Blog Archives

Waiting in the wings: servants of the public or the corporate world?

Taking back control – for the wealthy?

“It seems extraordinary that a man with such a past could have been brought back into government, let alone given such a crucial and sensitive role”.

The new international trade secretary, Liam Fox explained his enthusiasm for leaving Europe: “We’ll be able to make our own laws unhindered by anyone else, and our democratic parliament will not be overruled by a European Court.”

Liam Fox: “a corporate sleeper cell implanted in government five years ago”?

liam foxGeorge Monbiot reminds us that in 2011 Fox resigned his post as defence secretary in disgrace, after his extracurricular interests were exposed. He had set up an organisation called Atlantic Bridge which formed a partnership with a corporate lobbying group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, funded by tobacco, pharmaceutical and oil companies. It was struck off by the Charity Commission after allying with people and organisations to lobby for privatisation of public services privatised and releasing corporations from regulation.

He allowed a lobbyist to attend his official meetings, without government clearance, making misleading statements about these meetings, which were later disproved.

Fox is said to promote TTIP which would “significantly undercut the last vestiges of sovereign power, spuriously revered by Fox and his allies, by insisting that the government open up the NHS and other public institutions to American companies, who could even sue the UK in international courts if policies affect their profits”.

Owen Smith: Labour’s corporate leadership candidate

owen smith smallAs noted in an earlier post, Owen Smith, who became Labour MP for the safe seat of Pontypridd in 2010, is on record as being pro-choice aka privatisation in the health sector.

Having worked at the heart of America’s corporate world, he is acceptable to right-wing Labour and Conservatives.

As head of government affairs for Pfizer, which involved lobbying and public relations for the US drug company:

  • He chose to work with Pfizer, which reached a $2.3 billion settlement with the US government in 2009 for fraudulent marketing and kickbacks paid to doctors who prescribed Lyrica and other Pfizer products and $400 million to settle a shareholder lawsuit over this case.
  • He endorsed a Pfizer-backed report offering patients a choice between NHS services and private-sector healthcare providers.
  • He helped the drugs company to strike an exclusive distribution agreement with UniChem, the wholesaling arm of Alliance-Boots; the OFT’s chief executive warned that such agreements “could cost the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds while reducing standards of service”.

Mr Smith then decided to move on to work as head of corporate affairs at the biotech company Amgen until 2015, a company recovering ground after its anti-anemia blockbusters, Aranesp and Epogen, had been hampered by losses due to concerns about side effects, regulatory issues and insurance trouble

There is a real danger – as Monbiot points out – that people with such histories are only concerned with promoting the millionaires’ agenda, by urging that the social contract which makes this country more or less habitable be ripped apart.

99%-3

 

There is an honest and public-spirited alternative – “Remind you of anyone?”.

 

National Health Action Party executive condemns influence of corporate sector and recommends vote to REMAIN

The executive of the National Health Action Party – formed by health professionals deeply concerned about the state of the NHS – decided that they would not actively campaign in the debate when the referendum was first announced.

The party policy on democracy in both the UK and the EU has not been fundamentally affected by the referendum and it remains the case that they want to see substantial reform of our democratic processes.

However, at all levels, local, national and supra-national, the democratic process is being subverted by the undue influence of the corporate sector.

This enables industrial scale tax avoidance, legislation which is skewed in the interests of those with most financial influence and our elected representatives vote on issues from which they benefit personally or politically. The message continues:

“As the current investigations into Tory electoral expenses shows it is clear we are in danger of allowing those with the most money to buy elections. We have, in effect, a two party system. This makes it very easy for corporate influence to be maintained as it will always be one or the other in government (with the exception of the occasional Coalition).  In the EU the corporate sector meets the negotiators from the Commission to discuss agreements such as CETA and TTIP behind closed doors with very little access given to representatives from campaign groups. These exceed the remit of ordinary trade agreements. Not only do they cover the traditional ground of tariffs (import and export duty) and quotas but also contain substantial deregulatory conditions. As even Peter Lilley, Conservative MP, has noted, this is not the proper business of a trade agreement. These are areas which national governments legislate for.

