IN CONVERSATION : MARTIN AND DAVE IN HEADINGLEY, LEEDS

 

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A corner of the Peace Gardens in Sheffield city centre. Amongst a number of war memorials here is one dedicated to Hiroshima, site of the first use of atomic weapons. A 1984 BBC co-production, Threads, perhaps the finest film drama depicting the consequences of thermonuclear war and its aftermath, was set in Sheffield.

 

AUDIO Coming soon

Martin, Dave and I discuss existential threats to humanity, power, utopia, and the engagement and collective action required to realise it.


TRANSCRIPT

JO: So, if you’d like to introduce yourselves … and then I can … I’ll probably end up narrating the introductions on the final thing .. but … So, Dave …

DW: Dave Webb … I’m currently Chair of CND … the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament …member of the Green Party for .. I’m not sure how many years … quite a long time … I used to work at the local university … Leeds Beckett University .. where I was a Professor of Engineering … and then I became a Professor of Peace Studies … changed direction ..

JO: quite a … quite a change …

DW: yes

JO: but based on your life’s work, I guess … your experience …

DW: well it was based on a number of things … that came all at the same time … basically, they were phasing out engineering … which was a good incentive to do something else … but also we had a Vice Chancellor who was quite happy to help introduce Peace Studies as a course … so … we .. myself and a few other people who had been working on peace and human rights for a while … got together and put together a course … which is still running … thank goodness …

JO: great … great stuff .. Martin ..

MH: [ ] is it the VC who overspent?

DW: that’s the one … who got fired …

JO: I was going to suggest … so they’re not all … they’re not all terrible …

DW: he was not … that was the only good thing I think he did … and Martin ..

MH: Martin Hemingway … I’m .. I’ve been a political activist for a long time … I used to be a Labour Party member and was for twelve years a Labour councillor in Leeds … working on lots of environmental issues … I was Chair of UK Nuclear Free Local Authorities …

JO: yes

MH: part of the connection with Dave … I joined the Green Party about fourteen years ago ..

JO: yes … and I should say we’re in Headingley …

MH: in Headingley, yes …

JO: in the North of Leeds …

MH: North West Leeds

JO: in North West Leeds … and we’re actually in Martin’s home … who’s kindly hosting me at the moment … If I could start you off with …. these are sort of top of head answers … and I know it’s quite difficult to succinctly characterise something as big as the thing I am about to ask you to describe but as you know, I am trying to reach a sort of an operating view of the world that’s good enough …. roughly right, as Keynes once said … not precise .. but roughly right … good enough to inform one’s action … good enough to set a direction for oneself but also for one’s society etc … so I’ll start by saying “where are we?” I mentioned a bit about this yesterday …. Where are we? What is … how would you characterise the current situation? Thinking globally, but also nationally, and even regionally .. this part of the world … what’s the institutional and physical architecture? What’s the condition of people? And it’s fair … I think it’s fairly uncontroversial by now … though not necessarily known by all that we’ve got terribly different conditions with some people living in squalor that is reminding some people of Victorian times and then others

MH: are you talking about my house?

JO: and others living a life of Riley … or better … How do you feel about it? Dave, do you want to start .. and then ..

DW: well .. I think globally we are on the edge of a precipice .. basically .. staring over the edge … we’ve got these combined threats of climate change, nuclear weapons .. but also the one that you mentioned .. this [ ] huge division between the people that have and the people that have not … and what seems like an uncaring attitude … [ ] so somehow or other it seems … from this country’s point of view, anyway … I don’t think this is necessarily what everybody thinks around the world … but from the Western kind of way of thinking .. or way of action … we’re not doing really anything to address any of those problems … and this is causing even more problems .. a total lack of either understanding or caring about what seems to be …

JO: and are you thinking about … I mean .. I am sure there are plenty of officials worldwide who would point to a slew of … [ ] … the annual UN .. is it? …. FCCC .. process .. the climate talks ..

MH: IPCC …

JO: yes .. the IPCC is monitoring the situation, isn’t it? So they could quite easily point to .. on the climate side … a huge number of bureaucratic initiatives and processes but in your view, they don’t really amount to a serious attempt to address …

DW: well I think they are a serious attempt to address …. but it’s whether they will actually achieve … be able to achieve what they are trying to address … especially when you have rogue states like the United States who seem to be .. at least their current President is intent on just forgetting the whole thing ..

JO: yes

DW: going ahead as … not only as business as usual .. but business worse than usual … really …

JO: yes

DW: and he was elected by a huge number of people in the United States so … I know also there are a huge number of people in the United States who can’t stand him and

JO: sure

DW: think he’s a complete disaster … but he got elected somehow or other …

JO: so when we’re talking about things like “uncaring” .. you’re not necessarily just talking about people in … perceived to be in positions of … senior positions of power …. you think it’s a bit a bit more widespread than that or … ?

DW: yes … I think it’s a lot of ignorance … I think that’s one of the problems … people don’t really think too much about the situation … there are politicians who are willing to take advantage of the situation … [ ] .. of the ignorance of others … [ ] but one of the problems that I think we have is that we don’t encourage people to participate or … the hierarchy doesn’t want too much participation from the ordinary citizens … because it causes problems of [ ] difficulties [ ] … they want to keep them happy doing something else like watching television or being entertained while they carry on and do their business

JO: yes, ok … Martin, do you want to …

MH: I think … obviously the big concern is about climate change … although the amount of emitted carbon dioxide being produced has stabilised as a result of the measures that have been taken … in part … but also just down to simple economic benefits that there are from firms not using these carbon sources anymore .. it’s not enough to stop the tipover happening … [ ] once we start getting the release of significant quantities of methane … significant acidification of the oceans … those other knock on effects … then the position now is no less alarming than if nothing had been done …

JO: ok

MH: because there isn’t … really enough perception of just how important it is to be doing much more now ..

JO: do you think a lot of people are aware of climate change but not really aware of the existential …. do you think it poses an existential threat to humanity?

MH: [ ] they don’t appreciate quite how bad it could be …

JO: yes

MH: there’s a particularly alarming one reported three or four years ago which compared the potential to what happened on Venus where you’ve got massively high temperatures

JO: yes

MH: but suggested it was the same [ ]

JO: a runaway greenhouse ..

MH: a runaway accumulation of gases in the atmosphere that are trapping heat

JO: the methane is the stuff trapped under the permafrost …

MH: there’s methane in permafrost, yes …

JO: is that the main …

MH: it’s a significant store … there are also significant stores of methane in seafloor sediments as well … because obviously a lot of organic material goes down to the bottom of the ocean and that can come up in … just big bubbles … every now and then … and it’s how the changing ocean chemistry is going to affect the release of methane

JO: okdoke .. I didn’t know about that … I knew mainly about the permafrost risk

MH: wherever organic material is decaying .. you’ve got methane … so landfills produce methane and a well engineered landfill will actually gather the methane and use it .. In Leeds at one stage, it was being gathered, converted to liquid natural gas that was used to power the rubbish lorries

DW: right

MH: which was quite a nice circularity really …

JO: yes

MH: it was keeping it in-house as it were … so there are things like that … and obviously what Trump is doing in relation to North Korea … There are just so many problems .. things like antibiotic overuse … so many threats to us … you know … things like the Americans last year used 15,500 tonnes of antibiotics .. 80% of which went into animals just to help them fatten quicker … that’s stupidity on a global scale … in relation to America and the election of Trump … it’s a normal convention when you are elected to say that you are … you’ve been elected and you are there to represent all the people … Trump’s more or less the first American President who’s there just to represent the people who elected him … and have no concern for the interests of the rest of Americans who have other concerns and that political ignorance is what informs … if you like … almost all of the actions he takes … which has led us into this frightening face off with North Korea …

JO: yes … we had just come onto that, hadn’t we?

