One of the shocking things about this dismal election campaign is that the main parties and the media are acting like they have forgotten Britain is fighting a war.

Cameron and Afghan child

On the first day of campaigning the word ‘Afghanistan’ was not mentioned on the BBC TV news. Since then its been brought up by one or two columnists and made the inside pages of the papers only because two more British soldiers have been killed.

For official politics it might as well not be happening.

The reasons can be summed up in one statistical comparison.

The government is planning to spend nearly 4 billion pounds on the Afghan war in the current year – the amount they plan to cut from the NHS.

Not a vote winning package. But the problem for the Afghans, and for British democracy, is that all the main parties back this war.

The war in Afghanistan is of course proving a disaster for the people there and for NATO.

The constant rowing between the US officials and the the Karzai regime they installed shows how deep NATO’s problems are. NATO powers keep implying that they are moving towards a ‘handover’, but in fact there are more foreign troops in Afghanistan than ever and there is no one they can plausibly handover to.

The war remains deeply unpopular here. Earlier in the week, British military chiefs went public complaining about the British people’s obsession with military deaths.

Protests and vigils are causing demoralisation in the forces apparently. This complaint comes weeks before the launch of the first big offensive since Obama and Brown’s troop surge – the attack on Kandahar, which by the way Karzai appears to be trying to distance himself from.

So though the main parties back the war, they are desperately trying to not mention it.

This week Stop the War Coalition launched a campaign to put pressure on candidates to get the war back into the debate and to maximise the anti war vote.

The Coalition has created an online guide to what candidates think about the war. It is asking all its supporters to lobby all candidates in the election and demand they answer a series of questions about their attitudes to Iraq, Afghanistan, Islamophobia and Trident.

There is an easy to use database on Stop the War’s website which will list all your candidates (excluding the BNP and other racists) and allow you to send them all questions.
CND is running a parallel campaign over Trident from its site.

The lobbying campaign has been a big hit. 3,000 people used the facility in the 24 hours since its launch. Its a simple and effective way to force the war in Afghanistan back on to the political agenda.

Stop the War is also asking supporters to pressure candidates in every way possible.

In many areas Stop the War hustings, question times and public meetings have been organised and a ‘don’t they know there is a war on – bring the troops home‘ petition can be downloaded from the website.

But as a minimum they are asking everyone to go online and make their candidates break the silence over the war.

Chris Nineham

Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.