It’s the only logical conclusion: refusing to stay in the European Convention on Human Rights means Johnson wants to strip you of those rights.
(He probably thinks they’re just guidelines.)
So he might take away the prohibition of torture or “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. That would make the Department for Work and Pensions’s treatment of sick, disabled and unemployed people much easier, after all.
He may remove the prohibition of slavery, servitude or forced labour. Restore serfdom and you end unemployment (technically).
Your right to a fair trial is all but gone already – especially in civil cases (they cost a fortune, believe me. Do you think you could afford one?) and it’s a small step from their to getting rid of your right to liberty. Johnson thinks you’re property, you see.
I definitely think he’ll do away with your right to privacy. We already live in a surveillance society and would-be dictator Johnson will certainly want to keep tabs on any signs of rebellion against his rule.
Freedom of religion is likely to go, one way or another. Johnson is a racist and Islamophobe, as we know. So the prohibition against discrimination will be for the heave-ho, too.
Does anybody really think he’ll let us keep our right to freedom of expression? Any dissenting voice, I suspect, will be put down harshly.
Freedom of association will probably go – that way he’ll be able to get rid of those pesky trade unions for once and for all.
And has anybody noticed that he’s said nothing at all about restricting his own rights and privileges?
I hate to admit it but Ed Davey (an unsavoury character himself) is right: “Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings are determined to take power away from the British people and hoard it for themselves.”
And it’s too late for those of us who opposed it to do anything but watch.
As for those who voted Johnson in, making it possible for him to strip you of your rights… Will you think it was worth it in a few years’ time, when the full horror of what you’ve done has had time to sink in?
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Last year the UK was warned it would face a European Court of Justice case if the nitrogen dioxide problem was not dealt with [Image: Getty Images].
It must be particularly galling for Brextremist Michael Gove that he is being summoned to Brussels to explain why the Tory government has failed to tackle the UK’s toxic levels of air pollution.
You can be assured that it is no skin off his rosy nose that 50,000 UK citizens die every year because of air pollution; he’s doing quite all right, thank you very much.
You can also bet that he can’t wait for Brexit to happen, so he won’t have to answer to all those do-gooder Eurocrats who want to keep UK citizens safe from harm.
As far as he’s concerned, the sooner the UK can get back to making huge profits for him and his Tory friends, no matter the cost in health or wealth terms to the vast majority of the population, the better.
But you won’t hear him say that.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove has been asked to attend a meeting of the European Commission in Brussels, to explain why the UK still breaches legal air pollution limits.
Britain is one of the five member states that have received a “final warning” from the commission after persistently surpassing limits for nitrogen dioxide levels.
The meeting which is set to take place at the end of the month, will be an opportunity for Mr Gove and other European politicians to discuss air quality and how to protect “a basic quality of life” for European citizens.
Poor air quality resulting from pollutants including nitrogen dioxide have been linked with deadly health conditions such as heart disease and lung cancer.
Experts have estimated air pollution kills 50,000 people annually in the UK alone.
Last year the nation was warned it would face a European Court of Justice case if the nitrogen dioxide problem was not dealt with.
Cameron at the G20: He reckons he has put “rocket boosters” on the planned TTIP agreement. But is it just a lot of hot air?
Does anyone else think David Cameron’s pledge to put “rocket boosters” on plans for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has more to do with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s doubts about the project than anything else?
A little more than two weeks ago, Mr Juncker announced that he was reviewing part of the proposed trade agreement between the European Union and the United States of America – the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) scheme, a part of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement that critics say would make it possible for corporations to sue national governments for damages if new legislation was likely to affect their profitability.
(Note that a BBC report has described it as an element of TTIP which “would allow foreign investors to go to an international tribunal for compensation if a government breaks the rules”. This is not true – Mr Juncker has stated that the Commission “will not accept that the jurisdiction of courts in the EU Member States be limited by special regimes for investor-to-state disputes” – but what can we expect from a BBC that is hopelessly enslaved to Conservative ideology?)
