Politics and government is really all about deciding things. When we elect people to Parliament we are electing them to decide things for us, or in practice electing a government to decide things for us. We should be thankful that at least some of the issues come before Parliament, to be subject to debate and a vote by our elected representatives.

What we need to know as electors is how will they vote on crucial issues like renewing Trident. At the very least, and in so far as they can decide for themselves, how would they like to vote?  Will they have a free vote on what for many is a moral issue, a matter of conscience, or will they be constrained by party whip or loyalties? Knowing this would inform us as electors in a genuinely democratic system.

On this particular issue, of renewing our weapons of mass destruction, we have offered our local candidates a very simple method to define their position on the basic principles. All our four local candidates have been invited to complete the on-line interactive decision flowchart on the ethics of nuclear deterrence.

Tabulated below is the list of candidates for the constituency of Feltham and Heston in the 2015 General Election. As they respond to our request, a link will be added to each name, which will bring up their own personal solution to this moral problem.

Roger Crouch (Liberal Democrat)

Tony Firkins (Green Party)

Seema Malhotra (Labour)

Simon Nayyar     (Conservative)

Nuclear Weapons and Democracy

Thoughts from Christian CND

One of our greatest responsibilities in a democracy is to elect our Members of Parliament. Often we think that our responsibility ends there and we leave the policy decisions to those we elect and the experts, frequently encouraged by our political leaders. Robert Dahl, in his essay “Democracy versus Guardianship” says “We have, in fact, turned over to a small group of people decisions of incalculable importance to ourselves and mankind” So we have given this special class of people sole responsibility for the decision whether or not to kill millions of people and destroy vast areas of the planet by firing nuclear weapons- without any participation by the people who paid for those weapons with their taxes or by those who voted for the leaders who gave the final orders-Where is democracy here?

Once citizens no longer feel qualified to participate in discussions about their very survival, the connection between the governing and the governed is severed. Is this democracy?

In her book “Thermonuclear Monarchy — the Choice between Democracy and Doom”, Elaine Scarry argues that the very existence of nuclear arsenals betrays the basic purpose of the social contract that governs any civil society. “Nuclear weapons undo governments and undo anything that could be meant by “democracy’. They put the population completely outside the realm of overseeing our entry into war or having a say in their own survival or destruction. We have to choose between nuclear weapons or democracy.”

Nuclear weapons are what she calls “out-of-ratio” weapons: ones that give a very small number of people the power to annihilate very large numbers of people. “An out-of-ratio weapon makes the presence of the population at the authorisation end (of an attack) a structural impossibility. New weapons inevitably change the nature of warfare’; she says “but out- of- ratio weapons have changed the nature of government.”

The nuclear-armed submarine, this obscenely powerful engine of destruction and death, when deep under the ocean at a time of political tension, is difficult to communicate with. The Extra Low Frequency radio waves that can penetrate such depths take many minutes to arrive, so at the most critical moment it is almost,.. incommunicado.

There is no transparency if you have to wait 30 years to get information on Cabinet decisions. There is no transparency if treaties can be signed without discussion in Parliament (e.g. 50 year Teutates Treaty):

“The two artifacts, the social contract and the nuclear array are mutually exclusive. To exist, each requires that the other be destroyed. Which one will it be?” Elaine Scarry.

Information and quotes from `Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ (columnist; Kennette Benedict) and “Harvard Magazine’ (columnist: Craig Lambert).