Hilary Benn being Foreign Secretary is a Mockery


We are briefed by the media that Jeremy Corbyn will reshuffle the Shadow Cabinet this week.  Of course, they don’t call it that.  Even the BBC calls it a ‘Revenge Reshuffle’.  Just as Ed Miliband was consistently smeared as a brother-back-stabber, so the right wing of the LP and the corporate controlled press are wanting to associate Jeremy Corbyn with vindictiveness and spite.  This is a classic advertising ploy which trades on human psychology … in fact, mammalian psychology… which is primed towards fairness.  Their aim is to induce ‘disgust’ at Corbyn’s unfairness.

If this were not so detrimental to democracy, it would be hugely funny!  Of all people, who would think it likely that Jeremy was spiteful?  However, it is clear that it, and the rest of the media rubbish, worked to a great extent in undermining the character of a thoroughly decent man like Ed Miliband.

However, to return to my main point that Hilary Benn remaining as Foreign Secretary is a mockery. What on earth (or who on earth) made him think that he didn’t have to resign?

Yes.  It was a free vote but being Foreign Secretary is rather special.  We now have the lunacy of a Foreign Secretary who voted in favour of bombing Syria, opposing 75%… the vast majority…  of the Parliamentary LP, the membership and the leadership (who was elected only 3m ago with an overwhelming mandate of 59%).

Hilary Benn should have resigned, just as Robin Cook did over Blair’s invasion of Iraq.  He has created a totally untenable position for the LP.  His decision was not some trivial matter of foreign diplomacy.  He voted knowing that it meant innocent people, children and the elderly, would die as collateral damage.  And he did so, knowing that the overwhelming majority of the membership, the PLP and the leadership, did not support his position.

To add salt to the wound (although I’m very glad of it), it is perfectly obvious that this was a trap set by Cameron to split the Labour Party… the British bombers have seen very little action because they were not needed, and there was none of the faux-urgency that Cameron pretended.

To be clear, Hilary Benn may have been honestly persuaded by the arguments (however weak) and obviously he should follow his conscience … but that same conscience should have told him to offer his resignation as Foreign Secretary before, or at least, after the vote.  He has compounded the error, either accidentally or on purpose, by allowing the profoundly serious matter of bombing Syria to be turned into another opportunity for Corbyn-bashing.


