VIEW FROM THE TOP: War threat puts CND in the spotlight - Chair Carol Naughton tells Joe Lepper about the comms challenges facing the group

In the aftermath of the terror attacks of 11 September a growing

chunk of the nation, fearful of the consequences of conflict, turned to

CND. Hundreds of people have applied for membership and last month

20,000 people joined a CND-organised demonstration in London.

Suddenly CND's logo, the 1950s designed international symbol of peace,

was once again everywhere as the media requests clocked up.

For Carol Naughton, elected as CND chair at its 15 September annual

conference, this surge of interest was hardly a surprise: 'We have for

so long been the main voice for peace in this country that people come

to us, they want our opinion and they want security. Suddenly the threat

of war is very real for people. It happened with the French nuclear

testing and it's happening now.'

But after each resolution of conflict CND faces the same problem,

members leave, media enquiries dry up and suddenly a once strong voice

becomes barely a whisper. Naughton sees countering this as CND's major


This is crucial if it is ever to bring about its aims of unilateral

nuclear disarmament and peaceful solutions to conflict. It is also a

necessity if the group is to survive.

She describes the average member as around 50-years-old or older, left

of centre and probably a member of the Labour Party. As a 47-year-old

Labour Party member Naughton comfortably fits the bill. 'Our long-term

membership is very loyal but it's an ageing population. Now, more than

ever, we need to look at the young,' said Naughton.

She is currently drawing up plans for what will be CND's biggest attempt

yet to attract and keep young members. Work is underway with a priority

to work on different ways of communicating its messages.

Naughton hopes that a major music concert will take place next


This is not only to appeal more to the young but is also part of a

concerted effort to cut back on the number of peace marches.

These marches, particularly those at Aldermaston in the late 1950s and

early 1960s, had power and resonance , even now, with the bombing of

Afghanistan, but do they still attract the same support or coverage in

peace time?

'If we want to attract young folk we need to attract them with things

that they like, music for example. A walk through London won't do that,

despite recent successes. We need to look at the long term,' she


Demonstrations can also be a breeding ground for PR blunders. A Samba

band on a recent protest outside the US Embassy in London had to be kept

away from the building for fear of appearing crass.

The internet is also important if CND is ever to achieve success.

Naughton says: 'I'm not happy with our website at the moment. It has a

lot of facts and a lot of history but it needs to be more up-to-date,

more something that young people will want to look at and with better

online links with other peace movements globally. We are part of a

global community of peace groups and we need to be better in

communicating with and about them.'

Also, work has already started in communicating with national media


The Independent was recently contacted about its use of 1980s images of

CND, rather than more recent media opportunities. She also wants more of

a tabloid newspaper appeal, more focus on the human interest aspect of

its messages and its members.

'We need to show the link between what's happening in Afghanisatan and

the threat of nuclear war. The US is nuclear, Pakistan is nuclear,

Britain is nuclear, this situation should worry people,' she says.

Despite no formal PR training Naughton's track record within CND shows

she is a seasoned campaigner. For the past ten years she has sat on the

organisation's campaigns group and in recent years was its facilitator,

effectively CND's head of PR. In her current role she has the final say

on all campaign work. For example, she recently vetoed a plan to team up

with the Liberal Democrats in their calls for a cut in nuclear weapons:

'Our message is abolition, not reduction I had to make a stand.'

She is also close friends with Bruce Kent, CND's influential chairman

during its peak in the early 1980s.

Naughton has received some media training, pro bono, from sympathisers

who worked at the BBC. For the past three to four years she has put this

to good use. She often found herself forced into the role of chief


When asked to take part in TV and radio discussions, media such as the

BBC would only accept a female spokesperson. The then chairman David

Knight was forced to stand aside while Naughton and other female

spokespeople became the face of CND.

One such occasion had a profound affect on Naughton, who works as a

family support worker in Birmingham, when she appeared on a discussion

panel show hosted by David Mellor.

'We knew it was wrong to want to have a female spokesperson only, but we

wanted to get our message across so agreed to do it. I should have been

included more in the debate and I was visibly one woman against a

line-up of male ex-military and defence analysts,' she says.

