On the 8 September the DSEI arms fair opened in East London. I spent the day meandering around CAAT’s demonstration outside the offices of UKTI DSO talking to all and sundry.
I wanted to see the range of reasons why such a large group of people had gathered to fight actions our government deems to be legal. The range of passionate and articulate responses are collected in the video blog below, and stand as a testament to those who wish to stop British companies from profiting through war. They will surely rank with those who have fought such accepted abberations as the slave trade in the past.
It was a great day to feel part of such a positive movement for change, and I would encourage all who are inspired by the film to become an active part of CAAT in the future.
I lay unmoving on the walkway above Trafalgar Square, in front of the National Gallery. Through my half-closed eyes, I could see passers-by stopping to look at me, some taking photos. My knees stiffened and my back arched on the still damp ground yet I felt strangely content. Why? Well, I was taking part in a public art event and simultaneously protesting against the London arms fair. How good is that?
The main focus of attention was on the Fourth Plinth of the square, scene of the One & Other project, brainchild of artist Antony Gomley. Members of the public, drawn by lot, could use their hour on the plinth as “living sculptures” to do what ever they liked – as long as it was legal.
A wonderful lady in Leeds called Quinnie had got in touch with Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) the previous month to say that she had been drawn to appear on the plinth and wanted to dedicate her hour to protest against the London arms fair – Defence Systems & Equipment International (DSEI). Continue reading “The Quinnie and I (and a few friends)”
London CAAT members descended on the Excel Centre on the weekend of the 27th February as Clarion Events, owners of the DSEI arms fair, were holding a Baby Show there. Two hours of leafleting took place on the Friday and there was a musical protest by East London Against the Arms Fair on the Saturday. But the main London CAAT action was on the Sunday, when a particularly angry baby turned up laden with missiles, guns and a globe which he proceeded to destroy with the aforementioned items. Some passers-by and even exhibitors were drawn towards this strange sight and gladly took leaflets and/or signed the petition we had. There was a preview article by the local website Wharf, which can be found here (www.wharf.co.uk/2009/02/first-it-was-nuclear-santa-now.html) and they also sent down a photographer to cover the action. Photos can be seen at www.flickr.com/photos/londoncaat
On Wednesday 11th February, a group of students staged a die-in protest to highlight the University of Nottingham’s extensive links with arms companies. This protest was held as part of a national day of action against the arms trade, called by Campaign Against the Arms Trade Universities Network.
A group of 8 CAAT staff members and volunteers took part in a media stunt outside the Spirit of Christmas Fair run by Clarion Events on Wednesday November 5th. Steve Tully utilised his bushy beard to play a very convincing Santa, accompanied by three mischievous elves (Anne-Marie O’Reilly, Ian Pocock and Sam Walton) who just loved playing with the missiles on hand as props!
A few weeks ago I was sat in a large canteen basking in the modicum of glamour that had been injected into my day. It may have merely manifested itself as a mediocre cappuccino at the BBC building (mediocre being as positive as I can be), but the company I was keeping more than made up for any beverage based shortcomings.
I was speaking to Laurence Howarth, a funnyman who writes funny things for Radio 4 as well as penning gags for a whole host of performers you would know and love. To be more specific, he recently penned a sit-com about arms dealers called Safety Catch. Now I know what you’re thinking, canned laughter and cartoonish characters are hardly the crucible in which an anti-arms trade ideology can be forged. Well you would be wrong.
The show takes a satirical sideswipe with a warts-and-all portrayal of the life of death merchant Simon McGrath, and raises a few ironic chuckles along the way. Though it may seem a strange topic to base a comedy show around, Laurence is keen to argue the case for raising awareness through a vector such as this. Some of the murkier aspects of the civil service were brought to rib tickling life in Yes Minister to popular and critical acclaim, and in my mind this is no different. Continue reading “Sitcoms don’t kill people, guns do…”
On the 30th July the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords delivered their legal verdict on the Serious Fraud Office’s decision to cancel the now famous corruption investigation into Saudi Arabia and BAE Systems. Having been present at the hearing, I had heard the very eloquent and erudite arguments put forth by CAAT and The Corner House’s legal team. Thus it was with considerable chagrin I discovered the Law Lords had contradicted the superlative glory of the High Court judgement last summer.
