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Dear <<First Name>> <<Last Name>>,


> General Election 2019

CND - whilst obviously being very political - is strictly non-partisan. Our campaign priorities remain the global abolition of nuclear weapons and the cancellation of Britain's Trident system (more information can be found by clicking here) alongside working for a more peaceful and secure world. We also campaign for the closure of the nuclear power industry - you can find out more about our campaigns on the CND website (click here).

I emailed all of the parliamentary candidates in Exeter and across Devon (of the 58 candidates, I couldn't find email addresses for 3 of them). Disappointingly only 11 replied.

I have submitted the responses that I received to the CND office to add to their #VoteOutNukes database and you can access that by clicking here where you can search by your postcode to see all of the responses from the candidates in your area.

I asked the candidates the following questions:

  1. If elected, would you support cancelling the replacement of Trident?
  2. If elected, would you back UK support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, abolishing all nuclear weapons internationally?

I also asked the 5 questions that the Peace Pledge Union proposed (more on that here). It is disappointing that so few of the candidates responded, and of those that did, not all of them answered all of the questions.

Below is a summary of the official positions of each of the major parties (listed alphabetically) including any responses that were received:

> Brexit Party
The Brexit Party doesn't have a manifesto as such. In their policy document which they call their "contract with the people" they pledge to "invest in strategic industries" including Defence. They don't mention nuclear weapons or nuclear energy at all though.

Ann Widdecombe (Plymouth Sutton and Devonport) replied: "I regret I do not support CND and would always vote to retain our nuclear deterrents".

> Conservative Party
The Conservative Party manifesto pledges to maintain the Trident nuclear weapons system (they refer to it as the "nuclear deterrent"). They are also committed to nuclear energy. None of the Conservative candidates responded.

> Green Party
The Green Party remains the only political party in England that pledges to scrap Trident (Plaid Cymru in Wales and the SNP in Scotland are also opposed to Trident), and would cancel the Trident replacement programme. A Green Government would sign the United Nations global ban treaty (the TPNW). The Greens are the only party that have given a commitment to supporting the TPNW. The Greens would also stop the construction of nuclear power stations, in favour of investment in renewable technologies. 

> Independent Candidates
There are 8 Independent candidates across Devon. Three of them replied to my email:

James Channer (Torbay) who calls himself an "independent Brexit candidate" said: "We would all love to live in a world free of nuclear weapons; however, it is out of our power to disarm other nations which is ultimately the reason why we hold on to our own. I would of course support global disarmament where all countries that possess such arsenals come together to set out plans to do so; however, I fear we are some way off from such a place which is why, in the meantime, I would a nuclear deterrent."

Claire Wright (East Devon) sent me a link to her website where she says the following: "It is important that we have well-resourced armed forces. Claire believes that the money spent on renewing Trident, based on a cost of £100bn over its lifetime, would be better spent on ensuring adequate recruitment to our conventional services and on conflict prevention. Of course we must invest heavily in our armed forces. We live in a constituency that understands that more than most. Claire is passionate about supporting them." 

David Halpin (Newton Abbot) replied and agreed with all of the questions asked (ie in support of our positions).

> Labour Party
Labour's official policy remains to support the replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system, which is disappointing given the fact that Jeremy Corbyn is a lifelong supporter of nuclear disarmament and indeed is a Vice-President of CND. The Labour manifesto also commits to building new nuclear power stations.

It is clear that the party is very divided on this issue, and many individual members and CLPs are supportive of CND's aims. The Labour manifesto also reaffirms a commitment to "actively lead multilateral efforts under our obligations to the Non-Proliferation Treaty" - much has been written about how the TPNW should really be seen as the successor to the NPT, given the collective failure of the NPT states parties to fully implement the obligations within it since it came into force on 5 March 1970.

Only three of the twelve Labour Party candidates replied:

Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) simply replied with a link to the Labour Party manifesto and didn't address any of the specific questions that were asked.

Charlotte Holloway (Plymouth Moor View) said: "Labour's manifesto is very clear that we support the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent. Industrial change happens gradually, we can see in Plymouth greater diversification happening and a move towards skilled jobs in industries supporting new technologies.  However to suggest that this country should not protect itself in this very uncertain world and therefore have an ability to manufacture the weapons we need would cause significant instability."

Elizabeth Pole (Tiverton and Honiton) said: "I wish I could give you a positive answer, but I am a Labour candidate and my first commitment is to the programme and policies of the Labour Party which has given me its endorsement and supported my campaign. Labour supports the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent. If, however, circumstances were to change I would be happy to see the policy change."

> Liberal Democrat Party
The Lib Dems pledge to "maintain a minimum nuclear deterrent, while pursuing multilateral nuclear disarmament" (which seems to be a direct contradiction in terms if you ask me...). Their plan would be to reduce the number of Trident submarines from four to three. They don't seem to have a position on nuclear power (I couldn't find mention of it in their manifesto anyway).

Two Lib Dem candidates (out of 11) replied:

David Chalmers (Torridge and West Devon) replied with the Lib Dem policy as above, but also said: "The Liberal Democrats have long argued that the UK, while maintaining a minimum nuclear deterrent, should be fully engaged in international nuclear disarmament efforts and should seek ways to persuade other countries to agree to step down the nuclear ladder. In 2015, Liberal Democrats proposed to step down the nuclear ladder by procuring fewer Vanguard Successor submarines and moving from Continuous-at-Sea Deterrence to a contingency posture of regular patrols, enabling a surge to armed patrols when the international security context makes this appropriate. This would help the UK fulfil its obligations in international law and reduce the UK nuclear warhead stockpile."

Graham Reed (Plymouth Sutton and Devonport), on the other hand, responded: "I support your aims and will speak on them as an MP. I would like to see these aims come to fruition in my lifetime so we only have about 25 years before I outlive my late mother (97y and 364d)."

UKIP's manifesto states that they are "committed to maintaining the Trident nuclear deterrent". They also say that they will "invest in small nuclear power stations". Neither of the two UKIP candidates responded to my email.

Of course, how you vote is up to you. CND doesn't endorse any political party (although there are sections of CND for members of Labour, the SNP, and the Green Party). CND asks that you consider the positions of candidates and political parties, and how they relate to our campaigning priorities and calls on us all to #VoteOutNukes.
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Thank you all for your continued support of the campaign.

With all best wishes,
in peace, and for peace,

TJ Milburn
Chair & Organising Secretary
Exeter Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

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