It was billed as the “auction of dreams”- but Liberal Democrats arriving for their spring fundraiser in Twickenham were met by protesters with placards, Vince Cable masks and some uncomfortable truths.
With Baroness Shirley Williams attending as the after dinner speaker and guests including Greg Dyke, Lord Oakshott and Geoff Pope it must have been embarrassing for Vince Cable to have his track record of support for the arms industry laid bare.
I’m sure he didn’t want to be reminded, for instance, that British-made small arms and armoured vehicles were used to suppress pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain, or that British-made helicopters were used against civilians in Egypt. Or that it is Cable’s own business department which is responsible the promotion and sale of these weapons to regimes across the world. Baroness Shirley Williams stopped and listened attentively as protesters described how the weapons trade is subsidised and supported through Cable’s department.
Before taking office, Vince Cable was critical of government support for the arms trade. Now, as Business Secretary, he has taken charge of the UK Trade and Investment organisation, including it’s defence and security arm (UKTI DSO). Despite its obscure title, UKTI DSO is responsible for promoting British arms exports around the world. UKTI DSO’s “priority markets” include countries listed by the Foreign Office as having serious human rights concerns such as Egypt, and countries such as India where high-tech weapons systems are promoted at the expense of health and education.
As one protester, Harald Molgard, said “Vince Cable’s Business Department works hard to sell arms to countries where some of the world’s poorest live including India Bangladesh, Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa. He fails to see the moral case for not promoting weapons to countries with large populations of very poor people. He doesn’t seem to realise that weapons expenditure diverts resources from development.”
The protest was called by local members of Twickenham, Richmond and Kingston Against the Arms Trade (TRAKNAT), who have been holding Vince Cable to account for his position on the arms trade in his constituency. If you’re based in the Twickenham or Richmond area and would like to join TRAKNAT, please contact coordinator Paul Tippell on paul.tippell(at)caobjects*com.