Don't you love it when the fair comes to town? The lights, the candy floss, the 'hook a duck', the grenades, the rocket launchers, the assault rifles! Ahh, takes you back to childhood! Your father lifting you onto his shoulders, getting so full of sweets that you throw up after going on the dodgems, examining the latest in targeting technology, watching footage of fuel-air explosive destroying an Afghan town, feeling the reassuring weight of a tear gas cannon in your arms, or if you were lucky, having a go on a landmine.
But don't you hate it when you make a social faux-pas? Turning up to a party in fancy dress when everyone else is in their normal clothes, getting a bit drunk at a wedding and telling everyone about the time the groom got naked in Debenhams, or turning up at London's biennial Defence Systems and Equipment show fair and being sent home for selling leg irons.
The Guardian reports that two companies were told to leave the arms fair last night for "promoting leg irons for prisoners and battlefield captors" despite the fact that these items do not contravene the government's ban on the sale and export of equipment that can be used for repression and torture.
If they're not illegal, why aren't they allowed to be sold? It seems to be an issue of public perception - the government and the organizers of the fair have been trying to improve the image of the arms exhibition. The sale of leg irons is apparently "hugely embarrassing".
If they are embarrassing, why aren't they illegal? Also, why are they embarrassed by the sale of unpleasant-but-legal leg irons but not the fact that human rights blackholes Libya, Saudi Arabia, China, and Indonesia were invited. Or indeed the USA. We realize that there is a need for a defence industry but it is going to take more than dismissals like these for it to improve its image. Without getting too Brian Haw, the organizers have much more to be embarrassed about than leg irons - if we were to visit we doubt it would be a case of, "Oh, I thought it was such a lovely arms fair until I saw those nasty leg irons!".