Central to the case was the apparent disregard shown to article 5 of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development convention, which the UK is a signatory to. Although not incorporated into UK law, the Director of the SFO and the Attorney General both publicly avowed that the decision to discontinue the investigation was taken with the OECD Anti-bribery Convention in mind and, crucially, that the decision was permitted under its terms. However, it was later argued in the courtroom that had these actions breached the treaty after all, they would have continued regardless and broken it. Continue reading “Appellate Acrimony”
When campaigning against the arms trade, I’ve always found it interesting how few people disagree with the moral case we’re making. Discounting those few rare souls who see the production of weaponry, in itself, as a morally worthy activity, the general opinion tends to be one of resigned acceptance. That there is a demand for such weaponry is seen to be a sad fact of life and that supplying this demand benefits our economy an unfortunate boon. After all, if we didn’t do it, surely someone else would?
Yet the initial perception of inevitability demands examination. Certainly, leaving aside more utopian aspirations, we can accept armed conflict as a sad fact of global politics. Yet the vast industrial and commercial machinery which exists to service this demand is no such given. The arms industry is not just supported by government (as, perhaps, one might expect to happen with regards to any major industry) but is in fact subsidised to a rather considerable degree. The full extent of the subsidy is estimated to stand at up to £890 million per year. Given around 65000 people working in the arms trade within the UK, this roughly amounts of each job costing the tax payer over £13000 a year in subsidy. Until this year when, hopefully as a sign of things to come, Gordon Brown announced the decision to close it, the defence export service organisation (DESO) existed within Government solely to market and sell UK arms. Employing nearly 500 civil servants within the Ministry of Defence, the head of DESO was a post always filled by an arms industry executive with a portion of his salary ‘topped up’ by the arms industry. Could you imagine the outcry if the department of health had a similar organisation working within it at the taxpayers expense to promote pharmaceutical sale? Yet DESO was sadly indicative of the connections between government and arms industry and they extend far beyond it. Continue reading “The UK Arms Industry”
“You’ve arrived at a good time” I was hailed whilst I scanned the lunch table licking my lips in anticipation, and I suppose I had! Hello, my name is Todd, recent addition to the CAAT team in the capacity of a rather wet behind the ears media volunteer. So it was with some trepidation and considerable excitement that in only my second week on the job CAAT earned a landmark victory in court. As some of you will know, last week the High Court ruled that the Government acted illegally in preventing the Serious Fraud Office investigating accusations of corruption and bribery levelled at the paragons of morality and transparency that are the Saudi Royal family. The allegations in question concern a string of transactions relating to arms dealers BAE systems. BAE are a company who espouse more moral indifference to their stock trade than a fox hunter with sidelines in battery farming and extraordinary rendition flights. In a stunning and momentous blow against the power of Britain’s ever presidential executive Lord Justice Moses ruled that “no one, whether within this country or outside, is entitled to interfere with the course of our justice.” The enduring pressure and hard work put in by CAAT and The Corner House had received an epic official justification. Continue reading “High Court Ruling: Hot off the press”
April the High Court handed down a ruling in favour of CAAT and The Corner House, finding that the government had buckled under pressure from a Saudi prince and unlawfully ended the investigation into allegations of corruption surrounding arms deals with Saudi Arabia. Given the landmark status of the Court’s judgment a press conference was held to field the massive media interest, and arriving early before the ruling was made public, the tension and sense of trepidation in the air was tangible.
Having never met a journalist before (never mind attended a press conference) I shared in the mood of nervous excitement as I helped to welcome and register the mixed bag of scruffy ruffians and suit-clad media people that would constitute our audience. Weaving through the throng I overheard a well-known journalist speaking on his mobile phone. He described the Court’s judgement as ‘withering’ and said he’d never heard anything like it. Despite the unassuming look of many, their tardy tendancies and willingness to squash into a room already packed to the rafters, journalists are tough. They often hold a lot of sway in whether and how the public recieves a story, and this press conference would be a crucial chance for CAAT to elucidate a stronger stance for supporters and answer back to critics. Representatives from two dozen media houses attended, reflecting the truly national implications of CAAT’s court case and maximising exposure for an important but oft-overlooked cause. Continue reading “CAAT Press Conference As CAAT Wins Landmark Case Against Government”