Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Salmond has "no plan B"? The Westminster establishment are having a laugh


One of the most pervasive propaganda narratives utilised by the Westminster establishment and their allies in the mainstream corporate media in their campaign to keep Scotland under Westminster control is the oft repeated "No Plan B" accusation made against the SNP leader Alex Salmond.

The "No Plan B"  accusations came about because Alex Salmond refused to give in to the economically risky hardball tactics used by the Westminster establishment. Salmond insists that his plan for Scotland is that they will continue using the Pound as currency, whilst George Osborne has insisted that that an independent Scotland will lose the Pound, reinforced through constant reiteration of statements like "No ifs, no buts, we will not share the pound if Scotland separates from the UK".

   This hardline stance from Westminster is extraordinarily risky because it creates a lot of economic uncertainty. In fact it actually actually relies on the fear of economic uncertainty frightening people away from voting for Scottish independence. Economic uncertainty is extremely bad because it damages market confidence, causes risk aversion and capital flight, and is an important causal factor in the development of economic crises.

The best course of action from an economic perspective would have been for both sides to agree a fixed-term currency union in order to maintain economic stability during the process of constitutional separation, should Scotland vote for self-determination. The Westminster establishment simply couldn't agree to this kind of pragmatic solution because they felt that they needed to frighten the Scottish people with economic uncertainty in order to win the debate. In my view this decision to put a political propaganda narrative above the stability of the economies on either side of the border just goes to show how terribly unfit to rule the Westminster establishment really are.

Another huge hole in the 
"No Plan B" propaganda narrative is that Alistair Darling (the leader of the Better Together campaign) has publicly admitted the truth, that there is absolutely nothing the Westminster establishment can do to stop an independent Scotland from using the pound. 

As far as I'm concerned Alex Salmond's plan to have a long-term currency union between Scotland and the UK is not a good one. You only have to look at the disastrous economic consequences of the Argentine Peso-US Dollar currency peg, or the Eurozone crisis, to get an idea of why currency unions are risky.However, since Alex Salmond is the democratically elected head of Scotland and I'm not, he's the one making the plans (until 2016 that is).

If Scotland does achieve independence, and the Westminster establishment continue to play their incredibly risky game of hardball, Salmond has a number of other options to pursue, plans B through to F if you like (I prefer option E or F by the way).

  • Plan A: Currency union with the UK
  • Plan B: No currency union, but use the Pound anyway
  • Plan C: Use the Euro
  • Plan D: Launch a Scottish currency pegged to the value of the Pound or the Euro
  • Plan E: Launch a free floating Scottish currency
  • Plan F: Launch an innovative new kind of currency (a Scottish cryptocoin perhaps)
Now that we've established that there are many options open to Alex Salmond, or whoever might succeed him as leader of an independent Scotland, we'll look at the factor that makes the "No Plan B" propaganda narrative of the Westminster establishment so incredibly hypocritical.

In the week before the Scottish referendum David Cameron's official spokesperson admitted that the government has made no contingency plans at all should the people of Scotland vote for self-determination, and excused this extraordinary admission of complacency with the claim that "The government’s entire focus is on making the case for the UK staying together".

The Westminster establishment have publicly stated that they have
 "No Plan B"  should the people of Scotland defy them and vote for self-determination. The only thing they're prepared to publicly commit to in regards to an independent Scotland is their plan to deny Scotland use of the Pound, no matter what the economic consequences either side of the border!

Of course there is the possibility that they have drawn up secret contingency plans, but that they're lying to the public about it. However to chastise a political opponent for having 
"No Plan B"  whilst publicly stating that they themselves have "No Plan B"  is a ludicrously hypocritical stance.

I suppose the only way that we get to find out whether David Cameron's official spokesperson was blatantly lying, or if the Westminster establishment really are that breathtakingly complacent that they actually haven't drawn up any contingency plans at all, is for the Scottish people to vote Yes.