According to the BBC, Cameron claimed that EU and US leaders had all agreed that TTIP “is a deal we want”. Oh really?
The report goes on to say he “‘sensed an enthusiasm'” – honestly, visit the site and read it yourself if you think Yr Obdt Srvt is making it up! – “from EU leaders and US President Barack Obama during a meeting in Brisbane earlier, and was now ‘hopeful of progress’ on TTIP.”
So did they actually say they wanted this deal to go through? Or is Cameron just talking through his hat again?
Conservative ministers seem to be making a habit of coming back from meetings with foreign ministers with an extravagant claim, only for it to fall apart under examination – look at George Osborne’s disastrous failure over the EU surcharge.
Regarding the concern Mr Juncker raised over ISDS, Cameron blathered: “We’ve signed trade deal after trade deal and it’s never been a problem in the past.” How reassuring. But those trade deals were not the same as this, and it is right that Mr Juncker should examine the evidence critically in the light of public outcry. Cameron really has no power in this matter; it is an agreement between the EU – not the UK – and America.
Cameron also tried to make light of fears that ISDS would ‘lock in’ his changes to the English National Health Service, and make it possible to lock them into the health service in other parts of the UK if they fall under Tory control in the future. “There’s no threat, I believe, from TTIP to the National Health Service,” he wibbled, “and we should just knock that on the head as an empty threat.” Again, how reassuring. But he provided no guarantees and we should not believe him if he did.
You see, Cameron wants to lock his changes into the NHS, and he sees TTIP as the mechanism for achieving this.
His problem is that talks are proceeding at a pace that means any agreement will take place after the UK’s General Election in May next year – and an elected Labour government would repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012, which allowed private healthcare firms to cherry-pick services in the English NHS, the very next day.
This is one reason you should ignore claims that Ed Miliband’s Labour Party is unelectable. Cameron is clearly terrified that he will lose power before he can hammer the final nail in the coffin of public healthcare in the UK.
His claims that all involved are keen to accelerate the TTIP agreement with “rocket boosters” are just – appropriately – gusts of hot air.
– Verbal malfunction: “I’m not going to pay that bill on 1 December. If people think I are- I’m going to- They’ve got another thing coming.” Cameron can’t even announce his complaint properly.
David Cameron has lied and lied again about the £1.7 billion bill from the European Union, it has been revealed.
An investigation by Full Fact has shown that the UK has been taking part in an exercise to revise the way payments are calculated since at least May this year, meaning that discussions on the subject must have been taking place previously.
The Treasury must have known about these discussions, meaning George Osborne would have been aware of them – and this means that Cameron himself should have been told. If he had not, then his government has not been doing its job properly. He says he knew nothing until he was presented with the invoice this week.
Not only that, the amount does not reflect any increase in the size of the UK economy during the current Parliament, but – humiliatingly for Cameron – during the period of the last Labour government. He reckoned it was based on his own government’s (dubious) economic recovery.
The report states: “EU law requires that member states measure the size of their economy according to EU standards. The UK hasn’t been fully compliant with these standards, so statisticians at the ONS have spent the last year revising old estimates of the size of the UK economy. Some, though not all, of these changes have had a generally upward impact on the figures the EU uses to determine the UK’s contribution to its budget.
“The resulting increase in the estimated size of the UK economy relative to other nations – specifically between 2002 and 2009 – is what’s caused the EU to ask for more money. If the Commission had known the size of the UK economy at the time, it would have charged us more, so the £1.7 billion represents the ‘back payments’ following the counting changes.”
There is some good news for Cameron, though. As the bill is for ‘back payments’, it seems likely to reduce in future years – no matter how the economy has performed under his government. His claim that the bill is because his government has turned the economy around is simply balderdash.