Naughton has also appeared with one of her three sons on Esther

Rantzen's daytime show. Despite the show being titled, 'My mother's a

nutter', Naughton is pleased with her appearance and wants to follow it

up with similar, more populist media opportunities: 'The Esther show

gave me the ability to reach a different audience. It also showed that

CND members are real people, I am a mother, an ordinary person.'

Naughton describes herself as 'extremely emotional' over the issue of

nuclear arms but has had to curb this in front of the glare of the


Her passion for the cause has extended to being arrested three times at

various demonstrations and blockades. She has only been prosecuted once,

after her most recent arrest in February at a blockade at Faslane

nuclear submarine base in Scotland. She conducted her own defence at a

hearing at Argyll and Bute district court last September but was found

guilty of a breach of the peace and fined £100.

She is also firmly behind CND's public affairs work, particularly on a

parliamentary level. There are around 50 Labour MPs who are


But for Naughton the real challenge may not be the way CND communicates,

but the message itself.

Arguably throughout its history its membership peaks have been achieved

through fear, not an actual commitment to unilateral disarmament. Once

the threat recedes CND's message is simply not strong enough to keep

people interested.

Naughton refutes this and pledges that, while CND may change its style,

its content, name and central message will remain the same until Britain

abolishes its nuclear arsenal: 'We have a strong case and a strong name.

Coca-Cola wouldn't change its name, why would CND?'


CND was formed in 1958 from a coalition of intellectuals, left-wing

politicians and existing anti-nuclear groups. It was created to act as

one voice for the movement with the goal of unilateral nuclear

disarmament. This is still CND's primary goal.

It's famous symbol was created by the artist Gerald Holtom, and depicts

the semaphore letter N for Nuclear and D for Disarmament. It is known

globally as a symbol of peace and only in Britain as CND's logo. The

pressure group has no ownership rights. An attempt in the late 1990s to

ask the Spice Girls to back CND after using its symbol on merchandise

was met with a rebuttal.

CND's first leadership team included Bertrand Russell, Canon Collins of

St Paul's Cathedral as chairman and Peggy Duff, from the public

affairs-orientated group the National Committee for the Abolition of

Nuclear Weapons Tests (NCANWAT), as organising secretary.

CND also included members of the Emergency Committee for Direct Action

Aganist Nuclear War (DAC). It was this group which largely organised the

first Aldermaston March in 1958.

This first march attracted 10,000 supporters who spent Easter weekend

marching from London to Aldermaston, the home of British nuclear

weapons. It attracted around 100,000 in following years.

Success also followed with its public affairs work, when in 1960 it

successfully persuaded the Labour Party Conference to adopt unilateral

nuclear disarmament as policy.

But by 1960 cracks started to appear and within three years membership

was in freefall and it had lost the support of Labour's hierachy.

This fast decline was caused partly by factionalism. In 1960 Russell

quit the increasingly public affairs motivated CND and formed a

Committee of 100 which favoured direct, non-violent action. But the main

reason for decline was the Cuban Missile Crisis, which showed to people

that perhaps a nuclear deterrent could avert conflict.

CND's decline, exacerbated by the Vietnam conflict, carried on for

almost two decades. CND became increasingly regionalised, with strong

support in Scotland, where British and US nuclear submarines are


It wasn't until the late 1970s that people seemed to want to listen.

This happened as the Cold War entered one of its chilliest hours in 1979

when American Cruise and Pershing missiles were deployed to Britain and

other western European countries. Meanwhile the then Soviet Union was

deploying its own nuclear arms across Eastern Europe.

In this climate of fear membership blossomed to a peak of 200,000 for

much of the early eighties. Huge, well organised CND protests in London,

Aldermaston and at the Greenham Common US airforce base in Berkshire,

became commonplace. Even MI5 began spying on CND over fears of communist


But this revival of its fortunes and influence, which included

increasing support in Michael Foot's Labour Party proved, once again, to

be short-lived.

CND began to lose the support of Labour's leadership and by 1987 Mikhail

Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan had signed an arms reduction agreement,

giving renewed credence to multilateral disarmament.

CND has yet to achieve the influence or attract the support it had in

the early 1960s and 1980s, although there were two minor peaks in

support in the 1990s with the Gulf War and the French nuclear tests in

the Pacific.

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