A fairer society means breaking the big business stranglehold on politics

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Labour’s challenge to fight inequalities and rebuild democracy rests on addressing Britain’s ‘finance curse’

If the next Labour leader wants a fairer society, they must break the big business stranglehold on politics.

by Nick Dearden Re-posted from openDemocracy 10.09.15

In just a few weeks, the Labour leadership contest has substantially shifted the political debate in Britain, challenging the policy of austerity, raising inequality as the defining issue of our times, highlighting the erosion of democracy.

Fighting inequality and rebuilding democracy depend on breaking the stranglehold of big business and finance on politics in this country.  And this means reassessing Britain’s role in the world, because the prestige of this country is based upon London as a financial hub and a corporate HQ.

We live in an offshore centre for corporate interests, and this has not only fuelled poverty and inequality around the world, it has done so at home too.  Britain’s prestige has not translated into benefits for ordinary citizens here.  Despite this, political leaders have for decades failed to tackle the vested interests that have captured this country.

If they want to really change Britain, top of the list for the next Labour leader is the dependence of our economy on finance.  We have a ‘finance curse’, in the same way oil-rich nations can develop a ‘resource curse’.  Far from harnessing resources to build a fairer society, finance’s dominance has undercut other sectors of our economy.  Today, governments of every shade jump to the tune of finance, as we experiment in ever greater forms of deregulation, allowing the banks to transform everything we value into a derivative to be gambled on.

Britain has been captured by financial interests, which use this island to avoid taxes globally, to unsustainably inflate debt bubbles, and to speculate on the air we breathe.  There is no path to rebuilding democracy which doesn’t involve an almighty battle to ‘tame the City’ – with robust mechanisms to make companies pay their taxes internationally, levy taxes on speculation, restrict stock market listings, cancel unjust debts and reform the Corporation of London.

But finance is only the most obvious case of corporate capture in Britain.  In fact big business has a stranglehold on our politics.  On the one hand our government is aggressively pushing forward a ‘new generation’ of trade agreements like the EU-US investment deal known as TTIP.  TTIP threatens to water down social and environmental standards across the board, seeing such regulations as little more than ‘trade obstacles’.  TTIP will even give multinational corporations a special ‘right’ to sue our government for passing laws which threaten their profits.

On the other hand the British government is obstructing attempts by Latin American countries to hold multinational companies accountable for abusing real human rights, meaning that people have no access to effective legal redress for harm done to them by British-based corporations.  So far is the British state in the pocket of corporate interests that even our aid budget is used to privatise and deregulate economies in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  Aid money is thrown at free market think tanks to privatise energy supplies; agribusiness conglomerates get a helping hand to control seed markets; education multinationals find new markets in some of the poorest countries on the planet.

The rule of multinational corporations, which places a higher value on profit than human rights, is a key factor driving inequality. Combatting inequality means the next Labour leader needs to be prepared to use the British veto in Europe to halt TTIP and its sister deals, limit the influence of multinational corporations over the UK political process, establish a commission to tackle corporate abuse of workers’ rights and environmental sustainability, and overhaul the aid budget as a form of redistributive taxation which can help countries across the world develop decent public services.

These proposals form part of a manifesto of policies which we launch today, the first step in beginning to rebuild our democracy and properly fight inequality.  It also includes reducing carbon emissions and giving substantial reparations to help developing countries build democratically-controlled energy systems in low carbon economies.  And supporting small scale, organic agriculture, rather than industrial farming.

If we really want a fairer society, there is no alternative to taking on vested interests.  We can’t just decide to exercise a ‘nicer’ form of global power, because our power is built on a base that necessarily erodes democracy.  A powerful financial sector, unfair trade practices, ideologically-driven privatisation, and many other policies, which we inflict on the world, also serve to make our own country more unequal.  So these policies must be changed not just for the millions of people around the world affected, but for the British people too.

True, it may make our country less ‘important’ at the top table, but that is a price well worth paying for a fairer world, and a happier society

This article is cross posted from Global Justice Now and appears here.

This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence. If you have any queries about republishing please contact us. Please check individual images for licensing details.

Implications of TTIP for Financial Regulation of the Banks

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This excellent 6 minute video clip indicates the role of the City of London (the most criminogenic of global financial centres) in lobbying for the EU-US Free Trade Agreement, otherwise known as TTIP (TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership).
To date, the critical focus of opposition groups has been the watering down of European consumer standards, under pressure from the US.  However, leaked documents are now showing that it is a two-way street.  The EU is evidently trying to protect the European banks from the stronger American Financial regulations.  Nevertheless (and unmentioned in this clip) the American Chamber of Commerce is also using TTIP as an opportunity to push for the higher US financial service regulations to be watered down.
As Lori Wallach says in the video clip, the pressure from lobbyists, on both sides of the Atlantic, is to lower regulatory standards across the board.

