Tuesday, 22 February 2011

You've got to admire Cameron's sheer chutzpah

Watching TV today, you'll see the Prime Minister in various North African and Near Eastern countries (Egypt yesterday, dictatorship Kuwait today) expounding his firm belief in democracy, peaceful protest and freedom.

Wonderful. Until you look at the people on the plane with him.

Ian King, chief executive of BAE Systems, will be the most senior figure on the trade delegation that also includes Victor Chavez of Thales UK and Alastair Bisset of Qinetiq. The 36-strong business delegation, nearly a quarter of whom come from the defence and aerospace sectors, will attend some, but not all, of the prime minister's three-day visit to the Gulf.
Other defence and aerospace manufacturers accompanying Cameron include Rob Watson, regional director of Rolls Royce; Charles Hughes, vice president marketing of the Cobham Group; Douglas Caster, the chief executive of Ultra Electronics; Andy Pearson, managing director of Babcock International Group; and Richard Barrett, regional director of Atkins.

Following on from his government's recent statements about not being 'ashamed' but 'proud' of the arms trade, and having ordered Britain's embassies to privilege trade above every other activity, Cameron's tour is actually a weapons sales roadshow, flogging anti-citizen devices as much as defence machinery. The UK sells huge amounts of weaponry to tiny Kuwait (not sure why: their armed forces ran away when the Iraqis visited in 1990) and is currently selling Eurofighters around the Gulf: there are several going spare as they're a bit rubbish and the UK can't afford its full order. The defence minister, Gerald Howarth, is manning a stall at a weapons fair featuring 93 British arms dealers flogging (no pun intended) everything an insecure despot might need, from tasers to riot control vans. 15 civil servants are there too, 'supporting' ADS, the British death-merchants' promotional body ('free cattle prod with every dungeon'). (If that site sickens you, take the antidote with CAAT).

So don't swallow Cameron's hastily arranged speeches whole: this is a sales trip with a lot of shadowy men who sniff opportunity.

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