 Another Angry Voice  is a not-for-profit page which generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from corporate or political interests. The only sources of income for  Another Angry Voice  are small donations from people who see some value in my work. If you appreciate my efforts and you could afford to make a donation, it would be massively appreciated.


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MORE ARTICLES FROM
 ANOTHER ANGRY VOICE 
         
Scottish independence and uncertainty
           
Scottish independence: We don't need your pity
                     
A letter to Scottish voters
       

Why the Unionist campaign is falling apart
                             
The "unpatriotic left" fallacy 
                                         
How Labour dropped the ball on Scottish independence
                          
Scottish independence: Hope against Fear
                
Asset stripping "bankrupt" Britain with Gideon & Dave
                      
The Tory ideological mission
                                
Margaret Thatcher's toxic neoliberal legacies
  



Monday, September 15, 2014

Scottish independence, a tale of hope against fear


In just a few days the people of Scotland will go to the polls to decide the future of their nation.

I'm not Scottish, I'm a Yorkshireman, and I don't live in Scotland. However I have written extensively about the Scottish independence referendum because I passionately believe that Scotland could be a better country if they had a smaller, more democratic and more accountable government, instead of being ruled over by the corrupt, self-serving and unaccountable Westminster establishment down in London.


A message of hope

The Yes campaign has attracted support from all kinds of people, from all different walks of life, and all different political persuasions. In my view the one thing that unifies them all is the idea that an independent Scotland has the potential to do things better. It's the hope of a working to create a better Scotland.

This hope for a better Scotland isn't just an idle optimistic fantasy because there is already plenty of evidence that a better Scotland can be achieved through the localisation of political power. Thanks to the existence of the Scottish parliament, access to university education in Scotland hasn't been commodified and financialised as it has been in the rest of the UK. Scottish students from poor and ordinary backgrounds aren't forced to assume huge debts, which are then repayed through a 9% aspiration tax on their disposable income, that for millions will not be payed off, even through an entire lifetime of work.

Thanks to the devolution of power over the NHS and the education system, Scotland has remained immune to the waves of Tory ideological privatisations that have seen £1.5 billion in NHS contracts handed out to Tory party donors, and over 3,000 English schools simply given away to unaccountable private sector interests.

The success of an independent Scotland is by no means guaranteed. If the Yes campaign wins the vote, the people of Scotland can't just sit back and relax at a job well done, It is absolutely vital that the amazing spirit of political engagement that has been awoken by the independence debate is kept alive.

In order for an independent Scotland to "do things better" the ordinary people of Scotland will have to engage in the process of constitutional renewal, work hard to hold their politicians to account, and work together to make sure that the issues that are important to them stay at the forefront of the political agenda.

A Yes vote isn't the objective in itself. The real objective is for the people of Scotland to give themselves the opportunity to hold the Scottish government to account, in a way that has been simply impossible to do through the corrupt and antiquated political system that has allowed the Westminster establishment to ruthlessly enforce their agenda of austerity and privatisation against the will of the vast majority of the population.

A message of fear

The No campaign has promoted a very different message, a message based around the basic animal instinct of fear. The Westminster establishment and their allies in the mainstream media have bombarded the public with one scare story after another.

The No campaign has constantly fearmongered about how Scottish oil is going to dry up, even though the experts are divided on how many billions of barrels remain untapped, and how many hundreds of billions of pounds that will be worth to the Scottish economy. The only consensus between the experts in the oil industry over how much oil remains seems to be that the figures publicised by George Osborne's Office for Budget Responsibility are extraordinary under-estimates.

The No campaign has fearmongered about Scotland not being able to defend itself. Who could forget the former Secretary of State for Scotland George Robertson (who now occupies a seat in the anti-democratic House of Lords) demeaning his own country by referring to it as "a minor entity in the north of Britain" as he tried to fearmonger about the threat of Islamist extremism to an independent Scotland. In my view the threat of Islamist extremism in Scotland would be severely diminished if future governments of the nation avoid participation in the invasion and occupation of predominantly Muslim countries.

