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I'm delighted to hear that the activist comedian Mark Thomas has agreed to speak at the National Gathering of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which will take place in London on 6 November.
The news of a £700 million arms deal with India this week is a reminder that CAAT's work is as important as ever. On his trip to India, David Cameron was accompanied by leading British arms dealers including the Chairman of BAE Systems, Dick Olver.
BAE have so much influence within the UK government that former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook wrote in his diaries that BAE's chairman had “the keys to the garden door at Number Ten”. No wonder that multimillion pound subsidies to the arms industry are continuing while we are being told to accept massive cuts in almost every other area.
The UK is the world's second largest arms exporter. The huge influence of arms companies within government must be broken if we are to achieve any significant reduction in the arms trade.
I had the privilege to be on the CAAT staff from 2006-2009, and continue to serve on its Steering Committee. So I admit that I'm not unbiased. I continue to be so passionate about CAAT not only because of the importance of tackling the arms industry, but also because of the way CAAT works. I have been inspired by a grassroots organisation that chooses its methods carefully while sticking to its principles. CAAT proves that radicalism and effectiveness are not alternatives.
I'm sure Mark Thomas will bring both inspiration and humour to the struggle against the arms trade when he speaks at CAAT National Gathering. You can book your place at http://www.caat.org.uk/events/nationalgathering.