After years of hype and a huge dose of public money spent simply developing and promoting the idea, the St Athan military super-academy has finally been ditched. This will come as little surprise to those who have followed the progress of the project. It was not only pacifists and anti-imperialists who opposed the £14bn PFI monster, but a host of voices within the military and defence industry. The mad scramble for profit consequent on the privatisation of defence training had come into contradiction with military objectives, the need to keep key MOD personnel happy, and the Tories’ desire to slash public spending.
Nothing has exposed the hypocricy of Wales’s professional politicians like St Athan. The false promise of thousands of local jobs and other supposed knock-on advantages persuaded Labour, Tories, Lib Dems and Plaid alike to get on the bandwagon. Rhodri Morgan notoriously popped a bottle of champagne to celebrate Welsh workers supposedly winning out over their English rivals. Of the Plaid left, only Jill Evans openly opposed the project: the “national party of Wales” could only preserve its unity by failing to take a position on what would have been the largest publicly funded undertaking in Wales’s history.
The campaign against the project had, in truth, withered as a decision on the proposed academy was repeatedly delayed. Nevertheless, at its height it gained the support of the Stop The War Coalition, and its 2008 demo in Cardiff sufficiently rattled the vested interests behind St Athan that the police refused to let demonstrators march through the city centre and threatened organisers with arrest should there be the slightest disorder: a far more draconian attitude than that shown towards the hooligans of the WDL recently.
Supporters of the Cardiff Radical Socialist Forum are proud of our role in opposing St Athan. This site contains an archive of articles on the subject which hopefully visitors will now read afresh.