Saturday, 8 February 2014

From Global to Local

I attended the Hexham Debate about corruption and the arms trade yesterday. The speaker was former ANC member of the South African parliament Andrew Feinstein. He is now the director of Corruption Watch UK. He spoke with great passion and in great detail about the mechanism of global arms deals and, with all the accuracy of a former investment banker, about the vast sums of money involved.1

He also discussed the apparently widespread corruption involved in most arms trades, both in government-to-government deals and in the more shadowy world of the illicit weapons market. It was fascinating stuff.

After the debate I was asked by a Hexham constituent, what my thoughts on the topic were. I said that the defence industry employs a lot of engineers both in the North East and Nationally, bringing in export revenue of £8.8Bn in the last financial year. However I was uncomfortable with the idea of our Prime Minister flying round the Middle East earlier this year, on a plane full of arms dealers to secure this investment. My main concern was that weapons produced in the UK could end up being used by governments against their own civilians.

After the meeting I met with some committed Hexham Labour activists for a few hours of campaigning. The main national concerns raised on the doorstep were jobs, and the North being ignored by the government in Westminster. The bus station was also a concern, among both residents and owners of local businesses close by. I hope that following proper consultation a solution can be found that is acceptable to both businesses and bus users.2

From learning about the global arms trade to listening to concerns about local buses, you can't say that the work of a parliamentary candidate isn't varied.

1. For further reading Andrew's book "The Shadow World inside the Global Arms Trade" is out now.

2. Further comment on the Bus Station

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