Leaked documents on TTIP

On TTIP and the NHS, they are trying to bamboozle us

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The Secret Deal that Threatens the Food on Your Plate

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A controversial trade deal between the EU and the US is now being negotiated. The biggest in history, it has the power to affect every part of the food chain.  Untangling the EU-US trade talks : What are the big concerns for food & farming?  What might be the consequences for our food and farming?

The Secret Deal that Threatens the Food on Your Plate

Published on Mar 19, 2014

 

Why is TTIP more than a trade agreement?

Only 3 days left to stop hidden rules within the EU-US trade deal allowing corporates to sue the state

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This film presents some of the dangers of the investor rights within the proposed EU-US trade deal. We need to stop this corporate attack on our democracy and policies to protect the public interest.   The film has been produced by Sourced TV for Corporate Europe Observatory

Just a brief addition as to the details of ISDS… a fuller explanation is given by Corporate Europe Observatory.

This EU-US trade deal (TTIP) is not really about trade or a deal.  It is creating a new piece of international law, the conditions of which will be enforced by a tribunal of three lawyers from private international law firms.  They will meet in secret, there are no observers, the details of their judgements will not be released and there is no appeal system.  Their judgement is final.  Furthermore, the lawyers will financially benefit, the more actions to sue that are brought by corporations.

In the case of the NHS, every private health provider would be able to sue the UK government for their lost profits if a future democratically-elected government attempted to take the NHS back into public ownership.  In addition, the ISDS is lop-sided.  Corporations can take a government straight to arbitration whereas government has to exhaust every level of their domestic courts to bring an action against a corporation.

So that’s what the EU wants us to sign up to .. a charter for corporate kleptocracy.

The closing date for submitting your objection to the TTIP secret corporate courts is the 6th July… but it’s so easy to do.  (It may take you as long as 3 minutes.)  Simply follow the links below provided by the SumOfUs – a worldwide movement of people, working together to hold corporations accountable for their actions and forge a new, sustainable path for our global economy.

The EU is asking for our views on TTIP secret corporate courts. But they’re making it super hard for citizens to share their views
We built a snazzy digital tool that will help us tell the EU exactly what we think about TTIP secret corporate courts.
Let’s make sure the EU can’t ignore our views and are forced to back down on these secret courts.  Submit a comment

In the next couple of weeks, we’ve got a huge opportunity to stop one of the worst parts of the risky trade deal between Europe and US.
The EU have said they’ll get opinions from anyone in Europe on whether or not the deal should include investor state dispute settlement — rules that will allow corporations to sue our elected governments in secret courts.
The deadline for submissions is really soon, so we’ve not got long to make sure the EU knows what we think about secret corporate courts.
We’ve built a tool that makes it really easy to let the EU know our views. Just click on the link below and follow the instructions. It won’t take more than 3 minutes to complete and this could be our chance to deal a fatal blow to one of the key planks of the dangerous EU-USA trade deal.
Let the EU know what you think about the secret corporate courts proposed in TTIP.
The courts are proposed under something called “Investor-State Arbitration Settlement” or ISDS. This would set up a system of tribunals where corporations could take our governments to court if they didn’t like a particular law that they thought harmed their business.
We’ve seen how this system works already around the world — it’s not good. Ecuador is being sued by Chevron because the country is requiring it to clean up a huge toxic oil spill in the heart of the Ecuadorian rainforest. Australia is being sued by Phillip Morris because it wants to take action on glamourous cigarette packaging. Even Germany is being sued by Swedish energy giant because it wants to phase out nuclear power.
The EU’s consultation is a great first step – and it shows that pressure to drop the deal from all over the EU is starting to work. Now the EU have said they’ll listen, we need to make sure they hear from everyone of us who doesn’t want the deal to include these worrying new rules.
We know our tool will help more people get their views across to the EU. There’s an opportunity for people to fill in every question if they want, but the form also makes it easy to answer just one or two questions. So if you’ve got a busy job, or you have to share a computer at home, or you’ve got little ones to look after, you’ll still be able to have your say.
Can you take 3 minutes to tell the EU to stop the secret corporate courts in TTIP?
Thanks for all you do,
Martin, Hannah, Jon and the rest of us.

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More Information:
EU Commission Trade Public Consultation on Investor-State Dispute Settlement, European Commission, Jun 2014.
Business v state investment disputes in EU spotlight, BBC News, 12 June 2014.

SumOfUs is a worldwide movement of people like you, working together to hold corporations accountable for their actions and forge a new, sustainable path for our global economy. Please help keep SumOfUs strong by chipping in $3.

 

Highly recommended for a historical perspective of why we are where we are:

Noam Chomsky:  America’s Real Foreign Policy – A Corporate Protection Racket