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From the Molehill

Police support and spiked propaganda

The Mole has another tale to tell of the exploits of indefatigable peace campaigner Gwyn Gwyntopher.

If you've forgotten the last time Gwyn's name featured in this column, just think back: army tanks at Heathrow Airport in an officially convenient “security scare”; buckets of wallpaper paste hastily transported on the Piccadilly Line tube. Remember now?

The latest tale relates to a group called East London Against the Arms Fair, of which Gwyn is a key member. The group is especially known for its regular musical protests outside the Excel Centre in London's docklands, venue for the regular massive DSEi arms bazaars (the next of which is this September).

At the last DSEi in 2003, there were acknowledged to be people at the fair who were trading illegally, without the appropriate licences; yet the police activity concentrated on the demonstrators outside, who - even if they got up to anything illegal to all - were breaking laws which were pretty minor compared to the illegal trade in weapons.

So some months ago, Gwyn wrote, on behalf of ELAAF, to the local police in that part of London. She suggested - essentially - that they might deploy their resources a bit differently this time round.

She's finally received an official response: not from the local police but from a Chief Superintendent Bill Tillbrook up in central London, who's part of the “DSEI 2005 Command Team”. He assures Gwyn that the police are working closely with Customs and Excise, the DTI (or whatever it's called this week), and the MoD, to ensure there's no hanky-panky inside the arms fair this time. (Though that isn't quite how he puts it.)

He also points out that, contrary to what Gwyn might have been suggesting, “Exhibiting weapons at an exhibition is not in itself sufficient to prove intention to murder and is not in itself unlawful”. On a more hopeful note, he does encourage Gwyn to pass on any specific evidence concerning possible illegality which comes to her attention “that is capable of investigation”. Maybe others can help out there too. Drop him a note at Charing Cross Police Station, Agar Street, London WC2. The phone number is 020 7240 1212.

The budgie bites

Anyone who's tried complaining to the Advertising Standards Authority - which is actually an advertising industry front - will know that to call it a toothless watchdog is being kind. It's more of a beakless budgie.

So on the odd occasion that the Authority does uphold a complaint of untruthfulness in an advert, you know that the advertiser concerned really had gone over the top. Hence it was with great glee that The Mole read one of their latest rulings.

You will remember this column railing against the new articulated buses in London, on the grounds that they are uncomfortable for users, lethal for cyclists, and inhuman and inconvenient compared with the buses with conductors they have replaced. It turns out that the publicity in favour of the change, boasting of the ease of getting on and off the new vehicles (as though that would outweigh the manifold disadvantages even if it were true) was so totally unsupported by objective evidence that the ASA has told London Transport to scrap all their glossy propaganda leaflets and not to tell such porkies again.

Do you have any juicy worms for the Mole?
If so, write to the_burrow@peacenews.info

Topics: Arms trade
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