The European Union’s trade commissioner, Karel De Gucht, reckons he’s going to consult the public over the controversional Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – the EU/US free trade agreement.
He says he is determined to strike the right balance between protecting EU firms’ investment interests and upholding governments’ right to regulate in the public interest.
Bear in mind, this is for the investment part of the deal, which includes investment protection and the red-hot disputed subject of investor-to-state dispute settlement, where firms would be allowed to sue governments if regulations got in the way of their profits, as the deal currently stands.
A proposed text for the investment part of the talks will be published in early March.
“Governments must always be free to regulate so they can protect people and the environment. But they must also find the right balance and treat investors fairly, so they can attract investment,” said Mr De Gucht.
“Some existing arrangements have caused problems in practice, allowing companies to exploit loopholes where the legal text has been vague.
“I know some people in Europe have genuine concerns about this part of the EU-US deal. Now I want them to have their say… TTIP will firmly uphold EU member states’ right to regulate in the public interest.”
Do you believe him?
The European Commission wants to use TTIP to improve provisions already in place that protect investments by EU-based companies in the US, and vice versa.
In practice, we are told, there would be a require for this protection to defer to states’ right to regulate in the public’s interest.
There would also be new and improved rules, including a code of conduct, to ensure arbitrators are chosen fairly and act impartially, and to open up their proceedings to the public. This comes after significant unrest about arbitrators being chosen exclusively from big business, with a natural bias towards the interests of their employers.
It seems “no other part of the negotiations is affected by this public consultation and the TTIP negotiations will continue as planned”.
Is this the only part of the deal that affects the public interest, then?
I don’t know. The TTIP negotiations have been shrouded in mystery since they began last June. Can anyone outside the talks – and those taking part are sworn to secrecy – say they are an expert?
Since the talks began, the Commission has held three rounds of consultations with stakeholders – big businesses operating in both Europe and the USA “to gather the views and wishes of the public and interested parties across Europe”, it says here.
“The Commission has also done public consultations before the start of the TTIP negotiations.” Have you taken part in any such negotiations?
The rationale behind the talks is that the EU is the world’s largest foreign direct investor and the biggest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the world, so it must ensure that EU companies are well-protected when they invest in countries outside the EU. This involves reciprocal agreements to protect foreign companies.
“Investment is essential for growth, for jobs and for creating the wealth that pays for our public services, our schools, our hospitals and our pensions,” the argument goes. But who gets the wealth? The people who work to make it – whose living and working conditions are likely to be reduced dramatically to lowest-common-denominator terms? Or the company bosses who are ironing out the terms of this agreement while most of us are being told to look the other way?
Let’s look at an example of this in action. According to OpenDemocracy.net, the TTIP talks “could see England’s NHS tied into a privatised model semi-permanently.
“The idea [is] that the Health and Social Care Act was developed to allow foreign transnational corporations to profit from NHS privatisation.
“Even worse is the idea that, once passed, an international trade agreement will leave us irreversibly committed to privatising the NHS. Even with a change of government and the repeal of the Act, we’d be facing the insurmountable obstacle of international competition laws.”
The article demands that the government must be clear with the public – will our health service be opened to multinational business as part of this trade agreement?
Leftie politics sheet the New Statesman agrees: “This will open the floodgates for private healthcare providers that have made dizzying levels of profits from healthcare in the United States, while lobbying furiously against any attempts by President Obama to provide free care for people living in poverty. With the help of the Conservative government and soon the EU, these companies will soon be let loose, freed to do the same in Britain.
“The agreement will provide a legal heavy hand to the corporations seeking to grind down the health service. It will act as a Transatlantic bridge between the Health and Social Care Act in the UK, which forces the NHS to compete for contracts, and the private companies in the US eager to take it on for their own gain.
“It gives the act international legal backing and sets the whole shift to privatisation in stone because once it is made law, it will be irreversible.
