I suspect that most people view today as the end of last week, but people of a certain age and tradition may well see today as the first day of next week. That tradition includes but is not exclusive to people whose upbringing and in some cases belief system is Judeo- Christian. The idea of Saturday being the final day of the week in the Jewish tradition and the day of rest led Sunday to be treated as a day to celebrate new life. All of that is irrelevant to this blog with one tiny exception. On Monday five members of a group called Put Down the Sword will stand trial at Reading Magistrates Court and they are expected to return to the same Court on Wednesday and Thursday. They are being tried for “willful obstruction of the highway” while blockading one of the entrances to AWE Burghfield near Reading where the UK’s nuclear warheads are assembled. Nuclear components are transported by road from Aldermaston to Burghfield and there they are assembled before being transported to the Faslane base in Scotland and in due course being deployed on Trident submarines. I confess I know very little about the trial, although I do follow the group on social media. Bearing in mind that the UK has never fired a nuclear weapon outside tests, one imagines that AWE Burghfield is a quiet sleepy organisation and blocking its entrances, whilst inconvenient for the workers, won’t have caused any other problems. Indeed the website known as the Nuclear Information Service lists several incidents or aspects of life at Burghfield:
Sleeping Policemen – An investigation, conducted by the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP), took place between September 2013 and March 2016 after it was discovered that MDP officers based at the Atomic Weapons Establishment Burghfield had not been conducting their routine patrols and, in some cases, had been sleeping on the job over a four month period between May and August 2013.
Special Measures – The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has announced that both the Aldermaston and Burghfield Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) sites will require ‘enhanced regulatory attention’ as a result of failures to improve nuclear safety performance at the two sites. In the case of Aldermaston, this will be the fourth year running that the site has required special measures from the regulator.. For Burghfield it represents a decline in safety standards as the site was only removed from a regime of enhanced regulation a year ago.
Let us hope that the wheels of justice turn quickly and efficiently for the five protestors. Their actions whilst unacceptable to some, are ones that enable many other people opposed to the development of nuclear weapons to feel that their voice has been heard. We currently have a Government and Opposition whose policies are to retain and then replace Trident. This seems to be a complete waste of money and the actions that take place in Burghfield are achieving nothing positive in my opinion.
The small aspect of the Judeo-Christian tradition which I referred to at the beginning of the blog explains where this group of Christians have taken the name for their group. The Prophet Isaiah writes:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.”
As we await to see how President Trump and President Putin deal with the nuclear threat that each of their country poses to the other, I think it is clear that our national response needs to reflect all points of view, not just those who feel that Trident actually serves a useful purpose!