3 April 2010Comment

It may seem a strange preoccupation for a pacifist, but I am very concerned about the injustices suffered by members of the armed forces.

I sometimes despair about the ignorance of the civilian public, particularly the peace movement, about the situation faced by soldiers. Their contracts of employment resemble those of eighteenth-century apprentices.

On 5 March, there was a Stop the War Coalition “Free Joe Glenton” demonstration in Colchester. Some soldiers ran past…

3 February 2010Comment

Arms dealers from all over the world have been invited back to the biggest arms fair in the world at the ExCeL centre in Newham, east London for 13-16 September 2011. This vile event has been held at this venue every two years since 2001. They call it the “Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEi)” Exhibition though the only accurate bit of that title is “international”.

When East London Against Arms Fairs started over a decade ago we knew that previous arms fairs had…

3 June 2009Comment

All the fuss about MPs’ expenses made me wonder about what work MPs actually do that requires a second home in London. I was reminded of the “debates” I observed that preceded the Armed Forces Acts. This legislation occurs every five years. In theory, it is an opportunity to update military law and regulations and bring in necessary reforms. In practice, it provides an opportunity for the MoD to get legislation it wants passed and prevent any reform. The military top brass can rely on cross-…

1 April 2009Review

Homebrew Press, 2008; ISBN 9780975731918; 144pp; $18AU; available from

This book is about a campaign against an arms fair in Australia that included a two-week-long attempt – with a large measure of success – to blockade all three entrances to the site – not only during the arms fair but the week before, when exhibitors were arriving to set up. I would recommend it to anyone concerned about the problems of large demonstrations and meetings involving individuals and groups with a range of attitudes to nonviolence.

There are day-by-day accounts of what…

3 March 2009Comment

“Think global; act local” is a very good principle but it is scary when you have no choice but to do so. Here in East London we are being forced to think globally. Some Peace News readers know the ExCeL Exhibition Centre in Custom House because it is the venue for the DSEi arms fair, which boasts that it is the biggest in the world. East London Against the Arms Fair has frequent protests at ExCeL, calling for cancellation of this and all arms fairs.

Any arms fair arguably…

3 November 2008Comment

I don’t think November is a favourite month for campaigning by any means. It is easy to feel discouraged when the days are wet, windy, cold and dark, whether you are marching in the rain, listening to speeches hoping your comrade’s umbrella doesn’t poke you in the eye, sitting down dangerously near a puddle or trying to climb a wet fence.

I recommend the musical protests favoured by East London Against The Arms Fair as more suited to the season. We are holding two this month. (…

3 September 2008Comment

In September we are inevitably reminded of 9/11. The frustration of the US regime at its inability to punish dead people has resulted in a desire for revenge that appears insatiable. Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo and then the “war on terror” seem to threaten everyone, anywhere in the world. We must not forget the Americans who were bereaved on 9/11 who pleaded that their grief should not be used as an excuse to cause the same to others, or the jailed military refusniks or the American anti-…

3 June 2008Comment

It was good to read, in the Broken Rifle insert in last month’s Peace News, the informative article by Andreas Speck about the present and possible future changes to the situation of conscientious objectors in Europe.

I was reminded of the outraged response I have often encountered in War Resisters’ International (WRI) gatherings by suggesting that the UK system is more oppressive than conscription in Western Europe.

Throughout the 1990s the UK sent MOD officials all over…

3 April 2008Comment

For many years I have been concerned about the human rights, or rather the lack of rights, of people in the armed forces. That may seem a very strange preoccupation for a pacifist.

In 1972, I thought I was very brave giving out leaflets to soldiers in Belfast. The leaflets called for the withdrawal of troops from Northern Ireland. One day a soldier took a leaflet and asked for more so he could give them out. I thought it was probably a trick and that he would just destroy them, but I…

3 February 2008Comment

I had a sort of New Year resolution not to write about the “Defence Systems & Equipment International Exhibition” (DSEI) arms fair for a while and focus on other issues.

I have changed my mind for two reasons.

Firstly, there is a rumour going round that 2007 was the last DSEI arms fair. Would that it were so, but it is too early to rejoice.

Bill, who runs the Café which is the regular meeting place of East London Against the Arms Fair (ELAAF), is…

3 November 2007Comment

In November we are all reminded of past wars. I think that, in the midst of this remembrance, we also need to think of those who suffer now for opposing present and future wars.

Many years ago, I was acquitted, along with 13 other people, after a trial under a silly law called the Incitement to Disaffection Act.

The acquittal came on 10 December, and ever since then I've celebrated with a party on or near Human Rights Day (10 December).

One year a couple came to the…

3 September 2007Comment

I have been asked to write this column alternating with Jeff Cloves who lives in the lovely town of Stroud. I live in the London Borough of Newham. Anyone who knows both areas will be aware of the contrast.

Newham - home of DSEi

One distinction of Newham is that every two years we are the unwilling hosts of the DSEi Arms Fair at the ExCel Exhibition Centre, at Custom House E16. Despite unceasing opposition all year round, it is due to come back again this year starting on 11…