the biggest possible audience before the Trident decision is made. Gordon Brown's support for Trident triggered an unpredented number of hits on the CND website.

Group history

* 1952 UK atomic bomb test

* 1958 CND founded

* 1958 Gerald Holtom designs CND peace symbol based on international semaphore symbols for N and D. March on Aldermaston

* 1960 Bertrand Russell forms a more militant group

* 1979 James Callaghan accepts US Pershing II missiles, three years after Soviet Union deploys SS-20 missiles

* 1981 Greenham Common peace camp starts

* 1982 Faslane peace camp * 1983 Margaret Thatcher re- elected; biggest CND demo

* 1985 Membership 110,000

* 1989 Berlin Wall falls