I’m a sad old sod, and part of my daily routine is to listen to one of a number of podcasts on the way to work. After all, I travel to Brighton on the train and I like to escape the humdrum journey somehow… One of the podcasts I listen to is “Yesterday in Parliament”. It’s not funny, nor glamorous, but it can be important to keep up with what our politicians are discussing on our behalf.
So on the 17th of September Ann Clwyd secured a debate on the implications for human rights of promoting arms sales, in light of the arms fair which was being held at the Excel Centre in London. Her basic argument was that we were selling arms to countries which didn’t respect the human rights of their citizens.  She finished by suggesting that it was time for the UK government to stop selling arms to despotic regimes, which would prove popular with the nation (a survey suggested this).
Tobias Ellwood, on behalf of the govt., argued that the govt. aimed to have robust controls in place regarding the sales of arms, and it was actually the fact that the UK was selling arms that led to robust relationships with these countries where we (as concerned parties) could broach human rights with these despotic regimes.
So we are selling guns and bombs and helicopters and missiles to these hideous regimes who are known to be containing and oppressing their own citizens, but “I say, old chap, we’d prefer if you didn’t use these weapons on your own populace”. I’m sure that will make those single-minded power-hungry despots think again. I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave up their evil ways and founded charities to benefit the dispossessed.
Or, and this might be more effective, we could not sell them any weapons at all. Then, even if they wanted to use weapons against their own people, they wouldn’t have them to deploy. Or, if they did have them, we would not have supplied them.
I think that would deliver the appropriate “robust” message. The logic Ellwood used just doesn’t stand up. If you give weapons to an oppressive regime, you’re basically endorsing their approach. Surely the stronger message is not to supply arms on any basis?
Just my late night tupporth. Maybe I’m seeing things in too simplistic a  fashion, but maybe sometimes it’s better to keep things simple?

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