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Why won’t the Labour council kick the arms dealers out of Liverpool?

The Workers Party of Britain stands with the people of Liverpool in opposing the presence of international arms dealers in their city. The Labour council that is facilitating these criminals must be held to account!

Last year, Liverpool registered a victory against the private enterprises that seek to profit from misery and death. Electronic Warfare Europe (AOC) was forced to cancel its planned November event in the council-owned exhibition centre.

Run by Clarion Defence, Electronic Warfare Europe is a major event in the international arms traders’ calendar – an event that attracts all the major players in hi-tech weaponry such as Elbit Systems, Roke, Raytheon, Saab, Airbus, etc.

Elbit has been in the news several times over its advertising of arms as “battle-tested”afterthey have been unleashed against Palestinian civilians by Israeli occupation forces.

Clarion blamed ‘Covid issues’ for the cancellation, but there is little doubt that extreme pressure from Liverpool Against the Electronic Arms fair, Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and other local groups was the real reason for the change of venue.

The organisers planned to move their event to Seville, giving dealers a chance to bask in the sunshine while hawking their wares, only to find their plans shot down once again. This time, it was the city council of Seville that acted, citing the earlier Liverpool cancellation and the “inconvenience of linking the city’s image as a major congress venue to a controversial event with national and international repercussions”.

When an area’s people are opposed to an event, it is the job of their elected councillors to act on their behalf. Seville’s city council did just that. Liverpool’s Labour council and its then mayor Joe Anderson, by contrast, did nothing to oppose the holding of the event in their city, despite the strong opposition of locals.

Anderson merely tweeted after the event was cancelled: “Liverpool Mayor has promised to develop an Ethical Charter for LCC and the ACC in future. To make sure we set restrictions on what events we can and should have. We can still make a profit but also make a stand.”

Since then, Joe Anderson has been replaced by Jo Anderson (really!) and the arms fair is back under a new moniker: AOC Europe. Once again, the Labour council isn’t lifting a finger in opposition, and its promised ‘ethical charter’ is nowhere to be seen.

Jo Anderson, who is generally portrayed as being to the ‘left’ of her predecessor Joe, has claimed that the council is powerless to halt the fair, although it is being hosted in a council-owned building.

If this were true, why would the leader of the Labour party, Keir Starmer, feel the need to whip councillors into notvoting against the event and thus allowing these harbingers of death into the city? Surely there should be no need for such a directive if councillors really are powerless to prevent the show?

A few Labour councillors ignored the whip and spoke out, but there has been a telling silence from the majority – not dissimilar to their mute acceptance of the commissioners who were sent in by the Tory government back in March.

A statement from mayor Jo Anderson whined: “The ACC Liverpool Group Limited was established as a wholly owned subsidiary of the city council in 2007 and trades as an independent entity. The council has no power to interfere with bookings taken by ACC Liverpool, and has no member representatives on its board.” How convenient!

The council has ‘requested’ that ACC should write an ethical charter for itself, but rumours are already circulating about a further AOC event being planned for 2022.

Once again, a broad coalition of local activists, including from Merseyside Pensioners Association (MPA), Palestine Solidarity (PSC) and CAAT, has come together in vocal opposition, with wide support from the people of Liverpool.

With the atrocities in Yemen, Palestine and Afghanistan back in the public eye, Amnesty International has felt forced into issuing a new report on the private warfare industry called ‘Outsourcing Responsibility’. Fourteen companies failed to reply to requests for information, and the eight that did (including Elbit, Raytheo, Saab) were unable to “to adequately explain how they meet their human rights responsibilities and demonstrate proper due diligence”. What a surprise.

The truth is that these companies have made billions supplying arms to Saudi Arabia and the UAE so they could decimate Yemen (with logistical training and support from British and US forces). There is no possible defence for this in terms of peace, justice or human rights, it is simply a matter of imperial domination and corporate greed.

To allow the arms fair to go ahead is to aid and abet these crimes, which are carried out in order to facilitate the murderous profiteering of big capital.

The Workers Party branch in Merseyside is opposed to imperialist war, and opposed to letting these blood-drenched Gucci-suited merchants of death ply their barbarous trade in our city.

See also: Watch our excellent meeting on the Yemen war