New Forest East



By Stephen Goodwin

Independent – 1 April 1992

Neil Kinnock was challenged by the Conservatives last night to explain the apparent censorship of Labour's official Candidates Directory to remove references to membership of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

In a 132-page dossier entitled Labour's CND Cover-Up, the Conservatives contrasted what they said were early drafts of 24 biographies declaring CND membership with the final versions which made no mention of it.

The Labour Party last night declined to say why, except to point out that some memberships had lapsed. ''We understand that those who are still members are making it known locally,'' a spokesman said.

The highlighting of Labour's CND links formed part of the Conservatives' attack on Labour's defence policy, driven home in a war-games party election broadcast last night and due to continue today.

The broadcast, which showed scenes from civil wars and mayhem as a child plays a computer game in his bedroom, finished with clips of wounded and grief-stricken children in desolated battlegrounds.

Emphasising the need for security, it questioned whether Mr Kinnock could be trusted to maintain the nuclear deterrent, pointing out that he had been a member of CND for 30 years. He disclosed last year that he had allowed his membership to lapse.

Accusing Labour of a cover-up, Tom King, Secretary of State for Defence, said that, last November, Marjorie Thompson, chair of CND, confirmed that well over 100 Labour MPs were still members. ''They are trying to persuade the country that they are to be trusted on keeping the nuclear deterrent and that they no longer have any connection with CND.''

In an advance batch of 99 biographies, 24 declared that they were members of CND. But, in the final version, the entries had been ''carefully doctored'' to remove the reference. Nor was membership listed for CND Council members Jeremy Corbyn and Ken Livingstone, Jo Richardson, CND vice-president and a member of the Shadow Cabinet, or even past CND chair Joan Ruddock. Only the entry for Bruce Kent, standing in Oxford West and Abingdon, had not been doctored, Mr King said.

Last night Chris Patten, the Conservative Party chairman, published a letter to Mr Kinnock challenging him to publish a list of all Labour candidates currently members of CND. ''Your shameless cover-up of Labour's strong and continuing links with unilateral disarmers cannot be allowed to continue any more,'' he wrote.

Neil Kinnock responded to the dossier by saying: ''We are changing nothing at all. I have made my own choice about the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and I also made the choice about Labour's very effective defence policy which ensures that we shall be a loyal ally and effective defenders of our country, and our country's interests, and collaborators towards greater stability and peace in the world.''

Throughout the campaign, when challenged on nuclear issues, Mr Kinnock has made it plain that ''so long as other countries have nuclear weapons we shall retain our nuclear weapon capacity''.

At Heathrow airport, challenged by several reporters over whether his instincts and those of other candidates who have taken an anti-nuclear stance might not result in a different policy under pressure in government to that declared in the manifesto, Mr Kinnock said: ''My instinct has always been to defend the people of my country. When it comes to pressure, I think that after all these past years people will have recognised that I have got a certain capability of resisting pressure and standing up for the interests of this country''.

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By Nicholas Wood, Political Correspondent

The Times – 1 April 1992

Labour campaign chiefs were accused yesterday of deleting all references to membership of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament from the official biographies of at least 24 of their election candidates.

Of the 634 Labour candidates at the election, who include well-known CND activists such as Joan Ruddock, Jeremy Corbyn and Ken Livingstone, only one, Bruce Kent, a former chairman of the organisation, declares his allegiance in the party's Candidates Directory issued to the media.

Allegations about the extent to which Labour has decided to play down the party's links with the unilateralist pressure group were made yesterday by Tom King, the Defence Secretary, and Chris Patten, the Conservative Party chairman.

The move came at a preview of last night's Conservative election broadcast, which sought to resurrect defence as an election issue and accused Labour of planning deep cuts in the armed forces. The lavishly produced programme claimed that more than 100 Labour MPs were members of CND, highlighted Neil Kinnock's unilateralist past and claimed that he could not be trusted with the security of the nation in an uncertain world. ''In 1992, voting Labour is a dangerous game,'' was the pay-off line.

Last night, a senior Labour spokesman conceded that Conservative Central Office appeared to have obtained a draft of the Candidates Guide. ''It was only ever a draft. All these entries in the guide were agreed with the candidates themselves before publication, obviously. If this is the beginning of the Conservatives new positive campaigning, we don't expect it to impress the voters.''

Mr King accused Labour of perpetrating a ''monstrous cover-up'' in an attempt to persuade the country that it can be trusted to keep the nuclear deterrent and that it no longer has links with CND.

Mr King said he could prove his case because last year Labour Party headquarters sent out advance copies of the first batch of 99 biographies, which typically run to about 150 words.

Of these, 25 stated that they were members of CND. But when the full and final list of candidates was published at the start of the campaign, 24 of these biographies had been ''doctored'' to exclude all references to CND. The only exception was Mr Kent: "What did we find? Not one Labour MP was listed as a CND member, no Jo Richardson, no Corbyn, no Cryer, no Canavan, not even Joan Ruddock. Not only that but the first 24, who had been honest enough to include it in their biographies, had been censored, and the entries carefully doctored. To be fair one entry is not doctored Bruce Kent. Even Labour's censors could not fake that one."

Mr King conceded that so far defence had not figured in the campaign. Labour wanted it that way and they would do all they could to avoid it becoming an issue. ''They will go to the lengths that we are demonstrating today to cover up anything that might be embarrassing to them.''

The Defence Secretary released a Conservative Central Office dossier comparing the draft biographies with the final versions. In each case, CND membership appears in the first version and disappears from the final one.

Mr Patten said: ''What we have done is to demonstrate the links between the Labour Party and CND. It's not us who have raised the issue but Labour by so carefully deleting any reference to CND from their candidates' biographies.''

The two ministers said it was possible that all 24 candidates had allowed their CND membership to lapse.

Mr Kinnock said last night: ''We are changing nothing at all, and the Conservatives are fighting a desperately negative campaign that simply won't impress people.''

[NOTE: Labour's CND Cover-Up was compiled by Julian Lewis in the run-up to the 1992 General Election. It was later confirmed that Labour Party headquarters had indeed doctored the Candidates Directory by deleting the CND membership of dozens of Labour MPs and Parliamentary Candidates.]