MH: [ ] will have to back down because it ought not to do what it is doing …

JO: yes

MH: the other one is in relation to power … and just … the people don’t perceive where power lies … and now it’s big corporations exert more power than countries … governments … they can sue governments under the various trade agreements … if they have their profits restricted by the actions our government takes … for example, by not letting them mine gold in a national park or something like that … so what we need is to recognise where power lies and act to control that power in the interests of people … power to the people … as a slogan …

JO: yes … where have I heard that?

MH: yes

JO: I can just … I’m just about old enough to remember .. was it Citizen Smith …

MH: yes

JO: punching the air …was that … would that have been in the seventies? The late seventies?

MH: Wolfie .. I don’t think I ever saw it …

JO: I don’t think I ever watched it … I was certainly too young to appreciate it but I can vaguely remember

DW: I watched it … yes

JO: I think we need to talk about that a bit more … so can we talk about that a bit more and then come to the nuclear side .. in particular … I want to take advantage of your knowledge …. and your being here … So, I would say, yes … power lies with corporations, but I would also say that a corporation is not as separate of the state and governments as all that … in fact, from a legal point of view, it is a creation of .. it is a creature of a state … if you try and start a business, you have to go and get Companies House to create an entity and so on and so forth … and there are many ways in which the government/state sort of co-creates a corporation

MH: but also …

JO: so my point would be if you are maybe one of the smaller states … let’s say … without naming any particular country … but let’s say a country with natural resources … with relatively little power in the world … relative to other states and corporations … I would agree that foreign corporations tend to have the whip hand in their dealings … in their transactions with that government … that state … but when you talk about the United States it’s a quite different matter … you wouldn’t argue that the United States’ government/state is not where power lies, would you?

MH: well that would be to say that the people who exercise power through their corporations are more innocent than those who are exploited … in fact, their case is worse if they are creating and encouraging the conditions for that … what we are talking about at that level are essentially supranational corporations

JO: yes

MH: which are able to use jurisdictional movement in relation to where they put their headquarters, where they put their money

JO: yes

MH: for tax purposes .. so you’ll have a company that is not paying tax in a developed country

JO: like Apple … Apple is like the best example at the moment …

MH: like Apple in this country … and when you do get challenges to it … like the EU challenges to large corporations … and large fines imposed .. then it’s seen as somehow unfair to this poor little business struggling to get by … but essentially those corporations are parasitic upon the states that they are in because by minimising their tax, they are getting their workers educated for free, they’re getting their workers’ healthcare for free, they’re getting the roads they use provided for free … without contributing to the state … and yet the state carries on supporting them in that parasitic lifestyle because it is somehow seen as important that those companies exist.

JO: but my point, I suppose is that … I think my argument would be at the moment that the big states … the big government/states … and it is not the same thing … that’s why I keep using two words … they are still centres of power and it depends who is occupying those structures and what’s going … life would change drastically, for example, for Apple Corporation, if the likes of us were to suddenly be populating those seats of power … those seats of power in government and state in let’s say the United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom for example … life would suddenly be quite different for the likes of Apple Corporation …

DW: [ ]

JO: would it not?

DW: yes it would … but that is why they are stopping it from happening …

JO: yes … so …

MH: plus we have trade agreements with arbitration that operates outside national legal systems … [ ]

JO: so what you are saying is that even were people such as ourselves … people minded like we are … even were we to get to a state where we could start trying to do something … what …. you feel that the constraints are so binding that …

MH: there are treaties in place that prevent a lot of these things happening …. so, for example, let’s say we wanted to tax aviation fuel … it’s a Green Party policy …

JO: yes

MH: but there are so many international treaties deriving from the original Chicago treaty that it would be impossible actually to bring that about … [ ]

JO: but it is an international treaty?

MH: it’s a whole set of international treaties …

JO: so, internationally one could revise it or annul it?

MH: no .. it would require … it’s probably almost impossible now to disentangle it all … you could just cut it through … get rid of it .. perhaps … but it’s very unlikely that all states would want that

JO: but what I am saying is that if you managed to get into … I don’t know how many it would take ..maybe .. well let’s say the G20 … let’s say the top five or six geopolitical powers … if they were to want to change direction massively .. surely that would …

MH: it’s a matter of [ ]

JO: that would be doable … I am not saying it’s politically likely … but it would be doable …

MH: it would take time because essentially they would have to agree first of all to remove all of those legal barriers that exist. So, for example, if a Labour government came to power, wanting to nationalise, and we stayed within the EU …

JO: yes

MH: then that would be not an easy policy for them to pursue … within the context of staying within the European Union …

JO: so, for example, nationalising the railway …

MH: yes … because while it’s possible to privatise, it’s not possible to renationalise … within European Union law … with the same ease … things like PFI contracts … they are contracts .. they have set times to run … they have set amounts coming in … they’re essentially the same as government bonds … if you’ve entered into a contract, you have to buy your way out of it .. and it would then … Now … you could take a revolutionary approach … the Bolshevik approach if you like … and I’ve got nothing against that .. which is just to say these interests are not in the interest of the people and we end them … but I think, looking at global politics, that’s very unlikely … particularly when you look at the cross ownership so we have … we have industries here … we have properties here … we have firms here but they are owned by the sovereign wealth funds of Norway and China and Qatar … not by our .. so … we in a sense don’t have control of those … because … [ ]

JO: and it does radically change the implications of what you can do … are changed radically by the geopolitical state of affairs .. aren’t they? So, what Britain can do unilaterally is quite different to what it would be able to do as part of a European Union wide …

DW: but we did …. Britain did do a certain amount of nationalisation when the banks were failing .. it pulled one in particular out by nationalising it … it nationalised part of the railway … not all of the railway ..

MH: but it’s limited in what it could do …

DW: but could it not

MH: by the EU rules …

DW: I don’t really know enough about the EU rules, I suppose .. so you couldn’t … so how is it limited … what’s the limitation?

MH: I think it is just that … you can’t take into state control a private enterprise …

DW: but not of any private business?

MH: because it’s to do with competition laws … [ ] essentially, when there is state involvement … then there is no longer pure competition because the private firms can’t compete with a state monopoly … which has … or a state near monopoly … which has all sorts of economies of scale and can actually legislate to make it difficult for competition … so a nationalised firm can often benefit from anti-competitive behaviour and anti-competitive behaviour is ruled out by sections 101 and 102 of the Treaty ..

DW: but that can also be used to break up large companies …

MH: can be, yes …

DW: which means they have monopolies …

MH: if they are acting in an anticompetitive way .. it can be used against them as well …

DW: is it ever used against them?

MH: it is, yes …

DW: I think it is in the States

JO: Microsoft’s been falling foul, hasn’t it?

MH: it’s very often used to fine them and the way it works is you get out of your fine if you denounce the other people in your cartel … [ ] so it’s used … and the level of fines is into billions cumulatively under that part of the treaty …

JO: so, are you of the view that …. the state will be involved in getting us from the situation we are in into something safer? Or are you of the view that the state is a problem that needs to be sidestepped ?

