Goodbye to Goodwin Street

11 Goodwin Street
11 Goodwin Street, home to Campaign Against Arms Trade for a quarter of a century

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has just moved its office. Although the distance from the old to the new office is a mere 200 yards, and the move itself went smoothly, the process has still been a difficult one, physically and emotionally.

Why? Well for starters we had been in our office at 11 Goodwin Street, Finsbury Park, for a quarter of a century – that’s a long time in a world of short leases, changing rent demands and new organisational needs. But even more, we were attached to Goodwin Street.

Goodwin Street memories
The building has had a long connection with the peace movement. Owned by Peace News Trustees, over the years it been home to dozens of organisations, including Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, support organisations for Palestinians, Oromos and Kurds, local neighbourhood groups – even an organisation to aid street drinkers.

Continue reading “Goodbye to Goodwin Street”

After a year of repression the UK still sells arms to Bahrain

CAAT protests continuing arms sales to Bahrain.

CAAT protesters outside BIS
CAAT protesters outside BIS

Since the New Year, at least ten people have been killed by security forces in Bahrain. Three were killed in custody. Others suffocated on tear gas, which has been fired into people’s homes where they can’t escape.

We have known of Bahrain’s horrific human rights abuses since a year ago when the crackdown on protest began, but the UK continues to arm the kingdom regardless. In Vince Cable’s words last week: “We do business with repressive governments and there’s no denying that.”

Continue reading “After a year of repression the UK still sells arms to Bahrain”

Beyond an Olympic truce

The UK government should go beyond the call for an Olympic truce and take steps to end the arms trade says Kaye Stearman.

It’s good to see the UK government leading the call for a worldwide truce during the 2012 London Olympics. UK diplomats worked overtime to sign up every UN member state to co-sponsor the truce resolution, including South Sudan, the UN’s newest member, and Kiribati, one of the most isolated.

Continue reading “Beyond an Olympic truce”

Wild beasts and parliamentary action

Kaye Stearman asks: “Why do MPs care so passionately about animal rights while failing to tackle issues like the arms trade?”

One night in June as I was drifting off to sleep, I was galvanised by the passionate debate being played out on the normally soporific Today in Parliament on Radio 4. The programme is noted for its erudition in the explanation of arcane bills and ministerial soundbites but to hear genuine anger and passionate advocacy is rare.

Tiger jumping through hoop

Even more surprising was that the debate was led by backbenchers and cut across partly lines. Who, I wondered, were these MPs and what was their cause. Surely it must involve an issue such as violation of human rights, poverty, famine, war or the arms trade.

Alas, it was none of these. To be fair, it did involve the rights of living beings – in this case wild animals. MPs united in support of a law that would ban lions, tigers and other wild animals from circus shows in the UK. The government had tried to impose a three-line whip, backbenchers had refused to knuckle under and a heartfelt debate on the wrongs of animal mistreatment ensued. Continue reading “Wild beasts and parliamentary action”

Green sees red over arms sales

Why did Lord Green take the Trade Minister post when he clearly had problems with the ethics of arms sales? Kaye Stearman ruminates on ethics, religion and arms sales.

What started out green, then rapidly turned yellow, white and red?. No, it’s not a chameleon. It’s the new UK Trade Minister. Why? Well, he is called Green, quickly turned yellow, waved the white flag of surrender, and then grew red with embarassment – as did the government. 

Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint takes his seat in the House of Lords
Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint takes his seat in the House of Lords

This is the background to the riddle. For months the Coalition government had been seeking a Trade Minister, someone with gravitas and international contacts,  to act as a public face of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI). They thought that they had hit the jackpot with Lord Stephen Green of Hurstpierpoint – after all he is a newly appointed Tory Lord just stepping down from the Chairmanship of banking giant HBSC and an ordained Church of England priest. What’s not to like?

Lord Green’s dilemma

Unfortunately Lord Green is reputed not to like weapons companies, so much so that he decided that HBSC would no longer provide financial services to those companies who manufactured arms such as landmines, cluster bombs and combat aircraft. However, according to the Telegraph of 7 January, “the bank retains BAE Systems as a client and its senior non-executive director, Sir Simon Robertson, is chairman of Rolls-Royce”,  so clearly the adversion to arms goes only so far. Continue reading “Green sees red over arms sales”

BAE – getting away with paying peanuts

Demo outside BAE court case
A giant Dick Olver, chairman of BAE, paying peanuts

BAE managed to escape with a fine of £500,000 plus costs in court today. Its plea bargain (worth £30 million) to end years of corruption investigations was structured so poorly that if the court fined more, this would be deducted from the amount Tanzania is to receive in reparations. The judge described “moral pressure” to therefore minimise the fine.

But it is heartening that the judge, like the rest of us, could clearly see through BAE’s story:

“..on the basis of the documents shown to me it seems very naïve in the extreme to think that Mr Vithlani was simply a well-paid lobbyist” Continue reading “BAE – getting away with paying peanuts”

BAE – guilty not only of “accounting errors”?

We braved the snow to demonstrate outside BAE’s court hearing

CAAT outside court
Will a giant Dick Olver get away with paying peanuts?

Sub-zero temperatures didn’t deter us from voicing our anger outside court today. Arms company BAE was inside and set to get away with paying utter peanuts: buying an end to years of corruption investigations by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). But it seems we weren’t the only people to spot injustice: the judge has so far not rubber-stamped the proposed plea bargain. He has instead postponed sentencing until tomorrow.

The SFO investigations involved allegations of corrupt payments of over £1,000,000,000 in nine countries. The proposed plea bargain on the other hand is a measly £30 million, admitting only to “accounting errors” in a single disastrous deal for Tanzania. Continue reading “BAE – guilty not only of “accounting errors”?”

Justice should be HEARD by everyone

Westminster Magistrates Court
Westminster Magistrates Court

Kaye Stearman explains, as far as she is able, what happened when BAE pleaded guilty in court.
Tuesday 23 November 2010

9.45 – I arrive at Westminister Magistrates Court in Horseferry Road, a building with all the architectual charm of a multi-story parking lot and the security checks of a minor international airport. Continue reading “Justice should be HEARD by everyone”

Santa and his elves protest against DSEI arms fair owners

Santa and elves assemble outside Olympia
Santa and elves assemble outside Olympia

Santa and his elves turned up at Kensington Olympia on Sunday 7 November to protest about the Spirit of Christmas being corrupted by the owners of the DSEI arms fair. The Spirit of Christmas Fair was taking place and the organisers of this event, Clarion Events, saw no contradiction between holding an exhibition for the gift trade and organising the world largest arms fair. Continue reading “Santa and his elves protest against DSEI arms fair owners”