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Accomplished, versatile broadcaster Clare Balding was invited as the keynote speaker for the ADS Dinner, an annual black tie networking event, where arms company executives dine alongside senior civil servants, MPs and Ministers, who pay up to £470 a place.
Jamie Doward in the Observer adds information about ADS:
- it represents BAE Systems, who supply parts for the Typhoon and Tornado jets that are playing a role in the Saudi-led coalition bombing of Houthi insurgents in Yemen,
- Raytheon, whose UK-made Paveway IV bombs have been linked by Human Rights Watch to attacks on civilian infrastructure,
- MBDA, a missile company part-owned by BAE whose Brimstone and Storm Shadow missiles are being used by Saudi forces
- and Lockheed Martin, the largest arms company in the world, whose bombs were used by Saudi forces in the destruction of a school bus in which dozens of children were killed.
As Mahathir Mohammed pointed out at a the Kuala Lumpur World Peace Conference many years ago: “The media belonging to the countries selling the arms condemn these small countries for entering into an arms race and wasting money. They never condemn the high pressure salesman or the vast sums expended in the research and production of these weapons by the rich”.
Caroline Jones describes how Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) approached Balding’s representatives urging her to rethink her decision, pointing out that in 2016 she hosted the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal to help the people of Yemen and saying:
“It is clear why these companies want to be associated with positive causes, and why they want to work with respected personalities and role models. We respect and admire all of the excellent advocacy work that you do, which is why we are asking you to reconsider your attendance and cancel your speech.”
Clare decided not to attend.
And as usual (above), diners were greeted by Stop the Arms Fair activists reminding them of the role played by companies like BAE Systems in the death and oppression of people around the world, governments who support and subsidise them and the people who vote for them.