Dear Lib Dems

Posted on May 27, 2014 by julijuxtaposed 
Dear Lib Dems,
 I know you’re heavily distracted right now but you and your leader seem confused about what has gone wrong.
You got excited. You thought, like most of the people back in 2010, that this was an economic emergency and that you had a public service duty to negotiate a coalition in the ‘National Interest’. Perhaps it is that you were naive; perhaps it was the long, oh so long awaited chance to be in power that made you blind during those early, heady days.
 You have acted, ultimately, as the front men, the shills, the appeasers and apologists for your senior partners. You’ve voted with them time after time, irrespective of whether it was in the citizens’ interests or even ethical and sensible. You have contributed to the increasingly desperate vulnerability of every single group bar the ‘I’m alright, Jacks’. [And don’t you dare think to yourself: “but we’ve lifted (blah number) over of the tax threshold” or that 24/7 childcare and free school meals or whatever your particular defence is today, are wondrous salves and believe yourselves righteous.]
You have upheld and then perpetuated a crony status quo. You’ve relentlessly tinkered with and demolished so much, so callously and with real ignorance. You’ve continued to subsidise profiteers with taxpayer money rather than facilitate a liveable income for the majority of the workforce. You built misery instead of houses. Courted the establishment rather than served the Commons. Turned Social Security into a capricious game of fare-well-if-we-say-you-can roulette. You’ve done nothing meaningful to address the real problems of increasing serfdom, asset stripping, the corporate tax fiasco, accountability of once public but now private service/utility provision. In fact, you align yourself with a senior partner who has the intention to do the opposite. You’ve avoided everything the sane and ‘common’ person on the street would have you fix and chosen, instead, to support and vote through the kinds of cruel, divisive, patriarchal false economies that so typify Tory mentality.
A year or so into your partnership, here on the ground, those who did not previously understand economics and finance were travelling a steep learning curve. We came to realise that, although this was indeed an emergency, you were being utterly disingenuous and wilfully obfuscating about a varied and complex set of causes and, therefore, about any appropriate solutions.
You thought that because you kept on message that we would not deviate either. You assumed we were all swallowing the mainstream stenographic tripe. We weren’t. We were educating ourselves elsewhere.
A truer picture began to emerge: Labour hadn’t just ‘created the mess’ – not on its own. It had taken time. Thatcher’s Tories arguably started it; Blair’s Labour ran with it and now, with your willing assistance, Cameron’s Tories were and still are, running amok. We learned that Labour’s general culpability was really no more than any other Western government’s. We learned that none of you actually understands how to, let alone cares about constructing and facilitating an economy that works for the citizens.
So, while you were busy feeling chuffed, we were learning new words and concepts and getting our heads around a new acronym every day. We were learning about limitless leverage, derivatives, LIBOR and other price fixing, bubbles, Ponzis, High Frequency Trading, Credit Default Swaps, paper gold, depraved banksters and traders, Investor State Dispute Settlements, vested interests, politics as a wealth-creating career and investment vehicle, fiat currency Wars.. It was and continues to be an astoundingly long list.
We learned that what private collateral there is is so insufficient as to be emasculated and that you are so ignorant and irresponsible that you will sell any public asset you can think of – be it in physical existence such as Royal Mail or packaged as a financial service such as student loan books. We discovered that The City was a hub for everything from the pretty shady to the downright fraudulent. And, under your ‘helpful’ governance, still is.
 We learned that ‘neoliberalism’ was shorthand for ‘capitalism, right-wing, corporate’. We saw that Neoliberals love power and money much more than people. We realised neoliberalism is what’s undermining people and the planet and that it is the obstacle to our sustained well-being. The well-being of billions. We looked around; made the connections. It made us imagine a slope towards fascism as a very possible 21st Century consequence.
We began to understand the whole obscenity. You didn’t. Or you just chose to ignore it. It has to be one or the other because we, out here, we’ve managed to at least grasp the rudiments in spite of the concerted attempts of powerful mainstream politicos to hinder our understanding.
 Back in 2010, when you sat down to negotiate, you (must have) realised how unpalatable the reality of a junior partnership in a Tory coalition would be if you were to maintain your reputation – which, as you’ll remember, was not bad at all. You could have shown integrity and told the Conservatives to form a minority government and that you’d support them where you could. You should have. But, even if I give you the benefit of the doubt and believe you were truly earnest and noble in your intent, once ‘in’ you would have had even better opportunities to learn at least the same things as were we down here. One would think you’d have had an epiphany by the end of that first year. And what did you do? You carried on as though the Tory narrative was almost faultless. For four years.
 Every time you were called out on it you patronised us as though we were too stupid to know what was good for us. And, not content with that, you now justify your behaviour on the back of ‘recovery’. You seem to think you are, or soon will be, vindicated. Here, on the ground, those of us who have been busy trying to live under your ‘helpful’ governance; those of us doing all that learning: we know this is a recovery for those who need it least; a recovery built on bubbles, corruption, cronyism and the serfdom of the masses. The real shit has not even hit the global fan and there you are, trying to sweep our own dirt under a shifting carpet. It’s a fiat recovery, based on fiat ideology, carried out by fiat authority.
Liberal Democrat doesn’t really shout ‘integrity’ now, does it? ‘National Interest’? Yeah, if ‘national’ means ‘Westminster’ and ‘interest’ means ‘self’.
And now you think you’ve done so badly in the EP Elections because of your debate with Farage. Ok, that really wasn’t very impressive… your better arguments were not just lost amongst the crude populism of Farage but you demonstrated that you really do not understand that those people who take issue with the Union, do so for rather different and more sophisticated reasons than the xenophobic, corporate, anti-intellectual platform that is UKip. You were the only party with the integrity – AND platform – to defend the concept of Europe and you wrecked it by wasting time repeating rhetorical catchphrases and endorsing a retarded sycophancy for the technocratic status quo. You seem to think that anyone who sees Europe as having or being a problem, views it through the Tory/UKip lens. You really have to stop listening to hysterical mouthpieces. And we don’t all want to leave Europe just because we don’t agree with you, either. It’s the technocracy, the receding democracy, the neoliberal bullying, the corporatisation, the commodification of our lives that we hate, not the Social Chapter, nor ‘red tape’ that acts for Common Interest, nor our fellow Europeans. You need to understand that for a great many of us, the problems we see in Europe are the same problems we have with our own, successive UK governments; the same problem we see in nigh-on every country on the planet, in fact.
Seriously – that TV Farage-Clegg trip: that was just a recent straw out of a bale’s worth. But why would you see the connection between these points when you can’t seem to even see them individually? Some of your party are even tabloid-riven enough to suppose that getting rid of your leader is the solution. Nick Clegg might be the authorised face of your toxicity but, my gods, if you think we don’t know all your higher profile names or your collective voting record, you probably should all just give up – right now. It’s a global economy supported by a neoliberal attitude and our country is in trouble because our own politicians, economists, and media are of the same means by which much of this infernal crash came about. You have failed because you cannot appreciate either the details or the whole picture and you have failed to recognise that the electorate increasingly does.
There is much satisfied vitriol in the country at your fall from grace. On the surface it’s deliciously tempting and quite understandable. You brought this circus to town. But it’s also a tragedy. It’s a tragedy for your once rational, honourable party and a serious blow to an already dwindling faith in our democracy.
Regards, Juli