The No campaign has fearmongered about the major banks relocating their headquarters to London, presumably because they assume that the Scottish public are such a bunch of feckless halfwits that they'll have completely forgotten that it was the banks that created the economic crisis in the first place with their massive fraud schemes and their incredible binge of reckless unregulated gambling. 
Even if some of the banks do relocate their headquarters, they can't just take all of their jobs and tax revenues with them. Taxes on financial services provided in an independent Scotland would go to the Scottish government*, no matter where the official headquarters of the bank that provides them. 

RBS, which is 82% owned by the taxpayer, threatening to leave an independent Scotland in order to try to influence the outcome of the referendum just goes to show the desperation of the Westminster establishment. What on earth is a publicly owned bank doing trying to interfere with a public vote? 

Even though the No campaign has been losing ground in the debate as the referendum has drawn nearer, they have stubbornly refused to change tack. And in the final week, ludicrous stories were circulated about how the supermarkets would impose massive price rises in an independent Scotland. Fortunately there was someone with the good sense to actually write to the supermarkets and ask them. The response from all four of the supermarket giants was the same; that they have no plans at all to raise prices in an independent Scotland.

It beggars belief that the leaders of Better Together can't see that their fearmongering has been driving undecided people into the arms of the Yes camp, and with just days to go before the vote they still haven't tried to present anything resembling a coherent positive case for continued union. All they seem capable of doing is pressurising their corporate buddies into talking down the prospects for an Independent Scotland in order to constantly snipe that "Scotland just won't be able to hack it on it's own". If I was a Unionist (which I'm not) I'd be utterly dismayed with the risible Better Together campaign and the hopelessly complacent debating strategies they've used.

Perhaps the biggest fearmongering campaign of all is the insistence by the Westminster establishment that Scotland will not be able to use the Pound, which is of course, as Alistair Darling himself admits, an impossible threat. Scotland can use the Pound because it is a freely tradeable currency. The only thing that the Westminster establishment can do in reality is to rule out a formal currency union between Scotland and the remainder of the UK.

In my view a long-term currency union wouldn't be in the interests of an independent Scotland anyway (look at the Argentina-US pegged currency union and the Eurozone), however a temporary fixed-term currency union in order to ensure economic stability during the process of constitutional separation would have been by far the most pragmatic option from an economic perspective, because economic uncertainty leads to economic instability (risk aversion, market panics and the development of economic crises).

Such a short term currency agreement would have mitigated some of the worst effects of economic uncertainly on either side of the border during the constitutional separation, however such a pragmatic stance was never going to be adopted by the Westminster establishment because uncertainty over the future currency of Scotland is one of the pillars of their anti-independence propaganda campaign. The fact that the Westminster establishment would put a political propaganda narrative above the stability of the economies on either side of the border just goes to show how terribly unfit to rule they really are.

Conclusion

I know it's not possible to imagine that all pro-Independence people are hopeful optimists, nor to tar all anti-independence people as cynical and fearful pessimists, because that would be the kind of naive absolutist thinking I so often argue against in my work. However, in my view it is fair to describe that the propaganda strategies employed by the two campaigns as a battle between hope and fear.

The spirit of hope must be stronger than fear, because what optimism can we have for the future if, even after the amazing political reawakening of Scotland, the majority still choose fear over hope? What optimism can we possibly have for the future if the positive, complex and very human spirit of hope can be defeated by the negative, simplistic and animalistic sensation of fear?

I'm hoping that later this week I'll be able to celebrate the rebirth of the Scottish nation, and drink heartily to the future of Scotland, rather than having to lament that the people of Scotland passed up the greatest opportunity of their lifetimes to effect real political change because they allowed the animal instinct of fear to overpower the human spirit of hope.


