I own I am shocked at the selling of war, And those who buy and sell arms have no moral core, War always brings hardship, torture and groans, Which is almost enough to drive pity from stones. I feel very strongly but my lips are sealed, For my future depends on doing these deals. These words were penned by William Cowper in his 1788 poem Pity the Poor African.
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. A national demonstration will be held on Saturday, 11 September 2021 by Liverpool Against the Arms Fair.
This is the very reasonable sounding 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."
But the resolution concludes: "The Council has no power to interfere with bookings taken by ACC Liverpool." So is Liverpool once again to become a shop window for the export of misery, butchery and persecution?
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”. These 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.
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. The four Labour councillors who voted for the Green Party amendment are Sam Gorst, Dave Cummings, Lena Simic and Alison Clarke.
Ritchie Hunter is a contributor to, and former editor of, Nerve magazine in Liverpool.