The Bedroom tax, the UN investigator and Grant Shapps


UN Housing investigator, Raquel Rolnik was branded a “loopy Brazilian leftie” by Conservatives after she said she was “shocked to hear how many people feel abused in their human rights by this decision and why – being so vulnerable – they should pay for the cost of the economic downturn, which was brought about by the financial crisis.”

Tory Chairman Grant Shapps, claimed that  Ms Rolnik’s investigation was politically biased … In response Ms Rolnik said: “I didn’t come here to investigate the ‘bedroom tax’. I came here as a normal country mission, to assess the situation. I came across the ‘bedroom tax’ when I was here, but I am an independent investigator.”

She went on to slam the ‘aggressive’ behaviour of the UK Government:

“It was the first time a government has been so aggressive. When I was in the USA, I had a constructive conversation with them accepting some things and arguing with others. They did not react like this.”

As a result of her preliminary investigations into the impact of the Bedroom Tax, she is calling for it to be suspended with immediate effect.  As she says in the interview below:

”If one life is lost because of these Reforms it is one too many

The UN aide also wants the Bedroom tax to be investigated fully, as the scheme was never piloted and already constitutes an assault on human rights.

UN aide defiant over bedroom tax

Raquel Rolnik said that she is open and receptive to as much evidence as possible as she continues her mission on Welfare Reforms in the UK over the next 3 months.  She can be contacted via Email address: srhousing@ohchr.org


The EU-US Free Trade Agreement must be opposed – for the sake of the NHS and more.


The EU-US Free Trade Agreement must be opposed – for the sake of the NHS and more. 

‘This week marks the first round of negotiations for a far-reaching transatlantic trade deal. In the face of growing opposition to plans for expanded corporate powers in the proposed pact, the European Commission is trying to dispel concerns with propaganda. See through the rosy PR with Corporate Europe Observatory’s guide to investor-state dispute settlement – Unravelling the spin: a guide to corporate rights in the EU-US trade deal published by The Corporate European Observatory (re-posted in full below) 

If realisation that the National Health Service is to be privatised by the Coalition government did not dawn on many until it was too late, then the implication of the EU-US trade deal on privatised public services still is not fully appreciated. There is no doubt that privatisation of the NHS is a most unpopular policy, even among Conservative voters and so the cloak of deception woven by the Coalition was the only way this was going to be achieved.

Open Democracy explains how the real reason for the Health Care Act was the EU/US Trade Agreement. The Act is all part of a corporate-interest Trade Agreement. It has nothing to do with the health and well being of UK citizens, nothing to do with the will of the people, and absolutely nothing to do with democracy.

Summary and suggested action (Open Democracy) – It is in health that the effects of ‘harmonising’, towards this Free Trade Agreement, are already manifest. The fact that the NHS has been prepared for transnational investors as part of a planned US/EU free trade agreement should be made public

–  The similar threat to other areas should also be public.

–  The activities of the EU Trade Commission on our behalf should be an important part of the debate about EU membership

–  There is a job to be done on disseminating information and demanding reporting and analysis of the implications of the US/EU Free Trade Agreement, so that it is not just the perspective of transnational capital that is being presented. (The BBC has a Business Unit presenting this perspective but has no such unit for workers or public service users). The nationwide concern about the NHS and established networks of concern could be the means for a strong, clear and concerted public voice on this.

– The juggernaut of the trade deal backed by business voice propaganda is unlikely to be questioned otherwise.

– The lack of public information on this broader context of the NHS changes isgrounds for the Health and Social Care Bill to be repealed. The Opposition Labour Party needs to call for this.

– Raising the issue in relation to health would support information-seeking etc. for other areas which will be affected.

