SPEAKING out against the arms trade

Niki Goridis on Speak’s Day of Action.

1 March – This was definitely a different Monday morning for the staff of UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI). What made it so different?

A crowd of about seventy young people had congregated in front of UKTI’s headquarters at 66 Victoria Street, dancing, singing and enjoying themselves. They were generous too. Every person leaving the building was offered bread, juice and flowers. 

Alas, the UKTI staff didn’t accept these offerings and seemed keen to get out of eye-shot. However, many passers-by were interested. Most slowed their pace and had a closer look at the colourful crowd.

The cardboard tank, covered with flowers
The cardboard tank, covered with flowers

And they were indeed colourful, with their bright clothing and their banners with slogans like “no bailouts for bombs” or “British arms exports: aiding repression and harming development”. Best of all, was the huge tank made of cardboard and decorated with flowers.
Continue reading “SPEAKING out against the arms trade”

Looking back with CAAT

At the start of 2010, Kaye Stearman looks back on events of the past year and what was achieved.

8 November 2008 – CAAT’s National Gathering at Conway Hall in central London sees the launch of the new “Armed & Dangerous” campaign to focus on the support given to arms exports by United Kingdom Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO).

Kingsgate House Demo, 24 November
Kingsgate House Demo, 24 November

24 November  – CAAT holds its first demonstration outside UKTI DSO headquarters at Kingsgate House, Victoria Street, Westminster. Is it right for civil servants to act as arms dealers?

27 December onwards – Israel launches an armed attack on Gaza which continues for three weeks. CAAT highlights how British weapons and components are deployed and calls for a complete ban on British arms exports to Israel. Continue reading “Looking back with CAAT”

Green markets or gun markets

David Watson from Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) writes on weapons, wars and climate change for Blog Action Day on Climate Change – 15 October 2009.

On 14 October, BBC’s Newsnight asked the question “Can you be green and capitalist?”

Simon Retallack, associate director at the centre-left think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research, was asked how best to fight climate change. He rejected an approach based on changing people’s values, saying: “I worry that the [anti-consumerist] approach gets in the way of putting in place some consumerist approaches to solving some of these problems that doesn’t (sic) entail trying to engineer changing people’s values.”

The interviewer didn’t ask Retallack if not changing our values meant we could continue to support wars and military occupations in strategically important locations.

Neither did he offer an opinion on whether this meant that the UK and the US could carry on spending so much of their stretched budgets subsidising their arms industries. Continue reading “Green markets or gun markets”

DSEI video blog

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.

The cuckoo has landed… at UKTI

CAAT media co-ordinator Kaye Stearman writes…

Monday morning, 30 March, at 8.30am. and the pavement outside Kingsgate House, the unlovely concrete box that houses United Kingdom Trade and Investment (UKTI), was in deep shadow. I had volunteered to do the early shift at CAAT’s UKTI demo and was freezing as a result. As the wind whistled down Victoria Street I almost envied the civil servants, arriving for work in a warm building.

As those same civil servants pushed through the rotating door (the title of one of CAAT’s earlier campaigns) they were puzzled to be handed a copy of UKTI’s Defence and Security Organisation (DSO) “performance report”. Like most civil servants they are familiar with glossy government reports. They know that most are exercises in box ticking, highlighting perceived successes and hiding more dubious activities – or spin as we laypeople call it. Continue reading “The cuckoo has landed… at UKTI”

acronyms and activism

Eight O’clock one rainy morning outside Victoria Station, a crew of CAAT activists assembled with high hopes and higher necked woolly jumpers. Their aim, to descend on the unwitting offices of Kingsgate House, the home of UK Trade and Investment, and alert them to the rather clandestine and immoral activities now taking place within.

Considering the keenness of the hour and the biting frost, spirits ran high. In the moments to be grasped before the zero hour, we debated whether or not it was credible to combine ridiculously base pop anthems with a catchy acronym to achieve a campaign chant. In the case of Daphne and Celeste’s turgidly dire “U.G.L.Y.” the answer was deemed no. It seems however well one could substitute “U.K.T.I you ain’t got no alibi you ugly” into its insipidly feverish brogue, the price of being associated with such bilge was deemed too high. The decision was postponed, but it was decided to float the idea of a new workshop at the next national gathering entitled: “the art of incorporating acronyms into catchy campaign chants.” We did however congratulate ourselves on having higher standards and considerably more scruples than your average pop music producer.
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The government’s golfing gunrunners

Looking through the media after arriving in the CAAT office this morning, I was greeted by unexpected coverage of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) – a government unit that is the focus of CAAT’s new core campaign.

UKTI promotes exports – including arms exports.  However, the news today was not about the arms trade. It was about golf.

Tory MP Humfrey Malins discovered that UKTI has spent thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money on branded golf balls – £12,030.50 in the last three years to be precise.

However, wasting taxpayers’ money seems to be par for the course at UKTI. Although arms make up less than 2% of the UK’s visible exports, UKTI employs about as many staff in its arms promotion unit as in all its civil industry-specific sectors combined.

That’s before we’ve even considered the human costs involved in the export of arms to conflict areas and oppressive regimes.

Continue reading “The government’s golfing gunrunners”