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New Left Review I/230, July-August 1998

David Edgerton

Tony Blair’s Warfare State

Armaments have made a re-appearance in British politics. Under-the-counter sales to Sierra Leone have been revealed. The Saudis, major customers for British arms, have released two nurses held for murder. Jonathan Aitken, a former defence procurement minister, has been charged with perjury and other offences, following a libel case involving allegations connected with arms sales to Saudi Arabia. British-made armoured cars have been involved in internal repression on the streets of Indonesia—another important arms customer. George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara is being staged again. After more than a year of preparation, New Labour has published its Strategic Defence Review. [1] Its main conclusions were trailed at the end of a fly-on-the-wall tv documentary in May (‘The Paper War: Inside Robertson’s Defence Review’, 31 May 1998, bbc2), and in a series of articles starting about a week before final publication. This was yet another clear example of policy being announced in dribs and drabs to selected journalists before Parliament was informed. And yet the leaking of rhe actual text of the Review caused consternation. The issue is not of course leaking, or the rights of Parliament, but the control of information.

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David Edgerton, ‘Tony Blair’s Warfare State’, NLR I/230: £3

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