Syzygysue  extrapolated to the EU-US FTA, from what is known about the secret negotiations from the Trans Pacific Pact TPP, or Free Trade Agreement, when she posed the question ‘Are we already in the post democratic era?’ (Think Left)

.. Overarching all this is the transfer of sovereignty from nations to private corporate tribunals who will be empowered to compel governments to change their laws or pay unlimited fines.  Foreign companies will essentially not be bound by domestic laws.

This begs the question as to how much of the Tory/LD programme and the changes being forced on EZ countries, under the guise of ‘austerity’ were/are, in fact, in preparation for compliance with the proposed EU-US FTA

Human rights, environmental protection and employment rights could all be contested and overturned by private corporate tribunals.  The post-democratic age will have been enshrined in binding legislation… and all of it will be done in secret! .. 

( “Are we Already in the Post Democratic Era, Think Left”)

Following the increased support for UKIP,  the Conservative Party has been supporting a Referendum on Europe. Meanwhile, President Obama in May warned that if the UK did withdraw from the EU, the trade agreement would be put at risk (Guardian). This reinforces the argument that democracy may be at risk .. if it is not too late already. Indeed Red Labour must address the Elephant in the Room.

The following article from the Corporate European Observatory is reproduced below in full, and examines how propaganda is being woven by the European commission, and provides a guide interpreting what is really behind their spin.

Unravelling the spin: a guide to corporate rights in the EU-US trade deal

published by The Corporate European Observatory

“This week marks the first round of negotiations for a far-reaching transatlantic trade deal. In the face of growing opposition to plans for expanded corporate powers in the proposed pact, the European Commission is trying to dispel concerns with propaganda. See through the rosy PR with Corporate Europe Observatory’s guide to investor-state dispute settlement.

Consumer groups are opposed to the proposed sweeping corporate rights. Trade unions, environmentalists and digital rights activists, too. All (centre-)left groups in the European Parliament have voted against it. Some EU member states have raised concerns. Media reports have started sounding the alarm. But according to its leaked negotiating mandate, the European Commission still wants to enshrine extreme powers for corporations in the controversial EU-US trade deal.

So-called investor-state dispute settlement provisions would enable US companies investing in Europe to challenge EU governments directly at international tribunals, whenever they find that laws in the area of public health, consumer, environmental or social protection interfere with their profits. EU companies investing abroad would have the same privilege in the US. (See our briefing A transatlantic corporate bill of rights.)

This is an attack on democracy and legislation in the public interest. The companies can claim compensation if governments create regulations that go against the corporate interest. One only has to look at corporate claims against governments based on similar prior agreements to get a taste of what’s to come: tobacco giant Philip Morris has sued Uruguay and Australia over health warnings on cigarette packets; multinational polluter Vattenfall is seeking $3.7 billion from Germany following a democratic decision to phase out nuclear energy; and US-company Lone Pine is suing Canada for US$250 million after the country imposed a moratorium on shale gas extraction (fracking) in Quebec over environmental concerns. According to the UN, last year, investor-state tribunals decided 70% of such disputes in favour of the investor, ordering taxpayers to pay billions of dollars in compensation.

Why would you grant business such a powerful tool to rein in democracy and curb sound policies made in the interest of the public? Why would you give foreign investors more rights in your legal system than your domestic investors, let alone communities and citizens?

To head off concerns amongst an increasingly concerned European public, the Commission has begun a misleading propaganda drive. Let us guide you through some of its key claims:

Spin #1: EU member states have not been sued in previous investor disputes

On its Q&A website on the transatlantic trade deal, the Commission claims that “the EU’s Member States have been regulating for years and have not been challenged” in investor-state disputes under similar treaties.

This is selective blindness. What about the afore-mentioned lawsuit by energy giant Vattenfall against Germany, challenging the country’s phase-out of nuclear energy? And the ongoing claim by Chinese financial company Ping An against Belgium over the bailout of the Fortis Bank? What about the recent award of €22 million that a Dutch insurer won against the Slovak Republic because the country had reversed health privatisation policies? At least 15 different EU member states have faced investor-state challenges. With 20 known claims, the Czech Republic is the fifth most sued country in the world.

Is the Commission ignorant of this evidence? Or is it just telling blatant lies to dispel pesky concerns?

Spin #2: Legislation is not at risk

The Commission also claims that “including measures to protect investors does not prevent governments from passing laws, nor does it lead to laws being repealed. At most it can lead to compensation being paid”.

In fact, this mild-sounding “at most” scenario where a government has to compensate the company can mean quite a raid on public budgets. Last year, the highest known damages to date, US$1.77 billion, were awarded to US oil company Occidental against Ecuador – for the termination of an oil production site in the Amazon. In 2003, the Czech Republic had to compensate a media corporation with US$ 354 million – the equivalent of the country’s entire health budget.