MH: I don’t know … it comes back to .. to what extent are people able to influence and you know … how [ ] … campaigning organisations work effectively … which is … how can they create the pressure that will influence a government to act in a particular way and they do that, not just by having the view and presenting the view … but by altering the world view of the larger part of the population … when … sometimes the government has …. no .. the government does have to act … if you think about the changes since the passing of the Sexual Offences Act in relation to same-sex relationships leading through to the legalisation of same-sex marriage … that couldn’t have been in the contemplation of most of the people in the country at the time that David Steel’s Act … private member’s bill … was passed … and yet, it was part of that normalisation … that acceptance … so the two work together … it’s a matter of yes there has to be the campaigning there but also a government act can legitimise things … and any state actor can … I was excavating in Sussex when there was the Battle of the Beanfield which was when a lot of travellers on their way to a concert were … essentially attacked by the police … and driven off into [ ] they were camping in this field and it was the first time in years we’d been vandalised … and when one of our excavators caught one of the kids doing it, they said “we thought it was alright – we thought you were hippies” … in other words, the police action against the travellers at the Battle of the Beanfield had legitimised their behaviour …

JO: yes … they were … you were perceived to be fair game …

MH: towards other people they categorised in the same way … so the state does legitimise bad acts

JO: yes

MH: as well as … but also has the potential to legitimise good

JO: it sounds to me there that you are saying … although you may well think state structures need democratising and accountability needs to be improved … it sounds as though it is part of the solution but what solution is achievable depends on what is going on geopolitically so in Britain, if we were to manage to do a good job of getting the right bums on seats … changing the structure of the seats a bit … we would then have a menu of options limited by what America was up to and still trying to do … and what the other large corporations and states are up to …

MH: China and Russia

JO: is that a fair summary? So … it’s going to be part of the task is to ….

MH: No. A fair summary is “we’re all fucked”.

JO: Is it? I’ve … I don’t like to say that because I often hear that from people who I perceive … and I don’t think it’s true in your case … but I often hear it from people who I think use it as a sort of excuse for not doing anything … it’s a sort of a conservative … almost like a cynical .. not in your case … but ..

MH: I understand what you are saying ..

JO: I think it’s still the right thing to do to try and do the right thing even if it’s unlikely that it will bring about a solution

MH: of course …

JO: but, I mean … do you feel like we’ve gone past the … I think we’re in an emergency situation but do you think it’s gone past the point of …

DW: yes … I think there are basic flaws with human beings basically … which means … well, this is probably a good testing time … If we get through it, then that’s brilliant … but I don’t feel very optimistic … because … not just climate change … but a lot of other ways in which humans behave is basically irresponsible …. and that’s … that irresponsibility is not really being challenged … too much …

JO: What do you mean? Again, I’m nervous about people who talk about “human beings” ’cause not all human beings are like and we’re changeable and …

DW: yes, we are … but we’re also …

JO: you often hear, sort of, with an eye roll … you know … “it’s human nature! What can you do?” … but actually … I wonder … so I’m challenging that a bit …

DW: I’m not suggesting necessarily it’s with people but with the structures that people have put together … so .. you know … the political and social structures that we adhere to … are the problems … but they are a product of us … you know … they’re our things … so we’ve put together something that doesn’t really work and yet we’re not prepared to change it to any real degree … I guess ..

JO: or only a few …

MH: [ ] things depend on collective action …

JO: yes

MH: and yet we have a state of mind or state of thinking that has pushed people towards thinking that their own individual views have equal validity no matter how ill informed they are … hence what underlay Brexit … what underlay Trump … what underlies attacks on elites … these are people who are telling you how to think … you have just as much right to know what you think about this issue … even though you don’t know anything about it and can’t be bothered to find out … and that’s a .. that’s an underlying trend in Western thought … it’s been there since the Romantics really … that there are not universals … that each individual can come to their own view on things and they don’t have to accept the views of others …The difficulty now is that lots of people think they do have a view on things even though it’s based on a soundbite or a Tweet from an idiot.

DW: I guess that’s why … I mean I had the sort of scientific training, I suppose, really … the upbringing .. with science you are supposed anyway to look at the evidence … and see how that works so you know .. you have a theory or something … you test it by doing some experiment and that will give you … the outcome should tell you whether that’s correct or not or at least you are on the right path … so .. you know … that’s the way I kind of expect things to behave … but they don’t … they don’t behave like that … and even in science they don’t behave like that … to be honest … the way that science is practised …

JO: we’re talking about people don’t behave this way … knowledge is more political than people think …

DW: it’s more the structures, I think .. again … it’s people working within the structures that have been formed … so, for example, you’d think that .. you know … science would be progressing in trying to understand nature and to try and find out more about all of .. you know .. how things work … and why and so on … but it’s got to be now …. you don’t get the money to do that unless you have some other alternative … some ulterior motive … unless you can show that it makes money …

JO: it’s instrumental … in some way ..

MH: and yet pure research underlies a lot of those ..

JO: ironically …

DW: absolutely …

JO: historically that has been the case, hasn’t it?

DW: yes … and some … there is some that is funded and some that is recognised as being important … but the vast majority isn’t and in fact … if you apply for .. at least this used to be the case when I was doing it …. if you apply for a grant from the Research Council, say, there’s a box you can tick to say “might this be of interest to the Ministry of Defence?” and if you tick the box, you’re more likely to get the money … and you’ll certainly get some interest shown by the Ministry of Defence … so … unless … you know .. it’s kind of … it’s geared towards not to the accumulation of knowledge and understanding but to other factors …

MH: I wonder if that was on the other ones … Yours would have been Engineering … the Research Council

DW: yes .. that’s right

MH: I just wonder if it would have been on the Economic & Social Research Council

JO: yes

DW: quite possibly …

JO: or the Arts & Humanities …

DW: not … probably not in there … It might not be there any more .. it might just do it by other means …. but …

MH: people do research .. [ ]

DW: well I worked for the Ministry of Defence for a short time … ’cause … as … when I was a scientist .. I’d be … I was interested in space physics … that’s what I did my PhD in …

JO: yes

DW: and after several grants ran out … I was looking for a job, of course, and applied for some … I didn’t apply for this particular job but there was somebody in the interview for a job that I did apply for that I didn’t get … from the Ministry of Defence … from .. in fact it was from the Director of Scientific and Technical Intelligence and they offered me this job with them which was basically to assess the Soviet … it was the Soviet Union in those days … space … what they were doing in space … is it a threat … sort of thing … Not “is it a threat?” … you assume it’s a threat … what kind of a threat is it? So, I thought well it’s not building any nasty weapons or anything … you know .. it could be quite interesting … so I took it but I didn’t stay very long … I stayed a few months and then left … because I could see that what you were doing was building up a case for some kind of reaction. So you put .. you have to put forward the worst possible case that, say, the Soviets were doing … what could they possibly be up to … and then we saw that in Iraq .. the build up to the Iraq War … where they told us the worst possible case was that they could fire a nuclear missile at us in 30 minutes … the fact was that it was complete nonsense … but somebody somewhere had made that fact up or produced it … so this was long before that but I thought I don’t want to be part of that … ’cause if the Soviets are doing the same thing we’re going to be moving towards the worst possible case …

JO: yes … you’re both escalating .. you’re going to bring it into fruition … I think it’s the point at which to say .. can you give me and us a sense of how you see this part of the world in terms of the nuclear situation … so, what is, physically speaking … why does the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists use words like “extreme danger” to describe the situation we are in .. humanity is in ?

