Arms Fair in London

Gideon Burrows is creating quite a stir here in London on the subject of the Defence Systems and Equipment International arms convention. His article featured as the cover story for this weeks New Statesman. Worth a look.

Naturally, protests are planned against the arms fair, and not just among peaceniks and the anti-capitalist crowd, though both will be out in force. For more than a year, church and community groups in Newham, the borough in which the ExCeL exhibition centre is sited, have been writing to their MP (Jim Fitzpatrick), the Mayor of London and their local council, calling for the arms fair to be cancelled. They would rather £1.5m of government money was spent on improving their neighbourhood, one of the poorest in London. “ExCeL is at the heart of a residential area that was one of the worst-hit areas during the London Blitz, which many of the older residents remember,” said Tim Wardle of East London Against the Arms Fair. “We feel that most will be disgusted at what is going on down the road from where they live.”

Only Ken Livingstone has said he wants the exhibition cancelled, but has admitted that he is powerless to stop it. The London arms fair is symbolic of new Labour’s contradictory approach to arms sales and foreign policy. On the one hand, it claims to be a force for good in the world, and will use military force if necessary to deprive terrible regimes of their weapons. Yet on the other, it is willing to assist the supply of yet more weapons to some of the most brutal regimes, and even to those accused of sponsoring terrorism. Whichever way you look at it, there’s blood on their hands.