Just the threat of a multi-million-dollar lawsuit can be enough for legislation to be abandoned or watered down. In the Philip Morris claim against health warning labels on cigarette packs in Uruguay, the country gave into pressure before the arbitration even began, and reduced the size of the labels. Canada also withdrew proposals for mandatory plain-packaging for cigarettes after Big Tobacco threatened investor claims.

On top of that, investment arbitration tribunals do absolutely have the power to order the repeal of a government measure. According to leaked texts from the EU’s ongoing trade negotiations with Canada the Commission itself has proposed that the “repeal of the measure concerned” – meaning: the cancellation of a law or government act – should be an option if a tribunal finds that it violates the agreement. Canada will be the first country which far-reaching EU-wide investor rights will be agreed with, likely to serve as a template for the pact with the US.

If that does not put legislation at risk, what does?

Spin #3: Investor-state dispute settlement promotes growth

In a factsheet on investor-state dispute settlement, the Commission states that “investment protection plays a fundamental role in promoting and securing economic growth in the EU” – because it reduces the risk of investing.

In the real word, this is not always the case. Qualitative research suggests that investment treaties are not a decisive factor in whether investors go abroad. And while some econometric studies find that the treaties do attract investment, others find no effect at all. People who think otherwise might want to read Lauge Poulsson’s review of the existing research.

Some governments are also realising that the promise of foreign investment is not being fulfilled. In the words of a South African government official: “We do not receive significant inflows of FDI [foreign direct investment] from many partners with whom we have BITs [bilateral investment treaties], and at the same time, we continue to receive investment from jurisdictions with which we have no BITs. In short, BITs are not decisive in attracting investment.” Due to the lack of economic benefits alongside enormous political and budgetary risks, South Africa has recently stopped renewing certain investment treaties.

So, what evidence exactly is the Commission referring to when it claims that investor-state dispute settlement promotes growth?

Spin #4: The EU is formulating investor rights that safeguard public policy

In public debates and on its website the Commission also claims that it is clarifying and thereby limiting some of the excessive investor rights “to ensure that genuine regulatory action cannot be successfully challenged”. In a media comment, European Commission Spokesman for Trade, John Clancy stated: “The EU is at the vanguard of international efforts to make sure that companies cannot abuse ISDS [investor state dispute settlement], and we will be pushing for safeguard clauses against frivolous claims.”

Oh really? According to the Commission’s negotiating mandate for the transatlantic trade deal investment protection “should be without prejudice to the right […] to adopt and enforce […] measures necessary to pursue legitimate public policy objectives” (emphasis added). This creates a necessity test that places a big burden of proof on governments to justify their actions. Is Australia’s plain packaging law for cigarette packs necessary to protect public health? Was Germany’s exit from nuclear energy necessary? Might there not have been other, more effective measures? It would be up to an offshore tribunal of unaccountable private lawyers to decide.

Second, a safeguard clause against frivolous claims as proposed by the Commission would not have led to the dismissal of any of the controversial attacks on sound public policies that Vattenfall, Philip Morris and the like have launched – because they are based on allegations of real violations of investment treaties whose terms tend to be very broad. Claims are only considered frivolous when there is a complete lack of legal merit. Under existing rules, states can already ask arbitrators to dispose swiftly of frivolous claims, but not a single such case is known.

Finally, this detailed analysis of a leaked text from the EU’s trade negotiations with Canada (dated May 31, 2013) concludes that the EU has failed to “introduce any major novel changes meant to address the problems that have come to light in investor-state dispute settlement.” The text is likely to be a template for the EU-US pact.

Investor rights – European Commission style – as a way to safeguard public policy? Wishful thinking – at best!

Spin #5: Cultural diversity will not be compromised

On its Q&A website on the transatlantic trade deal, the Commission promises to “not compromise” Europe’s “cultural diversity, for example in film production and television programming” – adding that the audiovisual sector “is not part of the negotiations dealing with services and the right to establishment.”

This careful wording follows France’s adamant insistence to exclude audiovisuals from the EU’s negotiating mandate, to protect its film industry from Hollywood. But what it means in reality is that the cultural sector would still be governed by the investment protection rules of a potential deal, including investor-state dispute settlement. According to German public television providers, “the potential for challenges by multinational firms in the entertainment business would be great.”