“Once these ISDS tools are in place, lucrative contracts will be underwritten, even where a private provider is failing patients and the CCG wants a contract cancelled. In this case, the provider will be able to sue a CCG for future loss of earnings, causing the loss of vast sums of taxpayer money on legal and administrative costs.
“Even more worrying is that, once the TTIP is enacted, repealing the Health and Social Care Act in the UK will become almost impossible.”
The public has the democratic right to contest the agreement, and fight for a health service that protects them, the Statesman says, “but how can they when MEPs do nothing to inform opinion or gather support back home? The NHS is in a very precarious position. It seems that soon, with the help of Brussels, its fate will be sealed.”
Would you like your MEP to speak up for you – in other words, to do what he or she was elected to do and actually represent your interests? Then why not get in touch and ask why they’ve been so quiet about this for so long? It’s easy – you can find their contact details here.
The EU has released a ‘factsheet’ summarising how it would like you to understand changes to existing investment protection rules and the ISDS system.
The previous Vox Political article about TTIP is here.
Corporate trade a-greed-ment: Notice that this image of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has mighty corporations straddling the Atlantic while the ‘little’ people – the populations they are treading on – are nowhere to be seen. [Picture: FT]
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is bitter pill for anyone to swallow, if they have spent any time defending Britain’s membership of the European Union.
The partnership between the EU and the United States would open America to the kind of free trade deals that have been going on in Europe ever since the original Economic Community was formed – but there is a problem.
It isn’t a problem for businesses; they are in line to get a deal better than anything ever experienced in the world of trade. Citizens and national governments, on the other hand – you, me, and the people who represent us – will be railroaded.
This is because the agreement includes a device called ‘investor-state dispute settlement’, which allows corporate entities to sue governments, overruling domestic courts and the will of Parliaments.
In other words, this could be the biggest threat to democracy since World War II.
In the UK, it could be used by shale mining companies to ensure that the government could not keep them out of protected areas, by banks fighting financial regulation, and by cigarette companies fighting the imposition of plain packaging for cigarettes. How do we know? Because these things are already happening elsewhere in the world.
If a product had been banned by a country’s regulators, the manufacturer will be able to sue them, forcing that state to pay compensation or let the product in – even if this undermines health and safety laws in that country.
It seems that domestic courts are deemed likely to be biased or lack independence, but nobody has explained why they think the secretive arbitration panels composed of corporate lawyers will be impartial. Common sense says they’ll rule for the profit, every time.
Now ask yourself a question: Have you ever heard about this?
Chances are that you haven’t – unless you have read articles by George Monbiot (one in The Guardian this week prompted this piece) or have insider knowledge.
The European Commission has done its utmost to keep the issue from becoming public knowledge. Negotiations on the trade and investment partnership have involved 119 behind-closed-doors meetings with corporations and their lobbyists (please note that last point, all you supporters of the government’s so-called Transparency of Lobbying Bill), and just eight with civil society groups. Now that concerned citizens have started to publicise the facts, the Commission has apparently worked out a way to calm us down with a “dedicated communications operation” to “manage stakeholders, social media and transparency” by claiming that the deal is about “delivering growth and jobs” and will not “undermine regulation and existing levels of protection in areas like health, safety and the environment” – meaning it will do precisely the opposite.
Your Coalition government appears to be all for it. Kenneth Clarke reckons it is “Scrooge-like” to inflate concerns about investor protection and ignore the potential economic gains – but if the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement is any yardstick, exports will drop and thousands of jobs will be lost.
Green MP Caroline Lucas has published an early day motion on the issue – signed by a total of seven fellow Parliamentarians so far.
Labour MEPs are doing their best to cut the ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ out of the agreement, but they are fighting a lonely battle against the massed forces of greed.
So now ask yourself a second question: Why is the European Commission lying to Britain when we are already halfway out of the door?
