Daily Telegraph – 25 June 1997
The claim by CND that its membership rose from 20,000 to no fewer than 460,000 under Joan Ruddock's chairmanship from 1981 (article, June 24) shows that old habits, regrettably, die hard.
That organisation's membership rose dramatically until 1984 – shortly after the successful deployment of cruise missiles the previous November. It peaked at just 110,000 and then went into steady decline.
These numbers were periodically inflated by reference to "affiliated local groups", but that was not to compare like with like. The same trick was tried with CND demonstration figures, until an aerial survey proved the largest of these to be fewer than 100,000 strong – not the 400,000 claimed by Joan and her friends in October 1983.
With my colleagues Tony Kerpel and Edward Leigh MP, I commissioned repeated Gallup surveys of public opinion throughout this period. They always gave the same result: a quarter of the population favoured unilateral nuclear disarmament, whilst two-thirds backed the retention of British nuclear weapons as long as other countries had them.
During the 1992 general election campaign, Labour Party headquarters doctored the biographies of all their MPs – including Joan Ruddock's – to omit the fact that they had ever belonged to CND at the height of the Cold War (report, 1 April 1992).
Bearing in mind, Mrs Ruddock's bizarre claim in the Morning Star (September 7, 1984) that "the threat comes from the United States having made Europe the front line in its conflict with the Soviet Union", it is not hard to understand why the party felt it necessary to rewrite history.
Dr JULIAN LEWIS MP
House of Commons