29 January 2008

Costly BAE Blunder

If I had a dollar for every press release I'd laid my eyes on... I'd be Donald Trump. Well, Donald Trump without the toupe, obviously. If I had a dollar for every well-written press release, I'd more likely to be scraping along on minimum wage. This one popped into my inbox today, though, and is interesting - not only does it raise the latest scandal about unaccounable defence contracting, but it also keeps short and to the point, as well as raising key campaign objectives ("BAE is a burden, not a benefit, for the British economy." ) I hope it gets wide attention - as the court case in a few weeks time surely will too.


The arms company BAE Systems is so far over budget with two of its latest projects that they will cost UK taxpayers £2.2 billion more than expected. The figure is revealed in a report by the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, which looks at BAE's contracts with the Ministry of Defence. The Committee found that the budget for BAE's Astute Submarines has increased by 47% and the budget for BAE's Type 45 Destroyer ships by 18%.

Symon Hill, spokesperson for Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), said: "This is outrageous. BAE has once again been exposed as a drain on taxpayers' money. This waste is on top of the roughly £850 million spent every year on subsidies for the arms trade. BAE is a burden, not a benefit, for the British economy."

The news comes only weeks ahead of a High Court case in which the Government's relationship with BAE will come under scrutiny. On 14th and 15th February, lawyers for CAAT and The Corner House will argue that the Government behaved illegally in cutting short a Serious Fraud Office investigation into BAE's Saudi arms deals.

27 January 2008

New issue, new issues

Ok, so I've not exactly been a regular blogger. Where do regular bloggers get all their time, exactly? The new issue of Red Pepper is out very soon. The highlight, for me, is an excellent piece on Pakistan by Graham Usher. It is always a tricky question as to how to balance our coverage of contemporary events with news agendas at the time of publication, but this article gets behind the headlines to make sense of the situation there more clearly than any other commentary I've yet read.

Sometimes we're successful at predicting what will be topical. For example, today's Observer trails a new 'eco battle' over airport expansion, another issue that is covered in the new issue. When we go to press we never quite know if someone will scoop our stories but I'm confident that the article we ran goes into far more depth than the Observer could, and I'm pleased that it doesn't just focus on the forthcoming battle over a third runway at Heathrow - important though that is.

My own contribution was to try to decode new proposals aimed at 'reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation' - which was the hot issue at the Bali climate conference, although it doesn't exactly trip off the tongue. The best background reading on this is still, probably, this paper from the Forest Peoples' Programme.

And finally, it isn't all words, words words. As well as a photo essay on Ghana and football, we've got an extract from a new Atlas of Radical Cartography

As always, it is good to receive feedback on the magazine. Hopefully, this new blog won't be so cluttered with spam as the old one, so the comments aren't fighting for space with hot Russian sexbots, cheap viagra and mortgage advice....