It looks as if arms companies are to be at the centre of Labour’s developing approach to the economy – if comments today by Shadow Business Secretary and Streatham MP Chuka Umunna are anything to go by.
The MP tweeted last night in support of an article about the positive economic impact of Rolls Royce (one of the UK’s biggest exporters of military parts and equipment).
The Press Release from the Labour party about the economic/ business speech which Umunna is giving today also singles out BAE Systems – the UK’s biggest arms exporter. It says that the UK Government should buy more of its weapons from British firms like BAE.
Astonishingly this is described as Labour "calling on the Government to use its consumer power to reward companies doing the right thing"
Rolls Royce and BAE were the two firms which David Cameron was heavily criticised for taking to the Middle East, when weapons sold by the UK were being used to suppress civilians in Libya.
As well as being deeply saddening that Labour, even in opposition, appear to be repeating the mistakes of being in Government about cosying up to arms companies, this is also both a policy mistake and a political mistake.
The arms industry already receives around £700 million in taxpayer-funded subsidies every year. This is partly through the funding of research and development. Future generations will look back in amazement, unable to understand why, when faced with the threat of runaway climate change and financial meltdown, we subsidised jobs in the arms industry instead of putting money into renewable energy and other technologies to tackle the environmental and economic threats.
But this is also a political mistake. Three years ago, along with others at Campaign Against Arms Trade, I drew public attention to the involvement of Clarion events, an events company who promote exhibitions like the Baby Show, in arms fayres – where British companies promote their products around the world.
When people on MumsNet heard about Clarion’s involvement they were outraged and several got in contact with me. I went on the Radio 2 Jeremy Vine Programme to discuss it. MumsNet eventually boycotted the Baby Show being absolutely clear in their feelings toward the commercial arms trade.
MumsNet was a group which Labour were particularly keen to target at the last election. They still are given David Cameron’s unpopularity with women, and the disproportionate impact of the cuts on women.