Who will effectively win the 2015 general election:
- The Tories?
Actually 15 people. You may not know their names:
- Brigitte Stern (France)
- Charles Brower (US)
- Francisco Orrego Vicuña (Chile)
- Marc Lalonde (Canada)
- L. Yves Fortier (Canada)
- Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler (Switzerland)
- Albert Jan van den Berg (Netherlands)
- Karl-Heinz Böckstiegel (Germany)
- Bernard Hanotiau (Belgium)
- Jan Paulsson (France)
- Stephen M. Schwebel (US)
- Henri Alvarez (Canada)
- Emmanuel Gaillard (France)
- William W. Park (US)
- Daniel Price (US)
None of them British!
Who are they and why will they control us? I will give you a clue – TTIP.
For a long time I have wondered whether the House of Commons serves any useful function. Certainly senior civil servants have dubbed it the ‘monkey house’. Both government and opposition front benches are more answerable to corporate interests than the people who elected them, and the vast majority of MPs follow their instructions like sheep. This distressing trend will shortly be accelerated by a US – EU treaty due to be concluded at the end of 2014. This is known in Europe as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
In common with many other international trade agreements are concerned with eliminating not just tariff barriers but also sensible national regulations which other countries party to the agreement have failed to pass. However the most worrying feature of recent trade agreements which is likely to be incorporated in TTIP is the ‘state – investor’ dispute resolution mechanism, whereby corporations can sue any government which passes regulations which limits their profits. This is not just theory as citizens of Canada and Australia know to their cost. Claims for compensation can run into billions. Many many proposals for much needed regulation have been dropped after threats from corporate lawyers.
Under this mechanism these disputes are not heard by courts in the defendant nations (which according to the European Commission are hopelessly biased) but instead by a very small cabal of arbitrators who are corporate lawyers (operating in secret) who will have worked for the corporations concerned (and therefore clearly not biassed!). These lawyers trump our supreme court.
You don’t believe me? Read George Monbiot’s article at http://www.monbiot.com/2013/11/04/a-global-ban-on-left-wing-politics/ , also published in the Guardian on 5 November under the title ‘This US Trade deal is a full frontal assault on Democracy’. He quotes a number of references all of which I have read, and which support his conclusions.
So what will the consequences for the UK if this deal goes through? Monbiot concludes,
“Investor-state rules could be used to smash any attempt to save the NHS from corporate control, to re-regulate the banks, to curb the greed of the energy companies, to renationalise the railways, to leave fossil fuels in the ground. These rules shut down democratic alternatives. They outlaw left-wing politics…” Not just left wing politics surely. Is it left wing to want to defend your local community? Is it left wing to want to encourage local businesses? Is it left wing to expect your bank to be trustworthy? The treaty would threaten all these things. Monbiot goes on to say,
“This is why there has been no attempt by our government to inform us about this monstrous assault on democracy, let alone consult us. This is why the Conservatives who huff and puff about sovereignty are silent. Wake up people, we’re being shafted.”
This government claims that fracking in the UK will be much better regulated than in the US. If this is the case at present, the regulations will need to be rescinded when TTIP comes in.
I will be asking South Dorset MP, Richard Drax whether he will ask the Prime Minister to make a statement on TTIP before Christmas, and in particular what is his position on state – investor dispute resolution?
Thank you so much hacked off, for your part in allowing clauses 34 – 42 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 to be enacted. Regardless of the exact provisions of the Royal Charter when it emerges, I as a bloated plutocrat will be able to suppress any criticism of myself however justified it might be. If I do not like something that has been published about me I can sue for libel and even if the case is thrown out I can recover both my costs and those of the defendant. By making my costs sufficiently high I can bankrupt anyone or any organisation within reason that dares to challenge my outrageous behaviour. Congratulations on your contribution to the destruction of democracy.
At the 2011 and 2012 AGMs of the Electoral Reform Society members passed resolutions making it very clear that campaigning to STV for local elections in England and Wales was a priority. One of these was a special resolution which should have been binding on council. This read,”
This meeting directs Council under article 8.1 as follows:
1. To make the attainment of STV for local government elections in England and Wales the Society’s top priority as from today, at least until 2015,
2. To conduct a sustained long-term campaign to make this a live popular issue, to generate the support needed when a major vote on a change is promoted later.
