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Farnborough air show reveals government priorities – but it doesn’t have to be this way

PHOTOS might show Prime Minister Theresa May gawping at the Red Arrows and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson posing in front of a model of a new jet, but they obscure the real significance of the Farnborough air show.

The government’s own list of countries from which military delegations have been invited include some of the world’s most blood-drenched regimes, including May’s Saudi chums, Israel, Egypt, Turkey and the United States.

This is no Spitfires-and-sunshine day out but a crucial event in the calendar of the world’s arms dealers, with organisers bragging in the glossy brochure that over £100 billion of orders for warplanes and weapons were placed at 2016’s event.

It’s important for the British government as well — itself no stranger to bloodshed and destruction — with the event receiving the crucial support of Westminster’s Defence and Security Organisation (DSO), which also provides chaperones for visiting generals and helps set up face-to-face meetings with arms manufacturers.

The DSO’s job is to help companies flog British-made weapons abroad, a “shop window for weapons.”

Manufacturers flaunting their deadly wares this year include BAE Systems, missile-maker MBDA and Raytheon — all companies whose weapons and war machines are being deployed against Yemen’s people by the British and US-directed but Saudi-led invasion coalition.

Not that it’s just a handful of dodgy states that we should be worried about, wringing our hands about whether this or that country gets these or those weapons.

The brochure gushes that in 2016 there were 1,500 companies from 52 countries exhibiting at Farnborough — all companies that profit from war, death and destruction.

Our government is absolutely committed to shovelling cash into the pockets of the owners of these death-dealers — witness Williamson’s promise of billions of investment in a new fighter jet so that Britain can supposedly retain a so-called “tier-one” military.

Or take a glance at the US F-35 warplane programme, a white elephant to which Britain is committed and in which BAE is involved, whose greatest success will be to funnel $1.5 trillion into the accounts of a group of arms manufacturers led by Lockheed Martin by 2070.

Rejecting how these weapons are put to use should go hand-in-hand with rejecting the manufacture of the weapons themselves.

At last year’s TUC Congress our movement took a vital step in passing a motion that called on the Labour Party to establish a shadow defence diversification agency.

Trade unions made clear that we must strike a blow for peace while protecting the jobs of skilled workers and expanding manufacturing.

In the Lucas Plan of 42 years ago, workers showed clearly how their sophisticated engineering and design skills could be used to benefit society.

This summer’s report by the Nuclear Education Trust contrasted the precarious situation of arms businesses with diversification success stories from around the world.

And while Williamson talks up government support for new war machines, renewable energy firms have had the rug pulled from underneath them — with ministers just last month canning the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project.

That decision was announced a mere week after wave and tidal firms which have pioneered their technology off Britain’s shores said they were having to look abroad to bring their kit to fruition, with one asking: “Why would you run a marathon and then stop at the stadium?”

It’s a question of priorities: war is important, averting catastrophic climate change is apparently not. Organised working people, in their trade unions and the Corbyn-led Labour Party can, and must, force a change.

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