DW: mainly because we are in a situation of extreme danger …

JO: so what does it mean in terms of nuclear weapons?

DW: Ever since … certainly the height of the Cold War … maybe even before .. we’ve been in a position where thousands of nuclear weapons could be fired off at a moment’s notice .. and we’ve been in that position … although after the fall of the wall .. Berlin Wall .. people thought that was the end of the Cold War, we don’t have to worry about nuclear weapons any more … there were still thousands of nuclear weapons ready to be launched at a moment’s notice … and there still are … mainly in Russia and America … but, we have a .. you know .. a submarine that patrols 24 hours a day … with nuclear weapons on … we want to be part of that … not we … the government wants to be part of that … for reasons .. [ ] We could talk about that another time … So, when you get …. so I remember this current kind of crisis over North Korea reminds me of when I was at school and the Cuban Missile Crisis was going on … we genuinely thought the world was going to end the next day … that there would be a confrontation and that would be it …

JO: my father says the same thing …

DW: right …

JO: he thought it was going to be curtains …

DW: so many people did … but luckily at that time there was Khruschev on the one hand … and Kennedy on the other .. who knew what that meant … if you started a … they didn’t want to start a nuclear war .. they knew that it would be completely ridiculous … that it would be devastating and that’s not what they wanted to be remembered for .. if there was anybody left to remember them … so, that … you know … they got around that … the problem is today … I don’t see the two people sort of squaring up to each other … as being of that same intellect … I don’t think they understand what the consequences of a nuclear war might be … and they don’t … they are using these weapons as a kind of a way of trying to get their own way .. and they are prepared … they seem to me anyway to be prepared to go through with the whole business … I mean … on the American side they think of North Korea .. a small country … we can wipe them out … in fact he said … President Trump said “we can wipe them out, no trouble” … North Korea said “well we can cause plenty of damage while we go” kind of thing …. so .. you know … it’s terribly dangerous ’cause if there was an exchange … it wouldn’t just stick with America and North Korea … China would, I am sure, also intervene … in some way … and it would escalate … all the models that have been used … war play models show that if it starts somewhere it will escalate to [ ]

JO: what are these models .. ’cause I don’t know much about these?

DW: well I think every … you know they play war games, basically …

JO: this is all the Ministries of Defence around the world …

DW: yes .. right … they do it in different ways … so sometimes they do simulations … simulation exercises … other times they use troop deployments … they actually have military exercises in various places …usually on the borders of the other .. the so-called … [ ]

JO: yes .. you mentioned up in Scandinavia, yes?

MH: [ ]

DW: Yes .. in Eastern Europe there are NATO exercises going on all the time … practically all the time … and we don’t tend to hear about them because they’re so … they’re no longer really newsworthy …

JO: but they’re not for our benefit?

DW: They’re not for our benefit? No.

JO: in terms of why are they doing it? I think you said …

DW: Yes. They’re not for our benefit.

JO: they are demonstrating to …

DW: they are showing .. flexing their muscles and showing that …

JO: our bombs are bigger than yours …

DW: right … and there was a time back in the eighties when there was a huge military exercise in Europe … in Germany .. and the Soviet Union was looking at this exercise thinking that this could be a way of … they knew it was an exercise but they also knew that as part … you know … it could be a bluff … and that there could actually be an invasion … into Eastern Europe … and Germany and so on … and they were on high alert … and they had this series .. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen … what’s the name of that TV programme? They had a TV programme about it … it’s called Able Archer anyway … the exercise … the military exercise was called Able Archer … and the Russians [ ] … well the Soviets constructed this matrix which had lots of boxes in and if you start ticking off the boxes … [ ] certain things were going on … you tick off a box … ok this looks a bit more dangerous … and they had almost completed ticking all the boxes … that meant … right .. they’re obviously going to be invading and we’ve got to take steps …. they’d almost completed that whole thing and if they hadn’t had a spy in NATO and if NATO hadn’t had a spy in the Soviet Union, and this information was kind of getting through … slowly … there could have been a nuclear war easily …

JO: when there wasn’t an invasion …

DW: there wasn’t … no … there wasn’t any intention to … but luckily the spy in NATO was able to tell the Soviets …

JO: nothing to worry about …

DW: that it’s not happening …

MH: what I was aware of .. was that … you know … after the [ ] … in that period, there were moves away from nuclear weapons … China was talking about getting rid of them … Ukraine wasn’t wanting them anymore … and then the West set out on all sorts of adventures in the Balkans … in the Middle East … and those other countries looked at it and thought for our own self-defence, we need to be doing this …

JO: yes

MH: India and Pakistan were pushing more … Israel was doing more … and then also we’ve taken action against some countries that have developed them so Iran … you know … it’s got the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons to the North … it’s got Israel with nuclear weapons to the West … it’s got Pakistan and India with nuclear weapons to the East … it’s got the Americans .. [ ] the islands just to the South where they’re occupying the land that was taken – the Chagos Islands where they’ve got bases … with nuclear bombs on … so Iran is completely surrounded by nuclear powers … it feels threatened … so its reaction … and you know … you can’t do this … we’re telling you what you can and can’t do … and it’s that dictatorship

JO: we can do it … and you can’t …

MH: we can do it and you can’t … and that’s to some extent, obscene … none of them should be doing it, of course, but it’s an abuse of power ..

DW: well it’s illogical as well … the same thing happened with North Korea .. North Korea … there’s been no treaty .. no peace treaty between the United States and North Korea since the Korean War … [ ]

MH: [ ]

DW: [ ] and there have been these continuous again military exercises with the South Koreans and the US on the borders of North Korea practising the invasion of North Korea … and North Korea looks to see what is happening elsewhere … it sees that the countries that are not being invaded are the ones with nuclear weapons … now .. whether that’s … you know … that means anything or not … is another thing … but they can see that it’s much easier for them to develop a nuclear weapon than it is to get [ ] .. you know .. thousands of … hundreds of thousands of troops .. you know .. fully laid up with weapons … and so on .. it would be cheaper and easier in the long run … so that’s what they do … and then they start behaving like kids … it’s terrible …

JO: in terms of … in terms of bringing home to people what thermonuclear war means .. I feel one of the best things people can do if they are interested to find out … is watch Threads …. still I think is probably … I don’t know whether it is out of date now but I suspect it’s still a pretty effective, powerful piece of filmmaking …

DW: yes … I think so … and that followed up from the War Game which was the thing that was banned by the BBC … because it showed the true kind of state of things … of what would happen if there was a nuclear war …

JO: was that a documentary or ?

MH: it was a drama

DW: a drama documentary

JO: ok … I don’t know that one …

DW: well that was the .. yes it was banned by the BBC because it showed that basically after a nuclear war, there’d be no hope … there’d be no infrastructure … there’d be no hospitals .. doctors … there’d be some survivors in a state of shock … and dying …

MH: and the police with arbitrary powers … just shoot people who were looting and things like that

DW: all that kind of stuff … which wasn’t in Protect and Survive … you know the document the government produced how to survive a nuclear war … which was hide under a table and ..

