Two of the leading candidates for Mayor of London have pledged to use their powers to prevent the London arms fair taking place again if they are elected.
Labour candidate and former Mayor Ken Livingstone said today (19 April) that he will use all his “available powers” to prevent the event taking place. He criticised the biennial arms fair when he served as Mayor from 2000-2008, but did not stop it going ahead.
The fair, known formally as Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi) is next due in September 2013.
A similar promise was made by the Green Party's candidate, Jenny Jones. But Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick refused to criticise the fair, saying it was a matter for central government. He said only that the policing costs should be borne by the organisers.
Other mayoral candidates have not yet responded to requests from the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) to state their views on the issue. However, current Mayor and Conservative candidate Boris Johnson defended the arms fair when it took place in 2009 and 2011.
Voters will elect the Mayor of London and the Greater London Assembly on 3 May.
DSEI is one of the world's largest arms fairs and has been staged at the Excel Centre in London's Docklands at two-year intervals since 2001.
"There is no place for the death trade in our city,” said Livingstone, “The DSEi exists to fuel wars that are fought all over the world - so that regimes can murder innocent civilians, abuse human rights and oppress their own people.”
He promised, “If I am elected Mayor I will use all of my available powers to ensure that the DSEi is no longer hosted in our city - so that tyrants and human rights abusers can no longer shop for weaponry in London”.
Jenny Jones insisted that "An arms fair has no place in today's London. Selling weapons to repressive regimes is immoral and reprehensible."
CAAT are urging Londoners to ask candidates about DSEi at hustings, phone-ins, online and on the doorstep, so that candidates cannot claim ignorance or argue that it is an unimportant issue.
The London arms fair was described as “a shameful event” by Jessie Normaschild of CAAT's London group. She said that through the arms fair, the UK is continuing to arm repressive regimes against their own people.
“Londoners do not want to support or subsidise the arms trade,” she added, “I am glad mayoral candidates are being asked to speak out against this ugly and shocking event. I hope they will be true to their words."