 Another Angry Voice  is a not-for-profit page which generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from corporate or political interests. The only sources of income for  Another Angry Voice  are small donations from people who see some value in my work. If you appreciate my efforts and you could afford to make a donation, it would be massively appreciated.


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* As long as the Scottish people are prepared to pressurise the Scottish government into clamping down on tax-dodging.




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BBC bias and the Tommy Sheridan interview


I know that it isn't possible to extrapolate from a single interview the overall level of institutional bias in a broadcaster, so I'm making it clear that's not what I'm trying to do in this article. The fact is that studies have already shown strong levels of bias against Scottish independence in BBC coverage, so this article isn't intended to prove that the BBC is biased, it is to analyse how this bias presents itself.

The interview in question, from the Sunday Politics Show, was conducted by Andrew Neil (a former Tory party activist and editor of Rupert Murdoch's Sunday Times) and featured the Scottish socialist politician and Yes campaigner Tommy Sheridan. I'm no big fan of either man, but I see that they are proficient at what they do. Tommy Sheridan is undoubtedly a talented public speaker, and Andrew Neil does a more-or-less professional job of asking the questions he's supposed to. 




Even though I agree with Tommy Sheridan on Scottish independence, I'm always happy to see him asked questions about the subject, because he's great at articulating his vision for a better Scotland. I don't necessarily agree with him on all of it, and I find he occasionally fails to answer the question properly (find me a politician who doesn't when recording an interview), but he speaks with passion and backs up a lot of what he says with evidence.

So the problem with the interview wasn't the fact that Tommy Sheridan was asked questions, but the way the questions were asked.

The interview started out with the classic Unionist tactic of trying to conflate Scottish independence with the SNP. Sheridan eloquently rebuffed this stance, pointing out that the SNP are actually the elected government of Scotland, and will remain so until 2016 - no matter which way the referendum goes. Then he went on to explain that the Yes campaign is about the whole future of Scotland, not just the success or failure of the SNP.

One of the tactics used by Andrew Neil was to use a Trotsky quote to try to undermine the case for independence, but it came across more as a tactic to smear Tommy Sheridan as a "Trotskyite" than anything resembling a good faith attempt to learn anything about the socialist case for independence.

Neil refers to what he calls "Trotsky's famous dictum" that "socialism in one country is impossible" but the question betrays Neil's lack of even a rudimentary understanding of what Trotsky's work on perpetual revolution actually meant. There's no way that Trotsky ever intended the phrase to mean that socialism should never be attempted! That would be ludicrous. Socialism develops at different degrees in different countries, that's what Trotsky's work was about! There's a huge difference between taking the statement to mean that socialism cannot exist in a vacuum (that international solidarity is fundamental to the success of socialism) and trying to spin it to mean that socialism should never even be tried at the national or regional level.

The question was hopeless in it's own right because it relied on a misappropriated out of context quote, but from the BBC perspective it served the purpose of associating the Scottish independence movement with an extreme left word ("Trotskyite") that very few people understand the meaning of. A word which is far more often used as a crude insult-word to throw at "leftie types", than one with an actual meaning to be deployed in serious political debate over the merits of different branches of communist ideology.

Tommy Sheridan raised the subject of BBC bias several times during the interview, although he was too much of a gentleman to make it a personal accusation against his interviewer. One of his complaints was that a report predicting a Scottish oil and gas boom had had no BBC coverage at all since its publication.

The lack of coverage of this positive oil report contrasts sharply with the blanket uncritical publicity afforded to the scaremongering comments of Ian Wood the week before. Wood's comments were framed by the BBC and the rest of the mainstream media to make it seem that the SNP were overestimating the remaining Scottish oil reserves by some 50%, even though Wood's comments also implied that the projections from George Osborne's Office for Budget Responsibility had massively underestimated remaining Scottish oil and gas (by a much bigger margin than the SNP were supposedly over-estimating).

