Dear Editor, As a trained silversmith and jeweller I was pleased to see Roy Hattersley helping to highlight the Jewellery Quarter.
But in the matter of our ultimate national survival – as a potential nuclear target, especially after recent Russian statements in response to US/Nato plans to site nuclear missiles next to Russia – and of the efforts I joined in to rid Britain of all nuclear weapons, I cannot forget Hattersley’s assertion that Neil Kinnock, in rejecting nuclear unilateralism had made “an honourable intellectual judgment” (‘Today’ 2.10.89).
On the same day he told the ‘World At One’ that Kinnock had “done what he believes”.
In the 80s there had been a strong commitment to CND’s policy at seven successive Labour Party conferences, starting in 1982 with the two-thirds majority necessary to force the leadership to include it in the party’s election programme.
For nine years, the party’s official policy was unilateralist. But the pro-Washington leadership – co-led by Hattersley did nothing to promote this, but instead, in a two-year process of deceit and cynical Soviet phobia, destroyed the hopes of millions of Labourites, trade unionists and peace activists.
In those nine years, not one motion in support of the position was ever tabled by Labour leaders in the House of Commons, the proper place for an issue of such magnitude.
Was Hattersley being evasive when he said in 1984: “I’ve always held – since 1964 – that Polaris is a great waste of money?” (‘The Week In Politics’ 28.9.84).
Did Labour leaders take no notice of the former US Defence Secretary Robert McNamara’s statement that the “deployment of (Russian) SS20s did not change the nuclear balance between the powers”. (ITV discussion after film ‘The Day After’, Dec 1983) which made US Cruise and Pershing too an escalation?
Kinnock won the leadership in 1983 because one of his strongest suits was the belief that he was a staunch unilateralist and was therefore in tune with the rank and file on the single most emotive issue facing the party. His first major public engagement as leader was as a speaker at a massive CND rally in Hyde Park in October 1983.
In 1984 Kinnock, while appearing to accept Tony Benn’s rejection of Cold War myths, said it would look as if Labour was “soft on the Russians” and would undermine the US. Moreover, he said, the existence of Soviet missiles was evidence of a Soviet intention to attack.
In 1986, Kinnock became convinced that nuclear unilateralism would never be tolerated by the Establishment (including most of the media). Before the 1987 election – when a Marplan poll showed that Gorbachev was far more trusted than Reagan, and 86 per cent saw no great military danger from the USSR – Kinnock visited Reagan, who treated him with contempt and who later told the world that if Labour won the election the US would have to persuade it of the “grievous error” of nuclear disarmament.
Was all this the “intellectual judgment” behind Kinnock’s u-turn? There was hardly any such judgment. The sad explanation, Mr Hattersley, is that we live in a “client state” of the US, (as Clive Ponting has said) which wishes us to be its forward based aircraft carrier (with 101 bases in the UK in 1983).
Democracy can go hang.
Phil Braithwaite, Kings Heath
87 Station Road, Kings Heath, Birmingham
Former derelict building now an asset to Jewellery Quarter
Dear Editor, I felt that I had to write in about the use of the Jewellery Quarter picture in your article about dereliction and rates on empty buildings. This is the second time the picture has been used when the building has, in fact, now been refurbished and is an asset to the Quarter.
In terms of the Jewellery Quarter, we would support the campaign to remove the current rates burden but we are also developing our own strategy to tackle building dereliction.
This is through working with Advantage West Midlands to develop “gap funding” to encourage new developments and also to look at other measures such as Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act.
This aims to put the pressure on landowners who have bought buildings to just hold onto and eventually sell on, with no real desire to do something useful with them.
I would also suggest that we all need to look at innovative ways to ensure buildings that are empty are not only secure but become an asset rather than a detraction to the street scene, perhaps through the use of public art and so on.
I would mention that dereliction in the Quarter, 100 buildings about four years ago, has more than halved!
Jewellery Quarter Regeneration Partnership
Frederick Street, Hockley, Birmingham
Visit of little help to debt-ridden Haiti
Dear Editor, Your readers will be disappointed that the visit of the World Bank president Robert Zoellick to the Caribbean island of Haiti has been of little help, as it struggles to recover from four hurricanes this year and 80 per cent of its people live on less than $2 per day. His reported claims that almost a third of its debt has been cancelled are false.
Haiti owes $1.7 billion of debt, almost half of it built up under the dictatorial regime of the Duvaliers which ended 20 years ago. It is having to keep up repayments at the rate of $1 million a week when only 40 per cent of the $107 million UN humanitarian appeal has been pledged, let alone received.
In fact, none of Haiti’s debt stock has yet been cancelled by the World Bank, and in recent weeks the World Bank has delayed debt cancellation for Haiti by six months. This comes as the UN’s Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes described the four hurricanes that have struck the country as the “worst disaster in the last 100 years” to strike Haiti.
In words which I believe were Cardinal Hume’s: “Those who could be blamed the least, the poorest people in the poorest countries, have suffered the most.”
May I invite your readers to write to Mr Douglas Alexander, the Minister for Overseas Development, at the House of Commons, London SW1, to ask him to urge the World Bank to drop Haiti’s debt now.
John Nightingale (Canon)
Chair, Jubilee Debt Campaign