JO: yes .. grab a pillow …

DW: and whitewash your windows … so … yes … also, I think what’s happened in the last couple of years is that the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons .. ICAN … has focused on the humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons … and… because … you know, people have forgotten … my generation … just after the Second World War … we got to hear much more about Hiroshima and Nagasaki … and the effects of nuclear test explosions even … there were victims of those that were … and over a period of time those things have become less memorable … less .. you know … less talked about … less discussed … less known about … so they developed … I think it was also based on the effectiveness of the anti-personnel landmine kind of campaign … which banned those in the end

JO: yes

DW: [ ] because the way that that happened … I think … was because people saw the consequences of the use of these things … so they focused on that … they had people like [ ] medical campaign .. issuing all kinds of documents and statements and so on … and they were able to eventually to get a ban treaty … a nuclear weapons ban treaty … through the United Nations … 122 states voted that the ban treaty should [ ] …

JO: this is happening now …

DW: yes it is happening now … it came up for signatories last week … the week before … and on the first day that it was open for signatories … they got enough signatories to make it .. what is the term? Not a valid treaty but … anyway …

JO: 50 plus countries signed?

DW: yes … about 50 … over 50 have signed now … and 3 have [ ] … you’ve got to get them ratified … I mean … 3 have ratified so far … but that would mean taking it to the government and getting it voted on which takes time … so .. yes … so …

JO: there are countries which tried to stop that process from …

MH: including our own …

DW: yes

JO: and I don’t think people realise necessarily the extent to which … and we were talking about this briefly earlier … the British government doesn’t perhaps behave .. or the state .. doesn’t perhaps behave in the way people might ..

MH: want it to

JO: … expect or want .. yes … What’s been goingon vis-a-vis that process? What has Britain been up to?

DW: well the nuclear states … not just Britain … but the nuclear weapons states generally prefer the current status of treaties which is the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty … which they think gives them the right to have nuclear weapons … but it doesn’t .. because part of the Treaty should be that they get rid of nuclear weapons … they work in good faith towards nuclear disarmament … but they haven’t done that … so the Treaty is a kind of an understanding between the nuclear weapons states and the non-nuclear weapons states … the nuclear weapons states say “ok … we will work towards getting rid of our nuclear weapons … if you … the non-nuclear weapons states who sign … don’t obtain them …”

JO: that’s the Non Proliferation Treaty …

DW: the Non Proliferation Treaty …

JO: and that hasn’t basically ….

DW: it hasn’t worked because the nuclear weapons states have done nothing really to get rid of nuclear weapons … the numbers have gone down but the effectiveness and numbers are still there to wipe out the world several times

JO: yes … I’ve used an online simulator by … a man with a long name … I can’t remember his name … but it’s … I think it’s probably a well regarded simulator … and part of the information on the site … it enables you to basically pick a type of weapon … and detonate it wherever you want …

DW: right

JO: and view the fallout and the casualties and the damage and so on … I’ve used this a few times and stuck a couple of pictures on the website which I think he is happy for you to do ..

DW: right

JO: and he says although arsenals are significantly reduced … in … at least in Russia and the America from the height of the Cold War period … actually the power of the weapons … is many times greater

MH: it’s not just the power … it’s the delivery systems …

DW: the accuracy …

JO: yes … so, if anything … I would guess that .. based on my limited knowledge … I would guess that we’re probably sitting on more destructive force now than we probably were previously or more or less the same … it amounts to the same thing … which is …

DW: I think also there is … the thing about the eighties when there was the removal of a whole range of nuclear weapons from Europe … was that there were huge protests .. there was huge … public opinion was totally against these nuclear weapons .. they made it clear … you know in Germany … there were demonstrations … in Britain there were huge demonstrations … against cruise missiles and so on … and in fact partly I think this is what Gorbachev saw these protests … he wasn’t happy with nuclear weapons either … and he took the … you know he was a courageous kind of politician … he took the first step … he suggested to Reagan that they could actually get rid of a whole load of nuclear weapons and … ’cause he realised it wasn’t the people of Europe who wanted the nuclear weapons … it was some of the politicians …

JO: yes

DW: so they got rid of a whole range and almost negotiated complete nuclear disarmament …

MH: they took their own cruise missiles out of Czechoslavakia … [ ]

DW: yes … that’s right …

JO: I think there’s coverage of this in Oliver Stone’s

DW: yes

JO: People’s History of the United States

DW: yes … there probably is …

JO: and they say Reagan at the last minute … the Americans said “no thanks”

DW: it wasn’t Reagan … it was his so-called advisors …

JO: yes

DW: I think Reagan didn’t particularly want nuclear weapons either … but …

JO: yes … apparently on the steps before the curtain came down on that event in Reykjavik .. I think Gorbachev … so it was said in this series … Gorbachev turned to Reagan and said “are you sure you won’t … are you sure you don’t want to do this?” … you know … Come on … “is there no chance?” … and I think he .. if I remember … I think he is reported to say “I am sorry, I can’t” … or something …

DW: yes … right … I think that’s how the story goes anyway …

JO: So .. we were going to have a stab at trying to describe the sort of world we need to bring into being … and .. could you think … sort of through a British lens … what … how does the institutional architecture change and how does the physical structure and landscape change? So, one thing, obviously … is … no nukes!

DW: yes

JO: would be good

DW: yes … not just no nukes … ’cause also the focus on militarism is damaging … I think it was Eishenhower, wasn’t it … who warned against the military industrial complex … and .. by heck .. he was right … I don’t know quite why they say these things just as they are about to retire or have retired … so they have no power to change it … He obviously recognised what was happening … or was going to happen …

JO: yes

DW: what was happening .. but didn’t do much … but … so … yes … so … Britain has decided it will spend £200bn on new nuclear weapons … It has decided it will up its expenditure on the military to 2% of its Gross National Product … in line with what the Americans are asking us to do basically … we’ve got to kick that for a start …. when you think of all the other things you could spend the money on … which are desperately needed … it’s a crazy system … so we need to kind of think … the problem as I see it, as well, is that countries

DW: that, in the past, we may have looked to … how they’re developing … mainly Scandinavian countries … Sweden … maybe Denmark … they all seem to be going the other way now and that’s really disturbing to me. I have some good friends in Sweden who are really worried about what’s happening there .. . they’ve so far not joined NATO for example … but they are right up to their necks in NATO … they have NATO exercises in the country …. they share intelligence and information with NATO countries … particularly America … America has spy bases in Sweden as it does here … so there’s kind of a … .there’s an infrastructure … a global kind of clutch around the world … that people don’t see … people don’t recognise .. don’t understand … and we have to get some of that understood …. known about … and I think that brings us to a major problem of getting involved in doing things and understanding things …. It suits the establishment if people just vote every four years and that’s it … or five years … or whatever it is …

JO: yes

DW: and then don’t participate in anything … it’s very useful for people who want power to maintain the system like that … so I think we need much more involvement of people … and people don’t get involved, I think, generally … because they think there’s nothing they can do … they don’t have any power to do anything … the problems are too big … so we should leave it up to somebody else who can deal with it … so … you know … it’s that kind of … I think you mentioned it earlier about empowerment … about involvement … and general kind of … an educational system that brings those .. you know .. that incorporates those ideas … so that people, right from the word go … are … feel that that’s what needs to be done …

JO: you think people have many more … I have been using this word since a conversation in which someone used it … I can’t remember who .. I think it was a friend [ ] in Bristol …. talked about levers … people have more levers at their disposal … particularly through collective actions of various kinds than maybe they are aware of …

DW: people do have them, you mean …

JO: you would agree?