“In short, at both national and supra-national level, we have neo-liberal government and we have had for the last 30 years at least. In the current context what we are seeing is a lot of jockeying for position from the right wing over the leadership of the Tory Party and the political opportunism of UKIP, but neither side talks about the political reality of the situation. It is not in the interest of neo-liberals to discuss the faults in their own ideology. So the real issues around the EU are never aired, despite the fact that it is the only debate we should be having. Indeed if the EU and our relationship with it had ever genuinely been on the agenda surely the negotiation of the Lisbon Treaty, in 2009, would have been the appropriate time, not now.

“The NHS and how-much-or-how-little is or will be spent on it has been the subject of much speculation. But this is a simplistic notion. The NHA is well aware that the de-funding of the NHS, whilst improving the private sector access to contracts and to the running of the commissioning system itself, is a political choice not an economic one. ‘Austerity’ economics is an ideological commitment to shrinking the state, not a genuine lack of money in this, the fifth richest country in the world. Our services are under threat in or out of the EU. The decision we have to make is about how we can best counter that threat. CETA, TTIP and TISA create additional pressure for the further privatisation of our public services and adds a ‘locking down’ element which will make it very difficult for any future progressive UK government to restore them to public ownership and delivery. But this is where the debate hinges for NHA.

“Across Europe there is mounting opposition to these agreements. Not only campaign groups but governments have begun to question them. Here in the UK, however, it is very possible that in the event of an exit vote on Thursday the UK government would start its own negotiations, unimpeded by the progressive voices joining ours across Europe. In these circumstances it appears that the best counter weight we can have to international corporate power is international cooperation.

“There is another counter-democratic strand that runs through this debate. It says, ‘this is your one and only chance to vote’. No, it isn’t. The whole point of democracy is that you don’t just get one shot at something. We debate – and vote – on that basis.

We should be under no illusions about the task to counter the There Is No Alternative mantra of the neo-liberals. If the vote on Thursday is to remain, Cameron’s government will no doubt insist that their ‘mandate’ to destroy the welfare state and continue austerity has been renewed.

“If the vote is to leave we face truly dangerous times as Farage will claim it validates him and his odious politics. But progressives should be clear. If we tear each other apart after Thursday in an avalanche of blame and recrimination then we will not be equipped for the fight to come.

“If it is ‘remain’ we must prepare to stand the best candidates we can for the European elections in 2019. If it is ‘leave’ we must prepare for a possible early general election. It is in this context that the NHA executive recommends to the party that they vote to remain in the EU in the referendum this Thursday. The NHA Executive Committee.”

 

 

‘Corbyn accused of sabotaging Remain case’

But is the author a secret admirer? Below his fiery headline (above) Jim Pickard, Chief Political Correspondent of the FT merely reports Corbyn’s eminently sensible remarks.

First, he put on the record that Mr Corbyn (correctly) said there had been too many “prophesies of doom” surrounding the imminent vote:

“Just over a week ago, George Osborne claimed that the British economy would enter a year-long recession if we voted to leave. This is the same George Osborne who predicted his austerity policies would close the deficit by 2015. That is now scheduled for 2021.”

He then pointed out that Mr Osborne, the chancellor, had also wrongly predicted a “march of the makers” only to oversee a stagnation of the manufacturing sector. 

Pickard continues: “Mr Corbyn’s speech in support of the bloc was laced with criticism of its shortfalls and an attack on the proposed US-EU trade deal known as TTIP. ‘None of us are satisfied with the EU as it is,’ he said”.

Correct.

Finally Pickard notes that Mr Corbyn said Labour was supporting Remain but would not offer “unconditional support for everything the European Union does and that, in contrast to the Tories, he would put the case for a “social Europe” with its protections for employees and the environment. Labour would have a “distinct agenda” about air quality, the rights of part-time workers and protections against unscrupulous employers.

What’s not to like?