Spin #6: European investors face problems in courts elsewhere

In a recent media comment, Commission spokesman John Clancy stated: “The fact that a country has a strong legal system does not always guarantee that foreign investors will be adequately protected.” In its factsheet, the Commission argues that investors need to be able to bypass judicial systems in other countries through a parallel system of investment arbitration because domestic courts suffer from “bias or lack of independence”. It also claims that there are “examples of cases where states have expropriated foreign investors […] and deprived them of any access to local courts”.

Which examples exactly? MEPs have repeatedly asked the Commission to provide evidence of access to local courts being denied in Canada. The Commission gave two weak examples where companies did not even try to go to local courts. Asked specifically about problems faced by European investors, it admitted: “There is little publicly available information available in this context”. Neither has the Commission given any proof of discrimination against foreign firms in US courts.

On the other hand, the Commission remains completely silent on the rampant corporate bias and vested interests at play in private investment arbitration tribunals. Last year, our Profiting from Injustice report uncovered how a small club of lawyers riddled with conflicts of interest is securing investor-friendly interpretations of the law and sustains a continuous flow of multi-million dollar lawsuits.

So, while the Commission has yet to prove that there is anti-foreign-investor behaviour in US courts, there is an enormous weight of evidence of the corporate bias in the parallel legal system it is proposing instead.

Spin #7: The EU will guarantee the independence of the arbitrators

Responding to widespread concerns about conflicts of interest among the private lawyer panels which ultimately decide investor-state disputes, the Commission is proposing a code of conduct – “to make sure that those who are called in to rule on our cases are also the right people”.

leaked version of this code of conduct indeed contains bans that, if implemented strictly, could tackle some of the conflicts of interest at the heart of the arbitration system. For example, arbitrators “shall not be influenced by self-interest, outside pressure, political considerations, public clamour” etc. Also, an arbitrator “may not use his or her position on the arbitral tribunal to advance any personal or private interests” and “must avoid […] acquiring any financial interest that is likely to affect him or her impartiality or that might reasonably create an appearance of impropriety or bias.”

Taking these words seriously would require banning the global elite club of arbitrators – many of them European – who have decided the majority of all investor-state claims thus far. Unlike judges, arbitrators have no flat salary but earn more the more cases they rule on. Any arbitrator earning significant income from these disputes faces an incentive to pave the way for more business in the future with their rulings. This observation was also made by the Singaporean attorney general who noted that it is “in the interest of the entrepreneurial arbitrator to rule expansively on his own jurisdiction and then in favour of the investor on the merits because this increases the prospect of future claims and is thereby business-generating.”

Whether the EU will really kick out these ‘entrepreneurial arbitrators’ remains to be seen, considering the absence of monitoring and enforcement mechanisms from the proposed code of conduct. Just claiming arbitrator independence and putting in place a ‘tick box’ exercise clearly won’t be enough.

Spin #8: Some of the investor privileges cannot be enforced in domestic courts

In its factsheet, the Commission explains that the investor rights which it wants to incorporate in the EU’s future international investment agreements “are not necessarily incorporated into the domestic system” of the signatory states. The investor needs a parallel legal system – investment arbitration – to enforce these rights. Thus the need for investor state dispute settlement.

Finally some honesty! This is exactly what the Commission’s corporate agenda is about: granting multinationals far greater property rights than any domestic firm, any community, any individual is granted by any constitution in the world. And creating an overreaching legal system by which these superior rights can be enforced.

Beyond the rosy PR: a corporate power grab

So, here’s what investor-state dispute settlement in the proposed EU-US trade deal is really about: exacerbating the imbalance between corporations and the 99% by granting a powerful weapon to fight regulation of some of the world’s most powerful multinationals. They will use that weapon to enshrine existing inequalities and launch a toxic attack on democracy, both in the EU and the US.

Don’t be fooled by the European Commission’s spin. Don’t let its rosy stories distort public debate about this looming transatlantic corporate bill of rights.”

References and Further Reading

From Think Left:

What are the 2012 Tories like?


All political parties are coalitions but currently none more so than the parliamentary Conservative party.  Many of the divisions centre on George Osborne, as Rafael Behr suggests:

‘Frustration is growing across government at Osborne’s imperial reach… As the Chancellor’s reputation as a strategist has collapsed, his reliance on a young sidekick to run the Treasury has fuelled charges of arrogance and complacency.  They are seen as a double act, obsessed with political machination and uninformed about life on the front line of austerity.’ (1)

So what sort of people make up the 2012 Conservative party?  What are their values and principles?

