Labour Must Stand for Peace and Justice
Under Jeremy Corbyn’s continued leadership, Labour can become a voice for peace and international law
The current Labour Party leadership ballot may have been unwanted by those of us who wanted to get on with the job of fighting the Tories, but it does give us a clear opportunity to debate the direction the Labour Party should take in a number of vital policy areas.
After the recent publication of the Chilcot report, there is a clear choice in this election for those wanting to make Labour a voice for peace and international law after the disastrous wars of the Blair years — Jeremy Corbyn.
On issues of peace and international justice, Jeremy’s record is clear and he has been proven right time and time again in opposing the military adventures of recent years.
Jeremy voted and spoke out against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has been a leading figure in opposing the rising racism, Islamophobia and attacks on civil liberties that have accompanied Britain’s foreign policy in recent years.
He has consistently argued for international co-operation through the UN to be at the centre of our foreign policy and an end to the British arms trade with countries committing illegal military acts against civilians, whether that be Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign of Yemen or Israel’s continuing ignoring of UN resolutions on Palestine.
As well as the moral case against militarism and war, at a time of spending cuts and the deepening poverty they cause, it’s also more important than ever for Labour to make the case that all government spending should be put to the best possible use.
As Labour leader, Jeremy has outlined how Britain needs investment to promote jobs, housing and public services.
I would argue that our living standards cannot be raised if money that could be used to invest in our future is constantly being siphoned off for illegal foreign wars and nuclear weapons.
As is inevitable in such debates, the costs of renewing Trident are disputed, but it’s clear that the cost is truly enormous.
Crispin Blunt, the Conservative chair of the foreign affairs select committee, estimated the total cost of replacing Trident at £167 billion. The detailed estimate from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is that the total cost is actually £205 billion. Even at the lower estimate, this is over £2,500 for every woman, man and child in this country.
It has been calculated that the money spent could pay for up to 150,000 new nurses, 1.5 million affordable homes, 2 million jobs and much more.
If this sum were used as additional public investment on infrastructure it could be an additional boon to our plans to transform the current economic crisis and significantly raise living standards, whilst protecting jobs and communities in the relevant areas and diversifying local economies and ensuring they receive their fair share of the wealth of this country.
Decommissioning would take a number of years in which a fraction of the money spent on replacement could be used to create far more and higher-paid jobs in blighted economic areas. There are serious and feasible proposals for defence diversification for the entire UK, which would ensure that skills and jobs are not lost and engaging with trade unions to ensure this outcome.
And this is just Trident. An April 2014 report by a respected defence think tank, the Royal United Services Institute, put the cost of Britain’s wars and interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan at almost £30 billion — or £1,000 for every taxpayer. The cost of the Afghanistan war alone was about £12 million a day, yet these wars made our country less safe.
To put it in context, this £30bn on failed interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan would pay for over a million more NHS nurses.
Britain is also one of the biggest arms dealers in the world, with the government spending £700m a year on subsidies to arms companies, which could instead be invested in people.
None of these things — Trident, the failed interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, or the subsidising of the arms trade — make Britain safer. Instead we need a serious discussion on the best ways to work co-operatively internationally in terms of defending us from the actual threats we will face in future years, including cyber warfare, weaponised drones, chemical warfare and Isis-style terrorism.
Finally, it should be pointed out that when Labour makes the case for peace it helps the party electorally. When Tony Blair was prime minister Labour lost half a million votes in London alone and many of these voters left Labour after Tony Blair took us into the disastrous and unpopular Iraq war.
Additionally, the SNP’s anti-Trident and anti-war message clearly resonates with the Scottish electorate.
Jeremy’s tenth pledge in his vision to rebuild and transform Britain is to put peace and justice at the heart of British foreign policy.
It reads: “We will put conflict resolution and human rights at the heart of foreign policy, commit to working through the United Nations, end support for aggressive wars of intervention and back effective action to alleviate the refugee crisis. British foreign policy has long failed to be either truly independent or internationally co-operative, making the country less safe and reducing our diplomatic and moral authority.
“We will build human rights and social justice into trade policy, honour our international treaty obligations on nuclear disarmament and encourage others to do the same.”
A Labour government on this pledge could not only make Britain safer whilst transforming the country for the better — developing our economy for the many, not the few — but also make the world a safer, more secure and more equal place. Let’s make it happen.
Diane Abbott is shadow health secretary and Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington. She is supporting Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign to be Labour leader — more info at www.jeremyforlabour.com
Source: Morning Star