Liverpool: Stop the electronic war fair

RITCHIE HUNTER writes about Liverpool City Council and the electronic arms fair due to take place at the Exhibition Centre in Liverpool in October

Slave-branding in England, 1853. Photo from wikimedia commons / New York Public Library

During the slave trade, Liverpool Council spent thousands of pounds fighting the abolition movement and conferred the freedom of the borough on those who were the ‘spin doctors’ of the day. 

This was in a city where thumbscrews, branding irons, and fetters for use on slaves, with devices for opening their mouths when they refused to eat, could all be seen for sale in ships chandlers’ windows.

Fast forward to today and Liverpool City Council have decided not to cancel the arms fair planned for October, even though they own the venue.

This is the resolution passed by the Council on 21 July 2021:

This Council notes that “Electronic Warfare Europe” is a major warfare convention run by Clarion Defence, which organises several of the biggest warfare convention in the world. The Liverpool convention will cover components for a range of warplanes, missile systems and drones, and the technology behind weaponry used today. Electronic Warfare will bring many of the biggest global arms companies together with government and military officials from across the world.

Council firmly believes that the “Electronic Warfare Europe” event at the Arena & Convention Centre Liverpool (ACC Liverpool) in October 2021 will showcase and display a wide range of armaments and military equipment is not compatible with and does not promote the peaceful socialist values of the Council and the wider City.

Good, but the resolution goes on to say that:

The Council has no power to interfere with bookings taken by ACC Liverpool.

Four Labour councillors “broke the Whip”, voting for an amendment put by the Green Party which tried to get agreement to ban the War Fair. This was defeated.

So is Liverpool once again to become a shop window for the export of misery, butchery and persecution?

This article names the four Labour Councillors who voted for the Green Party amendment as: Sam Gorst, Dave Cummings, Lena Simic and Alison Clarke. Both the resolution carried and the Green Party amendment are here.

A coalition of more than 60 of Liverpool’s 90 councillors, from all parties, Councillors for Peace, has now been formed which stands “in complete, united opposition to the Electronic Warfare Europe event”. Councillors have signed a statement to this effect, although it doesn’t actually call for the War Fair to be cancelled.

This petition does call for the cancellation of the arms fair. If they are serious about cancellation all councillors should sign it too. Although raised in 2020, and mentioning councillor board members who have since been told to step down, it’s still absolutely relevant.

* See: Bill Hunter, Forgotten Hero: The Life and Times of Edward Rushton, Liverpool’s Blind Poet, Revolutionary Republican & Anti-Slavery Fighter

This article first appeared in Nerve magazine, here

■ A national demonstration will be held on 11 September by Liverpool Against the Arms Fair

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An anti-arms fair protest, London 2017. Photo by Steve Eason
Demonstrators against the war in Yemen, London 2020. Photo by Steve Eason

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