In their desperation to bash the SNP and fearmonger about the Scottish oil industry, the BBC and the rest of the mainstream media failed to even note the massive discrepancy between Ian Wood's projections and those of the Westminster establishment.

It was soon pointed out that the widely cited Ian Wood estimates of 15-16.5 billion barrels contradicted the findings of his own Woods Review on Maximising Oil Production report from February 2014, which cited the 24 billion figure used by the SNP numerous times. One can wonder why a man would want to abandon the conclusions of his own report, just six months after it was published, in order to feed different, much more specific (but apparently unsubstantiated) figures to the anti-independence campaign. What one doesn't need to wonder at, is the reason why the BBC and the rest of the mainstream media reported Wood's comments so uncritically, without subjecting his contradictory claims to any kind of scrutiny. They didn't scrutinise his claims because it was convenient to their narrative that "Scottish independence is a huge risk".

The contrast between the BBC reaction to the two different oil stories is telling. They reported one without even conducting the most rudimentary scrutiny, and they failed to even mention the other. One fit the news narrative perfectly so it was afforded uncritical blanket coverage, the other was completely ignored because it contradicted the news narrative.

The worst question of all in the interview was one of the last, and it was a complete stinker. The question relied on the assertion that "one of your 'comrades' on the yes side is Brian Souter ... another of your 'allies' would seem to be Rupert Murdoch".

If the debate is to be reduced to picking "bad people" who happen to agree with your stance on Scottish independence, then the tactic can easily be reversed by pointing out that extreme-right groups like Britain First vehemently oppose Scottish independence.

It's blatantly obvious that you can be pro-independence and have nothing to do with Brian Souter, just as you can be anti-independence and consider Britain First to be the abhorrent bunch of extremists that they are.

Smearing a left-wing supporter of independence by association with Brian Souter, is just as bad as smearing a left-wing Unionist by association with extreme-right unionist supporters like UKIP and Britain First. It's such an appalling debating tactic that it's an insult to children to describe it as "playground politics".

Only a complete idiot would be convinced by such a weak "tarnish by association" argument, and that's before we even get to the point that Murdoch has only just begun to allow a few pro-independence bits and pieces in his publications, because he famously hates to be seen to have backed a loser. 
If anyone should be expected to know all about Murdoch's hatred of appearing to back a loser, it should be Andrew Neil himself, who worked for Murdoch as the editor of the Times between 1983 and 1994. If Murdoch was really a strong supporter of Scottish independence, we might have expected his vast media empire to have taken up the cause at some point before the last few days of the campaign. 

In my view unionists should be extremely disappointed with this ridiculous "tarnish by association" line of questioning because the BBC has had years to come up with better questions than that. If that's really the final "big gun" question in an interview just days before the referendum, then the anti-independence BBC are clutching at straws.

The bias in BBC coverage of the Scottish independence debate has been plain for all to see, but the problem from the unionist perspective must be that bias alone is clearly not enough to win the debate. If even at this very, very late stage in the game the questions asked of leading Yes campaigners consist of the same old myths (Scottish independence = SNP), the same old Unionist fearmongering about the oil industry, and some ridiculous efforts to smear Yes campaigners by association with "bad people" (the interviewer's former boss!), it strongly suggests that despite their obvious bias, the anti-independence BBC don't have a single well formulated argument against independence at all!



 Another Angry Voice  is a not-for-profit page which generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from corporate or political interests. The only sources of income for  Another Angry Voice  are small donations from people who see some value in my work. If you appreciate my efforts and you could afford to make a donation, it would be massively appreciated.