Britain is not happy with the European Union or its place within that organisation. People think too much of their national sovereignty – their country’s freedom to do what it wants – is being stripped away by faceless bureaucrats who do not have the best interests of the population at heart. Now the European Commission is trying to foist this upon us.
For Eurosceptics in Parliament – of all political hues – this is a gift. For those of us who accept that we are better off in Europe – as it is currently constituted and without the new trade agreement – it is a poisoned pill.
Are we being pushed into a position where we have to choose between two evils that could have been avoided, if only our leaders had had an ounce of political will and an inch of backbone?
Unelected rulers? Thomas Watjen of Unum, Thierry Breton of Atos, and Michael Andrew of KPMG. As things stand, it seems whoever you support in 2015, these people will be behind them. Do you want that?
There is a certain kind of person who takes great delight in commenting on political blogs with a variant of the following:
“It’s no use voting! They’re all the same! It doesn’t matter what you vote for – a politician always gets in!”
No doubt you’ll be familiar with their work.
They are extremely annoying. Their insistence that all politicians are the same breed of pond scum does a huge disservice to those in public service who genuinely want to improve the lives of their fellow human beings; the fanaticism with which they disseminate their opinions may be seen as an attempt to stop ‘casual’ voters from bothering, thereby condemning the country to the current status quo.
Also, most annoyingly of all, they may have a point.
Take the three men pictured above. The one on the right is Michael Andrew, chairman of accounting firm KPMG. This is one of the ‘Big Four’ accountancies who are, among other things, involved in rewriting UK tax law for George Osborne at the Treasury, partly to suit their own desires as architects of the largest tax avoidance schemes currently available to corporations and wealthy individuals resident in the UK.
Today, thanks to an illuminating blog article by Tom Pride over at Pride’s Purge, we learn that KPMG has taken over the running of no less than a quarter of all the clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) that Andrew Lansley swore blind would be run by doctors when the Conservative-led Coalition government pushed through the NHS Privatisation Act of 2012 (otherwise known as the Health and Social Care Act).
The pretext for creating these organisations was that doctors were in the best position to commission health services in any part of England, as they had the detailed knowledge required to determine what was needed.
In fact it was well known that GPs would not be able to carry out this important work – it would be too much for them to take on in addition to their ‘day job’, and they simply did not have the necessary skills. Lansley knew this, and therefore knew that his law would open the door for private firms to take over.
This is borne out by an article in GP online which is now almost a year old; so readers should bear in mind that the current situation may be much further advanced. It stated that KPMG had confirmed the firm was working with “just over 50” of the 211 CCGs in England, along with 11 commissioning support units (CSUs).
The article indirectly quoted Tim Rideout, who said CCGs did not have the capacity to commission in an effective way.
This is an interesting revelation from the former chief executive of the NHS in Leicester City who was then seconded to the Department of Health as the senior responsible officer for the development of – guess what? – NHS commissioning boards. If the new commissioning groups don’t have the capacity to work properly, why didn’t he do something about it at the appropriate time?
Oh, wait. Here’s the answer: In March 2012, Mr Rideout was hired by KPMG as an associate director responsible for – who would have thought it? – commissioning.
In the same article, national clinical commissioning lead for England, Dr James Kingsland, said clinicians and GPs should not be involved in complex procurement, and added: “We are seeing a lot of misunderstandings, disillusionment and despondency.”
Mark Britnell, KPMG’s head of healthcare since 2009 – and another former NHS chief executive, was quoted by The Observer in 2011 as stating: “In future, The NHS will be a state insurance provider not a state deliverer”, and that “The NHS will be shown no mercy and the best time to take advantage of this will be in the next couple of years.”
The following day, KPMG released a statement in which he said the quotes did “not properly reflect” what he had said.
So we have a firm moving to take over CCGs, helped by the fact that its roster now includes the man responsible for setting them up in the first place. Going back to Tom Pride’s piece, he states that the situation chillingly reflects the way the Dutch health service was privatised in 2006. Provision of health services is being handed over to private companies, control of the health budgetwas handed over to private consortia made of doctors and consultants, but now those consortia are being taken over by private companies.