Back in 1872, Disraeli, as Tory leader, spoke passionately about the need for the state to intervene to help the poor. Some suggest that Disraeli feared a British revolution… but in spite of grinding poverty for the 19th century majority, both David Cameron and Michael Gove have made no secret of their huge admiration, and desire to emulate, that Victorian period of Empire, entrepreneurship and philanthropy.

No wonder then, that Cameron was ‘stunned’ by Ed Miliband’s one nation coup.  The phrase ‘One Nation’ derives from Disraeli’s novel Sybil, in which he described the rich and poor as:

“… two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones or inhabitants of different planets; who are formed by different breeding, are fed by different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws”. (2)

Curiously, the co-existence of two separate societies is still relevant, albeit that the post-war welfare consensus, trade unions and employment legislation, transformed ordinary peoples’ lives for the better. Statistics, such as 158,000 families own 41m acres of UK, while 24 million families live on just 4m acres, clearly indicate that Disraeli’s two nations persist.  But, if any doubts linger that this government comes from the ‘rich nation’ who are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws, there was Gategate … which ‘pulled aside the veil’ on the world-view of the elitist clique who currently have their hands on the levers of government.

Michael Meacher, the left-wing MP, writes of Andrew Mitchell’s outburst:  ‘… his language was a wide-open revelation of the inner attitudes, normally kept firmly padlocked away until once ensconced in power, those born to rule can mete it out to the serfs physically, financially and power-wise.   But the arrogance of this class, on both sides of the Atlantic, has reached such pinnacles that they cannot conceal their contempt, or they simply don’t care…. Some time this seething cauldron of ballooning inequality mixed with class contempt, will explode.’ (3)

Andrew Mitchell’s outburst also triggered a spate of revelations from Tory commentators like Janet Daley of the Telegraph.

“Time to tell the truth about the “nasty” party: as someone who has defended the Conservatives (or at least defended their arguments) for so many years, it is time to come clean. Tories can be bloody difficult to like. The Andrew Mitchell Debacle is not an uncharacteristic, deranged and inexplicable lapse. It is just an extreme example of the kind of attitude with which many people who circulate in this world are familiar.”

But this lack of respect is not just directed at the police and journalists, it seems to go to the very top of the party.  Andrew Gimson in the New Statesman, says that he has been taken aback by the vehemence with which many Tories now dislike Cameron (4). One Tory MP is quoted as saying “He’s just no good with his backbenchers, just doesn’t want to give them the time of day…. He holds us in contempt.”

Given the palpable untruths of the Conservative election manifesto, what is their real agenda?

Cameron’s former guru Philip Blond, confides about the ruling Cameroonians:

“Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic are narrowing opportunity, concentrating wealth and protecting monopoly interests. The centre right has almost ceased to do majority politics. It defines national interest in terms of the already powerful and increasingly abandons the middle and lower classes to their fate. They are persuaded by past fictions that what is in the interest of the winners percolates to those below them. In short, conservatives are unknowingly creating an oligarchy, one which will make us all plebs.’ 

George Osborne’s agenda (as detailed in the Comprehensive Spending Review Oct. 2010) is to reduce spending on public services to below that of the US by 2015 . George Osborne is known to be obsessive about US politics, and it seems likely that he (or perhaps his 33y old chief economic advisor Rupert Harrison) are adapting the US Republican’s strategy of ‘Two Santas’ and ‘starving the beast of government’.  That is to deliberately ‘crash the economy’.

‘Reagan rolled out Supply Side Economics in the early 80s, dramatically cutting taxes while exploding (mostly military) spending…. The budget deficit exploded and the country fell into a deep recession – the worst since the Great Depression…. they were “starving the beast” of government by running up such huge deficits that Democrats would never, ever in the future be able to talk again about national health care or improving Social Security (5)

In George Osborne’s case, he was able to argue that the economy had already ‘crashed’, by redefining (with media/LD collusion) the 2008 banking crisis into one of ‘irresponsible government over-spending’. Nevertheless, it is clear that, Osborne’s policies are successfully increasing the debt and so-called structural deficit, despite of all his protestations that he is trying to cut it. (6) This is no mistake.  It is a sleight of hand, as identified by Ramesh Patel:

As an economist, an advocate of free market economics, a Conservative and a patriot I have been shocked and appalled by the unpatriotic and treacherous strategy pursued by this Conservative Party… they have acted treacherously against the country’s best interest via falsely knocking down the economy (the blame game) in a calculated manner on every media occasion since 2008. They have done this by gross misinformation and exaggeration of the real state of the economy prior to 2010 – even to The City and at Davos to international bankers… I tell you in all candour this blame game is designed deliberately to prolong and deepen the recession to justify austerity. Hence, providing the justification for a smaller state and future lower taxes. (7)