Flattr this




MORE ARTICLES FROM
 ANOTHER ANGRY VOICE 
         
Scottish independence and the complacency of the Westminster establishment
           
Scottish Independence: We don't need your pity
                     
A letter to Scottish voters
       

How Labour dropped the ball on Scottish independence
                             
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Sunday, September 14, 2014

TTIP and the EU's contempt for democracy



Probably the most dangerous thing about Nigel Farage and UKIP is that they are essentially right about one thing, that the EU is an anti-democratic organisation. The fact that they are right about the anti-democratic nature of the EU allows them to hide a load of extreme-right "Thatcherism on steroids" policies behind their stated opposition to the EU. It is worth noting that UKIP certainly don't oppose the £millions in EU salaries and expenses they claim, despite having the worst attendance and voting record of any party in the entire EU. So even if you're not disinclined to mistrust their extreme-right policies or their rogue's gallery of ex-Tory party donors and failed Tory politicians, their complete hypocrisy in riding the EU gravy train should be enough to make you mistrust them.

There have been countless demonstrations that UKIP are right, and that the EU has no respect for democracy, especially their absurd decision to make Ireland go back and hold their referendum on the Lisbon Treaty again, until they got the right result.

The latest display of outright contempt for democracy by the EU is their decision to block a Citizen's Initiative against the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) because they do not want to allow the citizens of Europe any kind of avenue to prevent this massive corporate power grab from going ahead.



What is TTIP?

I'm not going to go into a huge amount of detail about why the TTIP is so bad because there's far more criticism than could possibly be covered in a single blog post.

Some of the worst things about this proposed TTIP deal between the EU and the US include:
  • Lowering of standards:  If TTIP is signed, it will mean that legislation will be harmonised by lowering standards. Where Europe may have higher environmental standards, they will be lowered to weaker US standards. Where the US may have higher food safety standards, they will be lowered to weaker European levels. Standards won't be harmonised by bringing them up to the higher level, they will be harmonised by bringing them down to the lowest common denominator.
  • Job losses:  TTIP could end up costing tens of thousands of jobs, just like countless other so-called free-trade deals before it. If the impact is anything like the impact of the NAFTA free-trade deal, it could even cost hundreds of thousands of jobs over the course of decades. Before these deals are signed, positive projections of the economic benefits are touted about by supporters of the deal, but in retrospect, the projections have often been proven to be wildly over-optimistic, and the economic downsides much worse than predicted (if they were even mentioned by supporters of the deal at all).
  • Undermining democracy and the rule of law: One of the most controversial parts of TTIP is the inclusion of Investor State Dispute Settlements (ISDS). These ISDS provisions are designed to make corporate activities immune to democracy and the rule of law by introducing a new level of secretive tribunal where corporations can completely bypass the legal system in order to sue governments for daring to introduce new laws that may affect their profit margins. Thus the profits of corporations become elevated above the democratic process, and above the rule of law.
  • Secretive and non-transparent negotiations: Even before the EU decided to block the Citizens Initiative against TTIP, negotiations were being carried out in a highly secretive and non-transparent manner. Despite claims from the EU that TTIP is being negotiated in a transparent manner, the chief EU negotiator on the deal has already stated in a letter to his US counterpart that public access to all documents relating to the negotiation and implementation of TTIP will be blocked for up to 30 years.

If you would like more details on TTIP please follow this link to check out John Hilary's comprehensive critique.


What is a Citizen's Initiative?

European Citizen's Initiatives are probably the only decent bit of participatory democracy in the whole EU political system. If one million people (from several different EU states), support a Citizen's Initiative, a legislative proposal can be tabled in the European Parliament. Ongoing European Citizen's Initiatives include movements in support of Universal Basic Income, the human right to water and the introduction of traffic calming measures in European towns and cities. 

               
The Citizens Initiative against TTIP

Through the summer of 2014 a number of organisations and individuals opposed to TTIP (and another similar deal between the EU and Canada called CETA) begun the process of starting a European Citizen's Initiative, with the planned launch in September 2014.

After the organisers had gathered the support of over 230 organisations across Europe, and the backing of the Green/EFA group in the European Parliament, the EU simply turned down the initiative before it could even get started.

