Nick Robinson speaks to camera

Nick Robinson at an arms dealers’ dinner

Update, 27 Jan 2014: Success!

Following formal complaints from CAAT, the BBC has said that its political editor, Nick Robinson, will no longer be speaking at the ADS dinner. CAAT is pleased that he has withdrawn but disappointed that the BBC has not recognised the obvious conflict between its reputation and values and those of the arms trade. CAAT urges the BBC to take steps to ensure its reputation cannot be co-opted in this way in the future.

Campaigners will be protesting outside the dinner at the London Hilton on Park Lane from 6.30pm on Tuesday 28th January.

Read on for more about the dinner and why it matters…

Nick Robinson speaks to camera

Image by tompage/flickr

The BBC’s political editor is endorsing arms dealers.

On 28 January, arms dealers will dine in London. The BBC’s political editor, Nick Robinson, is booked to entertain them.

Dining with death

Representatives of the UK’s largest weapons manufacturers will attend the “prestigious black tie event,” at the Hilton hotel in Park Lane.

They will include senior staff from BAE Systems, proud to arm some of the world’s most repressive regimes, and Finmeccanica, currently being investigated for corruption in India.

With tickets from £234 per head, guests will hope for a good dinner – but the focus of the event is business.

Wining and dining and winning influence

As ADS explains its role:

it “operates to create the best possible climate in which its Members can do business, including lobbying and media relations work alongside networking and other business-to-business activities.”

Tables laid in a grand room with gold curtains and an ADS sign

Tables laid at another ‘prestigious’ ADS event

This dinner is all about creating that ‘climate’: advertised as an opportunity to “network with colleagues and entertain guests,” the guest list is a lesson in political influence and lobbying.

More than 20 MPs were present at last year’s dinner as well as members of the House of Lords, influential civil servants and members of the military.  Guests included:

  • Defence and Business Ministers such as Michael Fallon and Philip Dunne
  • Members of the Labour shadow bench: including Jim Murphy (at the time, the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence) Alison Seabeck, and Gemma Doyle.
  • MPs responsible for leading parliamentary scrutiny: James Arbuthnot, Chair of the Commons Defence Select Committee, Bernard Jenkin of the Public Accounts Committee and Margaret Beckett of the Intelligence and Security Committee.
  • Special Advisers to the Prime Minister and Defence Secretary

Civil servants from the Ministry of Defence and the Business Department were well represented and invites to Air Commodores, Brigadiers and Air Vice Marshals ensured a good show of uniforms and gold braid.

They are all people that the arms industry wants to support and facilitate its business. So what is Nick Robinson doing there?

Booking legitimacy?

As the “BBC’s political editor with particular responsibility for serving flagship news programmes” he’s certainly a desirable booking for ADS with its bid to create good media relations for its members. Given that his advertised rate is more than £15,000 he should also be a good speaker.

Picture of the effects of the arms trade on a laid table

At an earlier dinner, campaigners helped furnish the tables, adding images of the deadly impact of the arms trade

Even more importantly, his attendance will be seen as an endorsement of the business ADS supports. This is a business which fuels and profits from conflict, props up dictators, and which provides the tools for human rights abuses – but ADS seeks to present it as a respectable, legitimate business.

Booking a high profile figure – a representative of the BBC, with its commitment to impartiality and neutrality – helps ADS with that objective, but it risks compromising the BBC’s reputation.

In 2012, Frank Gardner, the BBC security correspondent, pulled out of speaking at a similar event after it was decided that it was inappropriate for him to attend. CAAT is calling on the BBC and Nick Robinson to do the same for this event. Support for the event risks compromising the BBC’s reputation and Nick Robinson’s objectivity. Arms sales to regimes which suppress free speech contradict the values of the BBC.

CAAT will be protesting outside the dinner to highlight the impact of the arms industry and to show it is neither respectable nor legitimate. Join us outside the London Hilton on Park Lane from 6.30pm on Tuesday 28th January. Join the event on Facebook.





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