If I were Prime Minister: The UK would refuse to profit from death

Our series in the run-up to the General Election – 100 days, 100 contributors, but no politicians – continues with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament's General Secretary

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The Independent Online

My first act as Prime Minister would be to announce Britain’s exit from the nuclear club. Trident would be heading for the scrap heap without delay and plans for its replacement would be cancelled immediately. But my nuclear clear out wouldn’t stop with weapons: nuclear power stations would go the same way. Result? Britain would join the overwhelming majority of states without nuclear weapons or power, thereby reducing the risk of nuclear annihilation or radioactive disaster.

Sweeping aside the twentieth century’s most deadly legacy will open up big opportunities for my government in terms of investment and sustainable industrial development. This year’s planned £3bn spend on nuclear weapons would go straight into filling the NHS’s £2bn funding gap. My Chancellor’s next task would be to work out the best use of the £100bn saved by cancelling Trident replacement. Would she choose to build new hospitals? Quadruple annual investment in renewable energy? Build hundreds of thousands of new homes? Or maybe end tuition fees? Whatever the option, I would make sure this money was used to create real security and sustainability for the British people.

Of course, I would be aware that ending nuclear production would mean a change to some people’s employment. But it would be precisely that: a change in employment not an end to employment. My Minister for Industrial Realignment would immediately draw up a diversification strategy to ensure that all those previously employed in the nuclear sector would either continue employment in nuclear decommissioning or be newly employed in the burgeoning sustainable energy sector funded by the billions previously wasted on weapons of mass destruction.


Kicking nuclear wouldn’t just be an economic and industrial choice though. It would also be part of an ethical foreign policy turn – and the arms industry would go the same way as nuclear. My government would no longer allow the production and trade in machines of death; our factories and workforce would be retooled to produce goods to sustain and enhance lives rather than summarily end them.

I would personally oversee a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate Britain’s role in the world over the past centuries and establish the extent to which Britain has robbed other countries of their sovereignty and assets and intervened in their politics. Where wrongdoing is proven, appropriate legal and financial steps will be taken to provide redress. All those robbed of their homes and livelihoods as a result of British military intervention in their countries will be welcomed to stay in Britain while we assist in the rebuilding process – with no profitable or strategic strings attached.

And finally my government would launch a proper debate about Britain’s role in the world: not one where we "punch above our weight" or "pay the blood price" or feel that we are uniquely destined to know what’s best for people in other countries. But one where we value and respect our common humanity and seek to save and build lives on the basis of justice and equality.