The French Green MEP Yannick Jadot described the EU decision to block the Citizen's Initiative against TTIP as "
above all a political decision" and a demonstration of "contempt" for the tens of thousands of people to have spoken out against TTIP already.


The mainstream media response

The mainstream media in the UK completely failed to cover the EU decision to block the Citizen's Initiative against TTIP. The only articles about the decision to appear were on independent blogs like my own, small independent websites, activist sites, Green party webpages and a single article on politics.co.uk.

This mainstream news blackout might seem surprising given that the majority of the right-wing dominated UK media peddle a staunchly Eurosceptic line. A decision to block a Citizen's Initiative would seem like the perfect kind of ammunition for journalists who generally describe the EU in terms of being an anti-democratic monstrosity.

One would have thought that this decision to obstruct participatory democracy would have made great ammunition for UKIP too, but as has always been the case, the UKIP leadership has remained absolutely silent about their position on TTIP.

Probably the most likely explanation for this blanket refusal to criticise this obstruction of democracy by the EU, is that UKIP and the right-wing media are all in favour of a gigantic corporate power grab designed to make the pursuit of corporate profits supersede democracy and the rule of law.

When it comes to the minority of traditionally centre-left newspapers (like the Guardian and the Independent) perhaps the explanation for their lack of coverage is that the EU decision to torpedo the Citizen's Initiative against TTIP came on a Friday, and that they're so short staffed that they couldn't find anyone to write even a few short paragraphs about it over the weekend?

If this is the case, perhaps they'll get around to informing the public sometime next week?


Conclusion

In my view, the EU decision to block the Citizen's Initiative against TTIP, is not only a display of outright contempt the concept of participatory democracy and for the citizens of Europe, it is a demonstration that they are desperately afraid of democracy, and of allowing the people of Europe to participate in politics.

They are afraid that if they allow the people of Europe to participate in the political process, it may prevent them from doing whatever the hell they want to do.

The EU will continue with their secretive non-transparent TTIP negotiations, but the fight against TTIP will not be stopped just because the EU decided to obstruct the Citizen's Initiative against TTIP.

In my view, one of the most important things about the fight against TTIP is the provision of information. By continually treating TTIP as if it were just some kind of benign "trade deal" rather than an outrageous corporate power grab, the majority of the mainstream media have already shown that they are failing in their duty to keep the public informed. The complete mainstream media blackout on the EU decision to block the Citizen's Initiative against TTIP just goes to show how unfit for purpose they are. This mainstream news blackout should be a sign to anyone keen to keep themselves abreast of what is going on in the world, that they really must look beyond what the mainstream press is prepared to tell them if they want anything resembling a complete picture.

If people are going to be mobilised in sufficient numbers against TTIP, the most important thing is that as many people as possible in Europe actually know what TTIP is, and it is absolutely clear that the mainstream media is completely unfit for purpose in this regard. That means it's down to people like me and you to spread the word.



 Another Angry Voice  is a not-for-profit page which generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from corporate or political interests. The only sources of income for  Another Angry Voice  are small donations from people who see some value in my work. If you appreciate my efforts and you could afford to make a donation, it would be massively appreciated.


Flattr this




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Friday, September 12, 2014

What Brooks Newmark's comments about charities tell us about the Tory mentality


I know that saying "I told you so" is hardly a dignified thing to do, sometimes it's just impossible not to.

When the Tories first tabled thierhe so-called "Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill" many were quick to point out that the bill actually exempts the vast majority of corporate lobbying organisations from any kind of scrutiny at all, and that the second part of the bill looked as if it had been specifically designed to censor charities, community groups, protest campaigns, trade unions and religious organisations. Hence the TOLNPCATUA bill soon became known as "The Gagging Bill".

