The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) have welcomed the tone of Ed Miliband's first speech as the Labour Party's new leader. But they urged him to stick to his view that the Trident nuclear weapons system should be included in the government's Strategic Defence and Security Review.
The coalition government is planning to push ahead with renewing Trident regardless of the outcome of the review, which will report in October. Estimates of the cost of renewal vary between £10 billion and £94 billion.
Trident looks set to be a key test of Miliband's commitment to the views he expressed in the leadership campaign. Labour has previously opposed Trident's inclusion in the review, but Miliband's election may lead to a reversal of the policy.
“We hope that Ed will press forward with that,” said CND's Kate Hudson after Miliband's speech to the Labour conference yesterday (28 September).
The stakes on Trident were raised when the Liberal Democrats' conference last week exposed coalition splits on the issue. Under the coalition agreement, the Conservatives have agreed to let Liberal Democrat MPs abstain on Trident, but it looks as if some will insist on voting against it.
During his speech, Miliband set out to distance himself from some of the more unpopular decisions of his predecessors. He described the invasion of Iraq as “wrong” and said it had undermined the United Nations.
His words on Iraq were welcomed by CND, but there is also likely to be disappointment that he stopped short of making an apology for his party's support for the war. He also declared his commitment to the ongoing war in Afghanistan.
“Ed Miliband's speech shows that at long last the party is making a decisive move away from the aggressive pro-war policies pursued by New Labour,” said Hudson.
In addition to welcoming the new leader's criticisms of the Iraq war, Hudson applauded his attack on the the Israeli blockade of Gaza. She said that Miliband's speech “suggests he is not just reflecting on the mistakes of the past but willing to take forward a policy which truly does reflect a rejection of Blair's subservience to the US”.
During his speech, the Labour leader twice said that foreign policy should be based on “our values, not just alliances”.
Following these words, his position on the arms trade is likely to come under scrutiny. During the leadership election, he failed to respond to questions from the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) about his position on government support for the arms industry.