DW: yes … I think they are available to some extent anyway … but yes … they are not taken up … as much as they could be …

JO: what … part of what I’d like to do in this project is try and produce a fairly short list of powers people have

DW: yes

JO: and try and indicate to people who are … “well I am frustrated but I don’t know what to do” or “I can’t do anything” ..

DW: yes

JO: well, actually .. this is what you can do … where you are … you know … every day … without really going out of your way too much …

DW: yes

JO: and this would make a difference …

DW: well one thing we talked about here … I think .. we were maybe talking about it … just … you know … it’s a small thing but it’s kind of important because you need to get people involved perhaps at a [ ] ..you know … however you get them involved is probably …is important … So … for example, like setting up a parish council … [ ] just in .. for the Headingley area … where people would have a say in how the [ ] … well much more of a say anyway … in how the Headingley area develops … and not only a say in it but some power to do things …. so .. some money and some decisions would have to be made at that level … on the development of their own communities … I think that’s really … because once people feel that they are responsible and can do something … it means … I think anyway … that they would feel that that can be also done [ ]

JO: that works at other levels … yes

DW: right

JO: so you think … you think it has that kind of value … if anyone raised their eyebrows at … you know … what can a parish council do against the United States?

DW: yes

JO: it’s not that simple …

MH: it’s a matter of involvement

DW: that’s right

MH: and getting people involved at as low a level as possible

JO: yes … so it’s not an either-or …

DW: no

JO: it might be one of a number of things that you can do …

DW: yes … I don’t think parish council is the end of the problem …

JO: I was being slightly ….

MH: it’s a matter of letting people come together at the lowest level so if something … you see it operating not just … in companies [ ] like the Lucas Aerospace Combine that was essentially workers coming together to say Lucas needn’t be producing these weapons … it could be using the same stuff … the same processes and producing these things which are for the good of humanity … [ ]

JO: I don’t know about that case ….

MH: Lucas Aerospace … it must have been the seventies …

DW: yes … the seventies … yes

MH: the seventies …

DW: they just had an anniversary, didn’t they … not so long ago …. this was the trade unions basically, wasn’t it?

MH: yes

DW: the shop stewards

MH: the shop stewards in Lucas saying … you know … “we’re producing weapons … we needn’t be producing weapons” …

DW: and they came up with a huge documentation on the alternatives they could make at Lucas using similar skills and machines and so on … so there was, for example … I think there was a .. like a railway carriage that would work on the roads or on the railways … you know … all kinds of different ideas …

MH: it comes back to that argument that … you know … we need to have our arms industries because so many jobs depend upon it …

DW: yes

MH: these were people in those jobs saying “no, you don’t”

DW: “you can do something else”

JO: yes

MH: When I was Chair of Nuclear Free Local Authorities … I got followed round by these GNM members .. who were sort of saying “it’s our jobs are under threat if you get rid of nuclear power” …. the point was there are more jobs in cleaning up …

DW: yes

MH: the mess that’s been made than there are actually in generation, so … there are alternatives .. there is alternative work … in those things …

JO: yes … I mean … when I … I’m going to craftily try to move you back towards trying to describe the changed world

DW: utopia …

JO: yes … but when you look at … when I look at anyway what are the implications of what we need to do … the situation we are in etc … the changes are so enormous institutionally and physically … there is, for sure, no shortage of work … there is not going to be a shortage of work … if you are inclined towards a 3-day week type of a world … if anything, there’s going to be too much work to do … over the next 20 years or so … getting the world into the sort of shape it needs to be in …

MH: I hadn’t considered doing that much work …

JO: but what am I talking about? What sort of physical changes … I mean … you’ve talked about demilitarisation

DW: yes

JO: ok … so that means less armaments production

DW: less focus on arms … and the military as a way of supposedly resolving conflict …

JO: yes … I mean … are we …

MH: there’s a whole change in attitude [ ]

JO: just to push you a bit … are we talking about … I am going to put something out there and see if it helps .. I am thinking of … when I have been riding around the UK … as I have seen from above … and as I have seen … you know … if you use things like Google Earth .. Google Maps even … the UK is still … if not pleasant everywhere … it’s still mostly green … it’s not completely concreted over as I think a certain section of the population seems to think …

[ ]: “we can’t take all these people … there’s no space for them” …

JO: that’s the sort of refrain …

MH: Marion Shoard begins her book This Land Is Our Land by saying how she took off from an airport somewhere and flew across to .. probably Lincoln … somewhere like that … but just the amount of land that was not built on …

JO: yes

MH: and that’s what led her into finding out who owned all that land …

JO: yes … what was her name?

MH: Marion Shoard …. S H O A R D … I’ll have a copy of it somewhere …

JO: ’cause I’ve .. it’s a longstanding interest of mine … and it’s beginning to creep into economics and political economy writing again … land sort of disappeared from the writing of …

MH : certainly land taxation is back with a vengeance …

JO: yes … Henry George was … second to the Bible .. the most published work in America, I think … a great advocate of the land value tax

MH: land value taxation .. well Wallace, who was the same time as Darwin .. was also a political radical …

JO: yes

MH: and was involved in land value taxation movement

JO: yes … you wonder whether that’s part of the explanation that Darwin’s bust is to be seen all over the bloody place and Wallace is not …

DW: yes

MH: He also corresponded with Gladstone about the letter ‘f’ in Welsh and he was the first to recognise that the valleys in the Lake District were glacially … were of glacial origin … Agassi had done the original work in Switzerland …

JO: a great figure in our history …

MH: he was .. yes … and self-educated …

JO: so what I was going to say was …. most of the country is green … on an Ordnance Survey map or a road map, it shows up as white … one argument is … if agroecology is the thing in terms of our food production … so if we are going to move away from industrialised agriculture … and the use of those antibiotics that you’ve mentioned already … I believe the Campaign for Real Farming proposes and like minds propose that many, many more people need to be involved in food production in the United Kingdom … than are currently

MH: yes

JO: and this means probably repopulating the British landscape …. in a way that hasn’t been done for hundreds of years … so instead of these empty field systems … probably nine miles in ten that I’ve ridden … to my left or my right … has been field systems … completely empty of people with either a crop, grass, hay or cattle or something … but certainly not many people in evidence …. just the occasional farmer in a tractor doing something or other …. They are saying “actually those parcels of land should not be more than about ten acres in size and they should be mixed farms including a homestead with people living there working the land” … maybe as part of what they do … as part of a portfolio of things they do …

MH: yes …w ell local councils hold quite a lot of land and let it as smallholdings … it was part of what they did … Leeds … it still has … but there was pressure from the government to sell it off because [ ] should be sold …

JO: they don’t like that sort of thing …

MH: and be in private hands … whereas, of course, a local authority tenancy was quite a good type of tenancy for a small farmer … [ ]

JO: so, can you say something about … in terms of the landscape change …. do you feel it’s a reasonable description of the sort of world we need to bring about … is one where … with several zones … one is a sort of … the Rewilding people are arguing for a certain amount of the country being wilderness, effectively … given back to nature … so that might be one zone … another sort of zone might be this sort of medium density farming … agroecological farming … type setup … so maybe villages where most of the surrounding land is this sort of activity … and then a third sort of zone which is high density industrial or residential or a mixture of the two …. probably largely cities …

MH: I am not sure the choice is that … certainly if we just stick to the agricultural side of it … the way you have large field systems … say East Anglia where lots of fields are pushed together and are producing a monoculture … it’s disdvantageous to the soil … it’s disadvantageous to the water …. all of those things .. you haven’t got the sequestration because you’ve got regular ploughing of the land so carbon isn’t being held in the soil … but what the [ ] shows is that per hectare … it’s much less productive to have it in a system like that … while it’s beneficial to the landowner … the one who’s getting millions of pounds in … often in subsidies as well … for the land …..