I was one of the many independent journalists to speak out about this rotten piece of legislation, and I wasn't alone. The campaign group 38 Degrees ran a high profile campaign against itThe National Council For Voluntary Organisations and hundreds of other charities spoke out against it, the Trade Union Congress condemned it, and even the Electoral Commission (the body responsible for policing these draconian new censorship rules) warned that the Gagging Bill would undermine freedom of speech.


The Tory party and the bulk of the mainstream press ignored all of these concerns, or glibly dismissed them as conspiracy theorising. Leading Tories were wheeled out to repeatedly assure us that the TOLNPCATUA bill was not a "Gagging Bill" and that they had no intention of censoring charities. Here's are a few examples of these repeated Tory assurances that the bill was not designed to silence charities and voluntary organisations:
"We’re not setting out in any sense to constrain any charity or organisation who wants to campaign on policy issues" Andrew Lansley [source]
"It was never our intention to prevent anyone from conducting their normal range of charitable and policy-based activity" Andrew Lansley [source]
"The legislation will not affect the majority of charities and other campaigning organisations." David Cameron [source]
It's worth noting that David Cameron is the man who promised that the NHS would be safe in his hands, and that there would be "no more top-down reorganisations of the NHS", and that Andrew Lansley was the man who was drawing up the secret plan to launch the biggest top-down reorganisation of the NHS whilst Cameron was making all of those misleading pre-election promises about his intentions towards the NHS.

In December 2013 I wrote an article highlighting the implications of Iain Duncan Smith's furious tirade against the Trussell Trust, in which he whinged bitterly about their efforts to prove a causal link between his welfare reforms and the exponential rise in food bank dependency. The manner in which Iain Duncan Smith ranted at the Trussell Trust about how they should keep out of politics made it absolutely clear that the Tories hate the idea of being held to account by charities and voluntary organisations, and strongly suggested that the motivation behind the 
TOLNPCATUA bill was, as so many people were claiming, the desire to force charities and voluntary organisations out of the political sphere.
    Despite the numerous complaints against the bill, and the campaigns against it, it was passed into law in January 2014.

It just goes to show how much contempt the Tories have for the public that within eight months of the Gagging Bill being passed into law, David Cameron's new charities minister Brooks Newmark stated that:

"We really want to try and keep charities and voluntary groups out of the realms of politics ... the important thing charities should be doing is sticking to their knitting"
So after all of those assurances that they had no plans to prevent charities and voluntary organisations from holding politicians to account, their own charities minister openly admits that this is exactly what he considers his job to be.

Brooks Newmark's statement about keeping charities and voluntary organisations out of politics was that undeniable "I told you" moment, but I got no sense of satisfaction from it, because in order to have correctly predicted that something bad was going to happen, something bad must have happened.

Brooks Newmark's views on his role as charities minister reveals the underlying Tory hatred of the idea of being held to account by voluntary organisations. These people clearly believe that politics is solely for career politicians like them, and for the private interests that want to continue lobbying them in secrecy. They don't want "the lower orders" to have any involvement in politics at all other than turning up once every five years to put a cross next to the least bad option on the ballot paper.

This Tory conception that politics is for the privileged elite, and that ordinary people and voluntary organisations should be prevented from participation just goes to show how afraid they are. If the elite running politics, and the plebs not worrying their pretty little heads over serious things was the natural order of the universe, then there would have been no need for the Gagging Bill, and Brooks Newmark would never have spelled out the Tory duty to keep ordinary people "out of the realms of politics".

The privileged Tory minority are right to be afraid. They know that we massively outnumber them, and that if we stood in solidarity against their greed, their corruption and their outright malice against the most vulnerable in society, we could easily consign them to the dustbin of history.

Only time will tell if the ordinary people of the UK have the sense and the strength of purpose to come together and overthrow the corrupt establishment minority, or whether decades of exposure to right-wing media has turned us into a nation of docile and compliant halfwits, who are more likely to get upset about "scroungers" and immigrants at the bottom of society than the corrupt establishment minority at the top.


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