Neoliberalism and Democracy do not go together.
The Tory-LibDems have trampled on every sort of parliamentary procedure from reducing the number of MPs without cross-party agreement to dismantling the PCTs and SHAs before the Health Bill has been passed in Parliament. Now, it has been revealed that the ‘strange’ decision to reshape constituencies to be of equal numbers of registered voters will potentially remove 10M voters who will disproportionately comprise expected Labour supporters:
As many as 10 million voters, predominantly poor, young or black, and more liable to vote Labour, could fall off the electoral register under government plans, the Electoral Commission, electoral administrators and psephologists warned . (1)
Furthermore, the boundaries for 2020 will be based on 2015 registration and are likely to further amplify the disparities. Tristam Hunt, Labour MP, said “These plans show how little this government really cares about democracy or fairness….This is designed to wipe the poor and the young off the political map.” John Stewart, chairman of the electoral registration officers, said the drop-off was likely to be 10% in “the leafy shires” but closer to 30% in inner city areas.
Characteristic of Neoliberalism are undemocratic secret agendas, of policies not being what they seem to be, of hidden clauses, and of creating distractions for the press to pursue, whilst the important agenda is slipped through. For example, is it just a coincidence that the ‘selling off of the forests’ was announced just before the first reading of Lansley’s infamous Health and Social Care Bill?
A vitally important piece of hidden EU legislation has been exposed by Linda Kaucher. In January 2009, she wrote of the push to get the Doha round of the GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services (2)) negotiations ratified ‘Why do these seemingly obscure and boring trade talks make a difference?’
… GATS also includes temporary skilled labour migration, giving transnational corporations rights to move workers to developed countries to maximise cheap labour ‘comparative advantage’. This ‘reserve army of labour’, though, will inevitably undercut the domestic workforce – in fact it’s the capitalist dream. (3)
On the 25.04.11, Larry Elliott of the Guardian reported that DOHA was collapsing … but it seems that it is still possible for particular sections to be agreed separately. (2)
It is now clear that just such a bilateral agreement, which is due to be ratified by EU member states in December, has indeed been negotiated with Indian firms. This could mean Indian workers being moved into Britain with no workplace rights, no right to remain and no access to the legal system, ‘creating a tier of slave-like labour in Britain’ (4).
Moving a motion against “mode 4” transfers – the World Trade Organisation’s term for moving workers across borders – the RMT union’s president Alex Gordon warned TUC delegates (14.09.11) about the new European Union free trade agreements:
“This is potentially the greatest threat to collective bargaining and workers’ rights for many years,” he said.
Under Mode 4, Indian companies operating in Delhi and London could move low-paid workers from India to Britain, undercutting workers domestically.
“Transnational companies will be able to move workers across national borders and nation states will limit their own constitutional authority over these corporations.
“Workers’ rights will be lost forever to corporate power.” (4)
Linda Kaucher sheds further light on the implications of the agreement:
Moving workers from a lower to a higher socio-economic country is a very profitable business for the transnational corporations that are in a position to benefit, on a par with moving production and service work to cheaper labour areas of the world …..
… Actually these corporations benefit from both sides of the deals. They get the investment opportunities [in the partner country] but also cheap labour brought in [to the UK], and, as this ‘reserve army of labour’ undermines the power of organised labour, strengthening the power of capital in its balance of power with labour…
…Transnational firms will be able to offer cheap onshore outsourcing, using cheaper temporary migrant labour and will also be able to supply labour into other firms allowing them to offload all employer responsibilities….
…. the UK government is even now encouraging the use of a cheap labour supply that not only displaces workers here but also damages the national economy in a variety of ways. Wages are repatriated overseas, the earn/spend cycle needed for recovery is broken, workers become unemployed and the welfare bill increases, the employment future for young people is further curtailed, and skills transfer are lost for the future… (5)
Trade Commission staff have admitted that the EU/India FTA is, in effect, 85% a UK deal. That’s the percentage of the gains which will accrue to the international financial firms based in London … but it is UK workers that will be undermined by ‘the greatest threat to collective bargaining and worker’s rights for many years’.
One can only conclude that the ultimate aim of this government for the City is to wreck the UK economy, public services, pensions, and the NHS in order to create the social and economic conditions of the Third world in the UK. Presumably, it might be argued that this would level the ‘playing field’ in order for the UK to be capable of competing with China. The importance of the constitutional changes is to try and ensure that there are no future democratic challenges to these plans.
The TUC has recognized the huge significance of the free-trade agreement and voted to oppose the EU ‘social dumping’ treaty. We call on the Labour Party to make a similar unequivocal commitment; and reject New Labour’s previous stance … Mandelson was the prime mover on this aspect of Doha in his capacity as EU Commissioner.
It is clear that this time it is not just the working class that is under attack. The middle classes need to watch out. Even Charles Moore is beginning to see the light. Perhaps, he may end up agreeing with Noam Chomsky:
In the contemporary world of state-capitalist nations, loss of sovereignty can lead to a diminution of democracy, and a decline in the ability of states to conduct social and economic policy on their own terms. History shows that, more often than not, loss of sovereignty leads to liberalisation imposed in the interests of the powerful. In recent years, the regime thus imposed has been called “neoliberalism”. It is not a very good term, as the social-economic regime in question is not new; nor is it liberal, at least as the concept was understood by classical liberals. The very design of neoliberal principles is a direct attack on democracy. (6)
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