JO: yes

MH: then … they’re making lots of money out of it … individually … but it’s not the best that that land could be doing … but if the land were, as you say, being farmed in small units by more people … which includes … would create more employment … it also makes that land more productive …. and, obviously, with the right farming systems in place, then you are doing … preserving the soil better … preserving biodiversity … so there isn’t really an argument for having any of the land in that large scale production because in fact it isn’t the best solution except for the landowners ….

JO: so it seems to me that it’s probably the most obvious change that one might propose becaus you’re going to radically change what you see at the side of the road … if, of course, you are still using the roads …. because you are probably not ….

MH: it’s one of those myths … it’s one of those myths about CAP and the fishing policy … “Europe is making us do these things” … no … the amount of subsidy comes through from Europe but how it is distributed is down to the national government … so our government could have chosen to use the money to support small farmers … instead of which it made it available to very large farms … disproportionately … the more land you’ve got … the more you get ….

JO: yes

MH: and small farmers suffered … the same with the fishing fleet …

JO: so what they are farming effectively is subsidies …

MH: yes … essentially the quota went to large boats whereas it could have been done to use small sustainable fisheries out of those ports … which would have protected jobs …

JO: yes … as well as fish stocks …

MH: yes … and there’s not actually going to be any benefit to fishermen or to farmers from leaving the European Union because the amount of subsidy … the amount of quota isn’t going to change … because that is a matter of agreement between the European Union and those that share the stocks … so Norway … the Faroe Islands … Iceland … obviously when we are added into that … it won’t actually increase the amount that is available and, in fact, our quota might fall … relative to the rest …. the rest in the sort of North Sea Atlantic area …

JO: sure

MH: but it will still be a matter of where does the subsidy … that will still be needed … for the fishing industry … go? Are we actually going to supply it to those small boats that need it? Or the big boats that are often buggering off anyway to fish off the coast of Mauretania? And ruin the fisheries for the local people there …

JO: yes

MH: so there’s a lot to do with the way in which decisions are made about where support … the financial support … that’s needed while food prices are low … for those producers …

JO: yes

MH: and we could be doing much better …. it’s just the government very often prefers a large scale … they’d rather build a big power station than have lots of little devolved power producing units ….

JO: well .. you’ve segued naturally into energy … so if one massive change to the landscape is ‘away with those enormous big field systems and monocultures’ … you know … completely barren of human settlement … another big change might be away from … are we talking about … very large … away from very large power stations …

MH: If you take the island of Samso in Denmark … which has pursued this … it started with subsidies but essentially they won a competition to do .. produce their own energy … to become 100% self-sufficient in electricity … at that stage … they were getting all of their electricity from the mainland via cable produced in oil burning power stations … and through a mix of private individuals putting them up … they had offshore and onshore wind … and a whole set of other systems … so each village [ ] had its own combined heat and power plant that would burn stubble [ ] … not stubble … burn the straw that was coming in and pipe the hot water direct to houses as well as generating electricity … and usually surrounded by solar panels and so on … and it now produces … I think it’s 140% of its energy needs and exports electricity back to the mainland from its production …

JO: yes

MH: but it involved the whole community … it got those small farmers involved … so there was one farmer who had … he was growing rape and he grew his rape … he squeezed it … he used the oil in his tractor so he was no longer having to import … and then the cake was used to supplement cattle feed so that wasn’t having to be imported into the island …

JO: cake is …

MH: the seed cake from squashing seed .. and the straw from it went into the combined heat and power plant … for the community …

JO: yes … so it’s a localisation ….

MH: not only localisation … but spreading … so there’s a whole range of things being used …

JO: yes

MH: so they have heat pumps … they have these things called Finnish hearths where essentially you just put a metre of wood into the middle, burn it, and it heats the entire ceramic wall which gives out heat for the remainder of the day … so it’s a different way of doing things .. so they essentially .. they just set about this and .. you know …

JO: ok … so what that tells me is …

MH: it’s possible [ ]

JO: ok so it wouldn’t necessarily work everywhere but you might retain a grid … thinking about the electricity situation … you might retain a grid so you can move surplus energy around

MH: yes

JO: although I believe electricity doesn’t like distances, does it?

MH: and use batteries as storage …

JO: yes and I think there’s work to do still on improving battery performance ….

MH: well there is an alternative solution which is a grid based one .. which is that you produce most of the electricity from solar in the Sahara desert … and then use interconnectors to distribute it northward to Europe …. Morocco is already producing a vast amount of solar energy

DW: we could produce a lot more here, couldn’t we?

MH: yes, if we did what the Germans have done …

DW: didn’t need to go to the Sahara …

MH: just shove them on every roof …

JO: yes … ok … I feel that that … that the energy changes are understandable …. and indeed I went to CAT in … I went to the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales, as part of my Welsh itinerary … and I think CAT has actually produced … just produced a document along the lines I have been hoping to find … have you seen it?

MH: No.

JO: It’s like a vision of Britain in 2020 …

MH: right

JO: so it might be an interesting thing to look at … transport … am I right to think that we ought to be doing … well there is an argument I think I am going to hear that we should be moving around a lot less …

MH: yes

DW: yes

JO: but also maybe why aren’t we using heavy rail and light rail and trams and things and public transport in general rather than all sitting in traffic jams in fossil fuel powered cars

DW: and bicycles and even walking … as well

JO: think of it! walking!

DW: I know.

MH: Also [ ] people have a prejudice (a) against walking and (b) against using public transport

DW: yes

MH: you know they feel they have a right to use their car and … it comes back to Thatcher’s remark a long time ago that if you are 30 and still travelling on the bus, you’re a failure …

JO: yes … I heard that in my youth …

DW: yes

MH: she was a very stupid woman …

DW: yes … a very dangerous woman as well …

MH: yes .. she was … is … well … she’s dead … good … sorry

DW: but you can see … places like Germany again .. almost anywhere in Europe really … where the public transport system is integrated … it’s cheaper … it works pretty well … why can’t we seem to do the same thing here? Mainly I think it’s because there is a group of people who want to make a load of money out of it rather than produce good service for people …

JO: those vested interests again …

DW: there they go …

JO: I said we’d just finish up with a quick – because it has been a long time now – finish up with five minutes on the role of different entities on bringing about change …. and particularly, obviously, political parties, and anything you’d like to say about political parties as a vehicle for change and campaigning organisations … so … you have experience … or in the room we’ve got experience of both the Labour Party from the inside … the Green Party more recently in your cases … and in my case … and also CND obviously … so do you want to say something about what role those two types of organisation have to play … are they a vital part of moving forward? Can we do it without them?