Read the speech entitled The EU referendum is era-defining moment for workers’ rights given by Jeremy Corbyn at the Institute of Engineering Technology in London on 2nd June

 

 

 

Yet again the revolving door spins – at European level this time

A reader from Tokyo sends a link to this TTIP news

 ttip_revolving_doors

It records the remarkable extent to which the revolving door between the public and private sectors – featured on a number of blogs on this site – is helping to grease the wheels of the TTIP corporate lobby.

Some of the EU’s most senior decision-makers and officials, alongside those from the member state levels, spin through the revolving door into corporate advisor roles; others go in the other direction, from corporate jobs into the public sector.

These revolving door cases cover some of the biggest EU corporate lobby sectors, including telecoms and IT issues; food and agriculture; finance; investor-state dispute settlement; pharmaceuticals; regulatory cooperation; and others. This presents great potential for conflicts of interest.

Read the details of so many civil servants in relevant departments moving to multinationals and lobbying their former colleagues here.

Media 42: Why didn’t the Richmond and Twickenham Times publish this letter?

ttip header

Jim McCluskey, informed by his experience in the world of civil engineering, writes:

“In my previous letter I warned that the secret negotiations for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will transfer power from government to multinational corporations. TTIP aims to remove regulations which limit the potential profits of transnational corporations. It gives corporations the power to sue governments if the corporation alleges protective legislation threatens their profits”.

He quotes a view, held by many commentators, that ‘TTIP elevates transnational capital to a legal status equivalent to that of the nation state’:

Disputes between government and corporations will be dealt with in secret in front of a tribunal composed of a small clique of lawyers. The system is called ‘Investor State Dispute Settlement’ (ISDS). Corporations are already suing governments under investor-state regulations- over 500 known cases have now been filed against at least 95 countries:

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“Regulations which could be under threat include those which protect labour rights, food safety, genetically modified organisms in plants and animals, regulations regarding toxic chemicals, banking safeguards and digital privacy”.

Jim McCluskey hopes that readers will consider asking their MP why our government is secretly negotiating to pass massive powers to corporations.

Will ‘determined opposition from GM agribusiness interests’ over-rule the decisions of governments like Scotland, Wales and Germany?

alison mannAlison Mann in the Scottish Farmer writes about the new Directive on Genetically Modified Organisms approved in the European Parliament this week which will allow member states to block – or accept – cultivation of GM crops on their own territory.

She reports that legal services in the European Parliament and Council are raising concerns over whether member states could implement bans without facing determined opposition from agribusiness interests.

Read more on Chemical Concern site.

Further cause to suspect that the TTIP negotiations favour larger corporate food interests

ttip sausageGerman newspapers are reporting that the Nürnberger Rostbratwurst, a small grilled sausage from Nuremburg in Bavaria, is becoming the latest symbol of German resistance to the transatlantic trade deal being negotiated between the EU and the US. Production of the finger-sized sausage, subject to strict local regulation, has maintained high quality standards since the 14th century. Read more here.

Concern was provoked by a remark made by Christian Schmidt, Germany’s agriculture minister, an interview with Der Spiegel:

“If we want to seize the opportunities of free trade with the enormous American market then we can’t carry on protecting every sausage and cheese speciality.”

Anne Vollmer, spokeswoman for the BVE, a lobby group for the German food and drink industry, said: “Regional specialities must remain regional specialities. We don’t want Nürnberger Rostbratwurst from Kentucky, and Tennessee whiskey from Baden Baden. The seal stands for a designated quality and a designated expertise.”

Other protected products are Kölsch, Bavarian pretzels, Hessian cider, Swabian ravioli, Allgaeu Emmenthal and Limburger cheese.

Will the protection of regional food brands be sacrificed to globalisation?

Schmidt’s comments increase suspicions that the TTIP negotiations favour larger corporate interests over consumer protection and Mittelstand or smaller food producers.

Daniel Rosario, spokesman for the EU, commented: “On the EU side, we have made clear to our American counterparts that geographical indications are one of our main priorities and we have not agreed and will not agree to reduce the protection of our geographical indications in Europe”