Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Tale of Two Cities

"HANDS OFF DEMOCRACY!" banner outside the mother of all parliaments. Fears TTIP shifts more power to big business interests.

 IF you happen to meet a supporter of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), or you know someone who is thinking of voting for it, ask them what they think about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Come to think of it, you could put the question to anyone coming to your door from any of the political parties.

TTIP is the deal being cooked up between European Union and North American governments to "boost trade and jobs", so we are told by the media, though if its aims are so positive and beneficial,  it is strange that we don't hear more about it. You would think that in these times of austerity, falling incomes and promises of more cuts, politicians would be missing no opportunity to tell us how marvellous it is, and there would be extended coverage with film of happy workers making stuff, in the media.

I don't know whether TTIP was a major topic at any of the party conferences taking place in recent weeks, but it did get  a brief mention on TV yesterday with the news that people would be demonstrating because "They" believed that the agreement being negotiated would make it harder to resist privatisation of health and education services, or protect the environment.

This comes on a weekend when all the media were saying how well UKIP had done in by-elections, by coming second to Labour in Middleton and Heywood, and keeping the Clacton seat of a Tory MP who had defected to them. We know that, besides the votes of those who get carried along with the stream and have only a vague idea about what party's policies are, UKIP benefits by people readily accepting that all their problems, real and imagined, can be blamed on immigrants and foreigners.
After all that only fits what they are told week in and week out by tabloid newspapers.

When established politicians do their best to convince people that there's nothing wrong with the economic system, and the banks must be appeased, it's no wonder many look elsewhere for issues, or try to put up with austerity by arguing who should be excluded from the queue. Add to this a disillusion with politicians, and the corporate media can persuade them to back an "ordinary bloke" like Nigel Farage as an "outsider", when all the time he's really rich and one of theirs.

But now, here's an odd thing. The United Kingdom Independence Party, like those patriotic newspapers, might say it is championing the right of true born Brits, or more especially English people, to run their own affairs, and not be "ruled" from Brussels, where we do have some Members, including UKIP members, seated, or at least claiming their expenses, in the European Parliament.  But far less, if anything, has been heard about what they would do to stop voters wishes and elected governments being over-ruled by the lawyers working for powerful companies, and bypassing our own courts. Be it over "fracking", hospital services, food legislation or minimum wages, TTIP would give big business, particularly American big business  the upper hand. Governments which did not back down would have to pay billions from the public purse.

  As a taste of what's to come US companies using an existing procedure have been able to sue governments 127 times,    Cases range from Egypt being taken to court for setting a "too high" minimum wage to tobacco giant Philip Morris (which once hired Margaret Thatcher as a lobbyist) suing authorities in Australia over plain packet legislation. 

Meanwhile in Dublin....

PAUL MURPHY.  Socialist elected to the Dail.
Some good news, which coming from over the Irish Sea, might not be widely reported in the media here in the UK. 

Paul Murphy, standing for the Anti-Austerity Alliance, and a member of the Socialist Party in Ireland, has won the Dublin South-West by-election. Initially running almost neck-and-neck with Sinn Fein, and ahead of the usual 'main' parties - including Labour -the Socialist candidate gained the lead when electors second choice votes were counted. After the distribution of the votes of eliminated candidates Paul had 9,565 votes and Sinn Féin's Cathal King had 8,999.

A very important part of the election campaign was an ongoing fight against the imposition of water charges. Yesterday there was a mass anti-water charge demo of up to 100,000 in Dublin. But while running for the Anti-Austerity Alliance which the Socialist Party helped to form, Paul Murphy is not just a 'single issue' or community campaigner.  Previously a Socialist MEP for Dublin until defeated by Sinn Fein, he made his name campaigning on both social and international issues, and took part in the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza.

The Socialist Party in Ireland is affiliated to the Committee for a Workers International, like the Socialist Party in England and Wales, ex-'Militant' tendency as was. With Paul Murphy's election  there are now three members of the Socialist Party in the Dáil, the Irish parliament, as Paul joins Joe Higgins and Ruth Coppinger.

Whatever our differences with the Socialist Party, or the differences between the electoral systems in Ireland and Britain, the election of an openly left-wing candidate, trusted by the voters, and triumphing over the more traditional parties, is something for all of us on the Left to celebrate, and draw encouragement from. Which is probably why we won't be hearing much about it from the media over here. 
The results for each round of counting can be seen at:
Irish Times - Paul Murphy shocks Sinn Féin's Cathal King in Dublin South West:

See also

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