Sunday 24 September 2006

Time to Restore Trust in Politics

I've been on the road for a week now, doing meeting after meeting as part of my campaign for the Labour leadership - in Hull, Liverpool, London and now back up to Manchester. I've been meeting with Labour party members, Labour supporters, trade unionists, and people just walking in off the streets. The enthusiasm of people to just discuss politics can almost be touched. Young people are turning up to the meetings in numbers I've not seen for a decade. The key issue that's emerging is a breakdown in trust, not just in the Labour leadership, but in politics overall. Nevertheless, people who have come to the meetings are there because they share a determination to turn things around.

New Labour evidenced this weekend that they haven't learnt the lesson by refusing to allow a debate about Trident's replacement at Labour Party Conference. New Labour has prevented Labour party members having any say on this major policy issue in advance of the decision to be made on whether Trident is to be replaced or not. This could be the last opportunity for a Labour Party Conference to have any say because the decision could be made by Blair and Brown before the Party Conference meets again.

The revelation this week that Trident will now cost not the £26 billion first envisaged but £76 billion clarifies why the Government doesn't want to debate this issue. Imagine how much this country could gain from the investment of £76 billion into its public services, into its pensions system, and into improving our environment. I believe that the electorate of this country will not support a Government that goes ahead with this waste of resources. This missile system is clearly unusable. We must now use the period ahead to implement the programme of arms conversion to protect the jobs of those workers currently associated with the operation of the existing Trident system. In the first instance this workforce will be utilised in the dismantling of the system itself. With the massive skills that exist within the Trident workforce, the next stage of this process should comprise the redeployment of these skills into a programme of development of alternative power technology. There is an ideal match between the skills available and the need of the country to develop sustainable alternative power sources which will contribute towards tackling climate change.

We welcome people's views on how this arms conversion programme can be developed to provide the practical alternative to secure the jobs and the skills base of the workers currently engaged in the Trident programme.