Friday, 23 March 2012

Corruption as Brighton Tory and Labour groups seek to silence critics of the arms trade? You couldn't make it up...

Last night saw, for me, a new low in the increasingly robust Tory-Labour coalition at Brighton Council: the two groups, who together hold the majority of seats, voted together for a motion calling on protest group Smash EDO to abandon a planned protest on June 4th, the bank holiday called to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

I argued (and presented an amendment, which was rejected) that while no-one wanted to see disruption and disorder on the streets of the city, adopting a motion calling for protesters to abandon their plans would make that more, not less, likely to happen, as it would undermine the council's successful approach of using trust and relationship-building to minimise the cost of protest in the city by promoting dialogue, low-key policing and respecting the right to protest in the first place.

That'll now be much harder on June 4th. The Council, thanks to the Labour and Tory groups, has now adopted a position condemning the protesters and calling on them to abandon their planned demonstaertion.

Well, maybe a few political points were scored, and maybe they've gathered some material for election-time leaflets and press releases, but one thing's pretty sure: protestors will still march and, whetever might have been the case, organisers will be angry at this weird decision and will be far less likely to engage now with the council or the police in the run up to the demo.

So, never mind whether you agree that it's fair enough to protest against a Brighton-based arms manufacturer that has reportedly made parts for bombs used against civilians in Iraq or not.

Never mind whether you think it's fair game for councils to interfere with the internationally-protected human rights of free speech and free assembly by dictating who can protest, about what, where and when.

On a simple practical level, the Tories and their junior coalition partners, Brighton Labour, have just increased the chances of residents and visitors to the city suffering disorder and disruption on June 4th.

I don't really understand Labour's motivation - but that of the Tories became a bit clearer today when the protest group themselves, Smash EDO, issued a press release linking to the register of interests of Tony Janio, the councillor (pictured) who proposed the motion showing that he, himself, works in the arms industry, an interest he didn't declare at the meeting.

This looks a bit like corruption to me - keeping silent about his links with the arms industry while trying to shut down the activities of a group campaigning against it - either way the question will keep council lawyers busy for the next few weeks.

So it looks like Brighton Tories, motivated by a desire to silence critics of the arms trade, have, in a seemingly corrupt way, increased the chances of disorder on Brighton's streets and struck a blow to the council's tourist reputation. Oh and they had the full support of the Labour group. You just couldn't make this stuff up!

If you're really interested, you can watch the debate here, from 3.36.59 (yes we have long meetings!)


  1. Actually, Cllr Duncan, if you read my declaration you will see that I work for ‘Thales Training and Simulation’. They make Flight Simulators, not bombs. I wouldn’t recognise a ‘Missile‘ if I fell over one in the street. Indeed, the only damage a Flight Simulator could do was if the thing fell on somebody!! And, as it happens, Flight Simulators help the Environment – allowing airlines to teach pilots to fly without resorting to burning fuel. Or, maybe you are against people flying? If so, please explain to your residents that they must spend their holidays in the UK in future, and that Brighton and Hove doesn’t welcome tourists. I look forward to your Manifesto.

    Tony Janio

  2. Thanks for your clarification Tony, which I hope I have given due weight to in my update on the subject of Thursday's debate.