Hawking to lead anti-war protest on election day

Stephen Hawking, Britain's most eminent scientist, has become the latest prominent opponent of the Iraq war by agreeing to take the lead role in a ceremonial protest to coincide with the United States presidential election.

Peace protesters will gather in Trafalgar Square at 5pm on Tuesday, where they will read out the names of 5,000 Iraqi men, women and children known to have died in the conflict.

The full death toll was put last week as high as 100,000.

Playwrights Harold Pinter and David Hare, actress Juliet Stevenson, the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and relatives of British soldiers killed in action in Iraq have all agreed to take part.

Professor Hawking, the author of the best-selling book A Brief History of Time, is wheelchair-bound as a sufferer from motor neurone disease. He recorded a message on Friday that will be broadcast at the start of the rally.

The oldest protester in Trafalgar Square is likely to be a fellow scientist, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Sir Joseph Rotblat. In the 1940s, he resigned from his job developing the world's first atomic bomb on moral grounds.

Sir Joseph, who will be 96 on Thursday, said: "In this nuclear age, we simply cannot allow others to start military action unless everything else has ... been tried and has failed."

The rally comes at a time when its organisers from the Stop the War Coalition have been embroiled in controversy with one of its biggest backers, the giant public sector union Unison, which has links with the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, (IFTU) whose general secretary, Subhi al-Mashadani, spent more than 10 years in prison under Saddam Hussein.

Unison leaders were appalled when Mr Mashadani was barracked and jostled at a London conference two weeks ago by left-wing delegates who accused him of being a stooge for the US and British governments. The row is threatening to become an issue inside Unison, where an election is taking place for the post of general secretary - the most powerful job in the trade union movement.

Left-wing activists in the union are trying to unseat the current general secretary, Dave Prentis, for being too close to Tony Blair.

Jon Rogers, the left-wing challenger, has accused two of Mr Prentis's senior advisers, Maggie Jones and Nick Sigler, of trying to split the union from the anti-war movement. Ms Jones, who is Unison's policy director, is a former Labour Party chairman and is expected to become Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent at the next election.

Mr Sigler, who heads the union's international department, worked for many years at Labour Party headquarters.

"It is not in the best interests of Unison for circumstances to arise in which it can appear that our union is being used as a vehicle by the Labour Party leader-ship to sow division in the anti-war movement," Mr Rogers claimed in a letter to Mr Prentis, leaked to The Independent on Sunday.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people Ex-wife of John Lennon has died at her home in Spain
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketing / Sales Co-ordinator - OTE £25,000+

£10000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of staffing and r...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen Porter

£19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the four inns of Court is seeking...

Recruitment Genius: Chef De Partie

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the four inns of Court i...

Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Support - Surrey - £24,000

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Support Helpdesk / 1st L...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?