Unquestionably, it is the increase in public borrowing and debt, under George Osborne’s stewardship, which alarms the conventional ‘right-wing’ of the party. Inexplicably, they appear to have bought into the publicity spin of the Cameroonians, that this Government comprises centrist, metropolitan liberals. (Centrist!  Economically, this government is so right wing that it makes Margaret Thatcher look like a ‘wet’!) The right-wing backbenchers recognise that Osborne is not cutting overall spending but seem to attribute this to his  being  an incompetent, metropolitan, centre leftist rather than devious and obsessed with political machination (1).

Disgraced ex-Tory minister, Liam Fox makes the typical complaint about the current direction of travel in constructing his argument for a shift.

‘…. we are over-borrowed, over-taxed and over-regulated. Spending must fall more steeply, not only to cut the deficit but to allow us to cut taxes in order to produce non-inflationary growth.… To paraphrase Ronald Reagan: we don’t have a deficit in Britain because we tax too little, but because we spend too much.… When we speak for the values we have championed, take pride in our history and our achievements, and when we offer opportunity for all our people – removing the dead hand of a bloated state from their shoulders – we win elections.’

But now, there is a new grouping, the ‘Free Enterprise Group’ who seem to be overt in broadcasting what has been hitherto hidden within Osborne’s agenda.  Five of its members (Kwasi Kwarteng, Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore and Elizabeth Truss) have recently published a manifesto, ‘Britannia Unchained’, a blueprint of radical reforms.  They blame welfare payments and the mindset of the poor for the UK’s appalling record on social mobility, suggest the need for much greater cuts and hint that the answer is the comprehensive demolition of the welfare system.

“Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world. We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor.”  The MPs claim the UK workforce should model itself on the workers of South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong, rather those in European nations – or watch living standards fall away.


George Monbiot protests:

I see these people as rightwing vanguardists, mobilising first to break and then to capture a political system that is meant to belong to all of us. Like Marxist insurrectionaries, they often talk about smashing things, about “creative destruction”, about the breaking of chains and the slipping of leashes. But in this case they appear to be trying to free the rich from the constraints of democracy. And at the moment they are winning.

Meanwhile, Tim Bale laments the virtual disappearance of the Tory left which has resulted in a Conservative party in parliament and a party in the media which borders on the delusional …

He looks back to the days, prior to Thatcherism when Tories considered ‘mass unemployment was not only economically irrational but morally indefensible. The welfare state and mixed economy was a necessary, even welcome corrective to market failure and trade unionism a power that needed channelling rather than crushing.’

But that Conservative party seems to be long gone.  Gerry Hassan who charts the ‘Strange death of Tory England’ suggests that the future:

‘…holds the prospect of the Tories becoming a ‘zombie party’, more and more divorced from reality and shaped by its own partisan obsessions. This will entail embracing an unapologetic and dogmatic failed Anglo-American capitalism which does not deliver for most people, instead producing middle-class mass anxiety, widespread poverty and exclusion, and an entitlement culture in the super-rich…. In this they will be in the company of their cousins the US Republicans who have become prisoner to corporate finance and ideological zealots…The Tory future is one of very few members, atrophied grass root associations, and a professionalised, paid politics: the party reduced appropriately to an offshoot of Serco and G4S and the free market vandalism politics they have personified… This will be a politics for the City, by the City, funded by the City – a caricature of the measured Tory politics of the Macmillan and Home era – but the inevitable result of Thatcher and Cameron. (8)

In short (using the media’s rule of thumb for judging politicians) they do not sound like the sort of people that I would want to go for a drink with …  but doubtless the feeling would be mutual.

(1)  ‘The politics column’ New Statesman  5-11 October 2012 p 10

(2) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/labour-borrows-one-nation-idea-from-benjamin-disraeli-8194228.html

(3) http://www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog/2012/09/flashman-mitchells-message-to-the-lower-orders/

(4) ‘The man who would be king’ New Statesman 5-11 October 2012  p 25-29

(5)  https://think-left.org/2012/08/20/has-george-osborne-been-taking-trans-atlantic-lessons-from-the-jude-wanniski-and-the-republicans/

(6)  https://think-left.org/2012/08/18/what-is-george-osborne-playing-at/

(7)  http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ramesh-patel/david-cameron-ed-balls_b_1920913.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

(8)   http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/gerry-hassan/strange-death-of-tory-england