DW: No. I don’t think so. Just quickly then, I think campaigning organisations are important because they highlight specific things that need to be fixed … if you like … and they focus on those …. but that doesn’t mean that it excludes everything else because [ ] everything’s connected … but it’s … what I think people participate in because they see it of major importance … a political party as far as I can see tries to bring these things together …. and to change the structures that have caused the problems in the first place …. and develop new ones or change the ones that exist … in order to make them more … well … I guess everybody thinks their political party is working for the benefit of [ ] most people … but … some of them have got it wrong … I’ve never been in the Labour Party, although being involved in CND means you get to mix with a lot of Labour Party people and they kind of have a bit of a faith in the history of the party rather than pushing it into something new .. recognising that something .. that is based in old structures – I see them as old structures … we need new ones to replace those … that’s what I see from the Green Party … it’s got lots of new ideas … lots of ways of creating change … and it’s kind of positive, as well … so … you know … anyway … that’s my five minutes’ worth

JO: it’s pretty succinct …

MH: yes … I think … obviously when I was a Labour councillor … what you become aware of is  that you actually … a lot of the work I did was on issues connected with environmental issues, energy, peace … that’s what I was recognised doing and was given to do …. but within a fairly sympathetic political structure in Leeds … and it allowed things to be done … things to be changed … you could at that time as an ordinary councillor start things off … so, for example, I had some fires in tower blocks in my ward and started a fire safety and tower blocks working group back in the nineties … so that all of the … what it meant was … all of the tower blocks in Leeds got inspected for fire safety … there was also an issue then with actually fire spreading up cladding … not burning the cladding but the space between the cladding and the building acting as a flue … and there had been some fires like that … it led to, I think, about three or four hundred thousand being spent on the blocks in Saxton Gardens to make them fire safe …

JO: when was this?

MH: it was in the 1990s … I actually went on radio …

JO: 20 years ago ….

MH: yes … I went on … I think it was Radio Leeds … just after Grenfell … just to outline … you know … I contacted them and said I had done this and was asking … did a short piece on it to say that … you know … these issues were not new … and, in fact, Leeds had been keeping a watch on them and had established some rules and also demolished some of the tower blocks ….

DW: did you get sprinklers installed or was that not [ ]

MH: no …. we weren’t looking at sprinkler systems at the time … but we probably should have been …. but also the … you know … I was able to setup an energy panel … with an officer … but you know … then he was able to go in and look at the energy use and the water use in all of the schools … and one school was using much more water …. which was obviously metered for schools … and they had a leak … they didn’t know about it … but just by gathering the data together … [ ] making the comparison …

JO: yes … you could see it

MH: same with the energy … you could say …. and we were able to shift contracts around and we saved the council tax rising for three consecutive years … by just shifting out contracts … which was … you know … not a great energy saving thing but it shows that you could actually act in those ways … and … you know … getting the city one of the first Mayors for Peace .. [ ] … those were all things that you were able to do … through actually being an elected member … but also it depends upon your actually having strong views [ ] on those things …. that you are … can then act as a channel for … and not all councillors do have strong views on particular issues …. [ ] they’re sound … they’re acting for the people in their ward but …

JO: not always, said Ed yesterday ….

MH: I know … I know … I’m trying to be generous … but there’s a lack of vision perhaps in that … and vision comes from the campaigning groups … ’cause you can’t know about everything …

JO: yes

MH: and … you know … if the Council isn’t talking about putting up these links with China … and if you are aware of the Amnesty reports on human rights in China … then that’s going to raise issues and questions about it … so you are constantly depending on those groups that do gather the information to provide the information that you need both to see what needs changing and to find a way of changing it ….

JO: ok …

MH: so the two work together …. or can work together …

DW: I think when Martin was in the council … I think it’s when you were there … we had like a Peace Officer and there was a much more open attitude towards peace and security … and it was discussed … [ ] there was even set up a Menwith Hill Forum which I think you chaired ..

MH: I set it up .. yes … and I chaired it …

DW: which was Menwith Hill … you know … the spy base …

MH: it was really just to irritate the spies … [ ]

DW: well …

JO: Menwith Hill is a …

MH: is an American spy station …

DW: an American spy station near Harrogate …

MH: just between here and Harrogate …

DW: but … and really outside of Leeds’ jurisdiction in a way … but it affects … you know … what would happen there would affect the citizens of Leeds

MH: yes … the local MP wrote to question … you know I was criticised by the MP for Skipton and Ripon because it actually falls into Skipton and Ripon, not Harrogate … and, of course, the council [ ] present a case … saying yes it did … it was our concern and so on … and you know … because anything that happened there would affect Leeds because we were just downhill from it … and … any … they had like leaks of oil and so on and so forth … but when the Armouries Museum came to Leeds …. the condition for it coming was that they had a peace section in it … and there was a peace worker in there partly paid for by the city council and partly paid for by the Armouries … and they have these little … so they have a collection of Greenham banners … and they have these little shows that they do … the tableaux .. and they had Greenham women there for a while … actually, visually it wasn’t all that great … but the point was that Leeds saw having a peace presence in the Armouries Museum as a significant component …

JO: well … it’s news to me … that local authorities have a peace officer …

DW: well they don’t now …

JO: or have had …

DW: yes

JO: have they long since been …

DW: yes

MH: we still have an Emergency … it used to be Peace and Emergency Planning Unit … [ ]

DW: it went from .. it was the Peace Unit to start with, wasn’t it? And then it became Peace and Emergency Planning … because I think it was the time when all this Civil Defence stuff was going on … so it was a good kind of banner to hold … to have peace involved .. [ ] … you know .. we can’t plan for a nuclear war … it’s ridiculous … there’s no plan we could make … that would guide our citizens in the case of a nuclear war … so what we’ve got to do is prevent one from happening … so … go for a peaceful … and I think that was a really good attitude and … but those attitudes changed over a period of time and now we don’t have a Peace Officer anymore … I think we had a Peace Education Officer at one time as well … so there were like two or three people in the council … council positions … working on …

MH: but the Labour councillor who had been responsible for Peace and Emergency planning before I was … had turned up on the first day and said “I’m here to close you down” … that was her view …

JO: how do you do?

MH: “we’re not interested in all this Peace rubbish” … and so on … it was a Labour councillor .. and so … when I was … they didn’t know who … what I … very quickly they realised that [ ]

DW: you weren’t that easy to close down …

MH: yes I was there to help them push the doors open … we had more in common shall we say .. someone used to slip money through our funds to Nukewatch … the city council funded Nukewatch … which …

DW: well I don’t think it was slipped through … it was done openly … because …

MH: yes, of course … it had to be …

DW: because Nukewatch was giving information to the council that these convoys were coming through their region and the council should have a right to know about it …

JO: yes … at the very least ….

MH: yes

DW: at the very least … that’s right … they couldn’t prevent it … they didn’t have the jurisdiction but they did have … well they should have been informed officially … I don’t [ ]

MH: they took direct action did Nukewatch … I think that’s where the objection [ ]

DW: that’s where the controversy comes [ ] .. ok .. yes … anyway …

JO: do you …

DW: but now .. so I don’t think at the time we realised how enlightened, if you like, that time was .. and how you felt you were being helped by the council rather than having blockages put in your way all the time … now it’s “we can’t do that [ ]” …

MH: it started in 97 with Blair …

DW: yes … [ ] .. I think that’s right …

MH: the taking away of powers from local authorities …

JO: there was a step change at that point …

MH: centralisation … taking away of powers and the freedom to do what you wanted …

JO: yes …

MH: and then the Tories were happy to carry on … “yes … good Labour agenda we’ve got here” ….

DW: yes … right …

JO: Do you want to disappear? I am conscious that you need to go …

DW: yes I should go …

MH: got housework to do …

DW: I have my housework to do … otherwise I’ll have to do some of it tomorrow …

JO: thank you very much …

DW: no, you’re welcome … thank you …


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