Do you think the UK can rethink its position on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons?

The UK will only rethink its position on the TPNW when the argument has been won to get rid of Britain’s nuclear weapons system Trident. The UK cannot sign up without putting in place a time-constrained plan for disarmament, without any conditionality on other nuclear weapons states disarming, so signing up to the TPNW is understood, in effect, to be unilateral nuclear disarmament, given that no other nuclear weapons states are planning to give up their nuclear weapons. While opinion polls over the last decade and a half generally show a majority of the population (especially, young people) in favour of scrapping Trident, this has not affected the policy of the major parties. While smaller parliamentary parties like the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party oppose nuclear weapons, the Conservative Party, Labour Party and Liberal Democrats all continue to back Trident and its replacement. The key reason for this is the view that nuclear weapons are necessary to maintain Britain’s status as a world power. While many in the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats favour nuclear disarmament, the leaderships are not willing to risk looking weak on defence by abandoning the nuclear arsenal. So even though recent governments have recognised that cyber warfare, climate change, terrorism and other contemporary factors are actually the key security threats, not nuclear weapons, there is no appetite to change the totemic status of the UK’s nuclear arsenal, in spite of its enormous cost.

How does Brexit affect the dominant beliefs on nuclear deterrence?

Brexit has pushed virtually all other political issues down, or off, the political agenda, so it has been very difficult to raise the issue at all through our Parliamentary CND group. One of the effects of Brexit has been to increase the role and influence of the far right, and to increase nationalism, so no doubt nuclear disarmament would be seen as weakening ‘the nation’. So in so far as it is possible to judge, I would say that Brexit will make the political climate less amenable to progress on nuclear disarmament.

Do you think women have a specific role to play in paving the way to the abolition of nuclear weapons?

Women are often more prominent in peace and nuclear disarmament movements than in other civil society movements and campaigns, although that may be changing these days with more women entering public life. I have tended to think that this is because some elements of our dominant culture may see peace as ‘weak’ and that warfighting is a male characteristic, along with often more aggressive posturing, whereas caring and nurturing – and protecting future generations – has tended to be the preserve of females. But I do not consider these to be innate, rather to be learned through social conventions. Equally they can be unlearned, and the path to peace and disarmament is open to all to embrace, irrespective of gender.

Kate Hudson is a British left-wing political activist and academic. Since 2010, she has been the General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), having served as chair since 2003. She first became active in the peace movement in the early 1980s during the surge of activity against cruise missiles. With the end of the Cold War, like many others, Kate felt that the issue of nuclear weapons had greatly declined, so she turned to other campaigning work. One of her proudest moments was helping to Embrace the Base at Greenham Common in December 1982, along with 30,000 other women. By the mid-1990s, with the expansion of NATO and the escalation of the U.S. ‘Star Wars’ system, she came back to lead CND just as the ‘war on terror’ was beginning. She has been a key figure in the anti-war movement nationally and internationally and considers international cooperation and solidarity to be the key to the nuclear non-proliferation movement’s ultimate success.