3. Within three months to have made STV for local government in England and Wales the most prominent item on the Society’s main website and its Welsh website and to make it clear on those sites that it is the Society’s top priority,
4. Within six months to have drawn up and circulated to members of the Society, a credible plan for the Society to co-operate with relevant local groups in this campaign, and
5. To publicise on the Society’s website events and initiatives organised by relevant local groups consistent with this plan.”
I will leave it to others to make their own judgement as to how far Council has complied with this. I have to say I am very disappointed.
Following the 2015 generation election the Liberal Democrats may have the opportunity to insist on a referendum on STV for local elections in England and Wales and they may use that opportunity. If there were such a referendum I have no doubt the society would put its weight behind the campaign, but at present it is woefully unprepared to fight such a campaign.
In the first place does anyone at Chancel Street know how STV works? Could they speak convincingly in its favour?
Secondly it would be unwise to assume it had the wholehearted support of local groups. During the AV campaign these felt they were patronised by the centre. Relationships have to be rebuilt.
Thirdly local groups have to be better educated about STV.
Fourthly one of the campaign tools neglected, indeed positively discouraged, by the central Yes to AV campaign was mock (a.k.a. demonstration) elections, but those local groups who did try it during the AV campaign received a very positive reaction locally. There is nothing to stop local groups using this approach with STV but the counting process is more involved. I very much doubt if many local groups have someone with the ability and confidence to conduct a hand count in public or in the limited time available at a public meeting. Either they have to be trained or, more realistically in my view, have access to a suitable computer program. ERS used to offer eSTV for that purpose, but do so no longer. I think there was some kind of copyright issue. You might have thought that they should think about acquiring an alternative, but when I suggested this I had a very dismissive response. In fact there is an alternative called Open STV http://www.openstv.org/. It has been developed in the USA by one guy working in his spare time. It has had a good write up in ‘Voting Matters’ (published by the McDougall Trust). A licence for an organisation employing 0 to 3 paid staff is just 5 USD p.a., and so that’s all it would cost a local group. There is also an associated online vote capture program called Opavote which is free. Surely ERS should publicise this. Further than that I believe they should negotiate with the developer to secure its future should he decide not to continue.
Finally we need to take the long view on STV; the Lib Dems may not deliver a referendum in 2015, and so we must not rely on this but must do something to further the cause. One of the society’s prime objects, which tends to get forgotten is to secure the adoption of STV for electing officers and governing bodies ‘corporate or unincorporate’. We know that around 200 such organisations have adopted STV, see for example, http://stvaction.org.uk/STVorgs, and the number might have increased. We should be lobbying others to consider doing so. As well as improving the governance of such bodies it will increase the number of people using STV. Students unions that have not yet adopted it should surely be encouraged to do so. If there is anyone doing this job at present I believe it is OpenSTV!
Will ERS do these things? Is it any longer capable of doing them? I have to admit I am pessimistic. All the above could be done by a small group of volunteers working remotely through a website. Will anyone interested please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brilliant article by Prof, Doreen Massey at, http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/doreen-massey/ills-of-financial-dominance.
Balcombe resident Charles Metcalf has been responding to UKIP MEP’s claim that Balcombe protestors are just ‘rentamob’. facebook is allegedly been trying to censor this video. So here is the link to Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSP7MpgRgYk&feature=youtu.be.
Those who believe that the Electoral Reform Society should pursue wider objectives than the Single Transferable Vote (STV) have totally failed to recognize the situation we are in. None of the three main parties in parliament is really interested in the plight of the 99%, let alone the threats posed by climate change, over population, and sundry other threats to civilization. Instead they are beholden to the 1% who are their paymasters, control most of the media (hence controlling most people’s perception of reality), and by their lobbying control politicians’ perception of reality. The very existence of party discipline helps the 1% to retain control.
In this situation party proportionality on its own is increasingly irrelevant. Voter choice, by allowing us to elect MPs who are beholden to us rather than the party machine, is an essential element of a democratic voting system. Without it we are surrendering to the 1% and dramatically increasing inequality. Only STV delivers this.