When private firms like KPMG run all CCGs, the Conservative plan to privatise the NHS will be complete. And the NHS, it seems, will be run by Michael Andrew, head of KPMG, from his base in Hong Kong.
But the rot doesn’t stop there.
Tom Pride correctly adds that the consulting arm of KPMG has been owned, since 2002, by another company – called Atos.
That’s right – Atos. The French firm run by Thierry Breton (pictured, centre).
The firm that Ed Miliband wants to fire from running work capability assessments for the DWP will still be involved in government work – at the Department of Health.
You see how this works? Let a private company inveigle its way into the plans of politicians and there’s no getting rid of it. Like the giant squid, it extends its pseudopods into every government department it can possibly contaminate, planting a sucker onto everything it thinks it can take for itself.
Over at the DWP, as everyone should know by now, Atos have been carrying out work capability assessments on claimants of Employment and Support Allowance. These were dreamed up by an insurance company called Unum, that has been working with the UK government – Conservative, Labour and Coalition – since Peter Lilley invited then-boss John LoCascio in, back in the early 1990s.
Unum is now run by Thomas Ratjen (pictured, left), who is based in Tennessee, USA. Its long-term aim seems to be the ruin of the British social security system, rendering it pointless for anyone to claim benefits. Instead, the plan appears to be to encourage working people to buy Unum insurance policies – which are themselves useless, as lawsuits in several US states have proved, while also giving the company a criminal record.
This blog recently revealed that it seemed Unum was trying to influence the policies of all three main UK political parties. The thinktank Reform, that has been part-funded by Unum, is running a fringe event at all three party conferences, entitled ‘New thinking on the welfare state’. This event was sponsored by the Association of British Insurers, which has Unum among its members.
Labour’s version of this event took place on Monday (September 23), hosted by Anne McGuire, shadow minister for disabled people.
She defended her role in an email today, as follows:
“I don’t know why you have been led to believe that I was hosting an event by Unum. For the record, I was speaking at a round table discussion with organisations which included the European Commission, voluntary organisations, insurance companies amongst others. As it was such a conversation, it was by invitation only as was the event I attended this morning organised though the Shaw Trust and Mencap. It is not unusual to have such events at party conference.
“I also spoke at an open meeting last night on the future of welfare reform and disabled people with many disabled people in attendance and participating.
“I am aware of the strong feelings on Unum and Atos. However I trust that you will appreciate that having discussions with a range of organisations should not be seen as anything other than that and in no way implies an endorsement of any particular company or organisation.”
It simply doesn’t ring true.
Let’s look at the context: This event was organised by a right-wing thinktank (they’re ideologically opposed to state-run social security systems) that has been sponsored by Unum; was about “new” thinking on the welfare state; was itself sponsored by the Association of British Insurers, of which Unum is a member; and representatives of insurance companies – and we’re willing to bet Unum was among them – took part in the behind-closed-doors discussion.
It seems clear that this event was intended to influence Labour Party policy away from providing a well-run and reasonable state benefit system, as was the case in the UK until Peter Lilley in the early 1990s, and towards dismantling that system to make way for a system based on privately-run insurance policies, such as those produced by Unum.
The fact that it is being mirrored at the other two party conferences clearly suggests that the firms involved want to influence all major British political parties in the same way. If successful, this would mean that it won’t matter who gets into office after the 2015 election; Unum will still be in power at the Department for Work and Pensions.
Just as KPMG will still be in power at the Treasury, and at the Department of Health, alongside its owner Atos.
And the three gentlemen pictured at the top of this article will be the unelected kings of the UK because, no matter which way you vote, they will be in charge.
That would be a good place to end this article, but then, dear reader, you might be left thinking there is nothing you can do. There is something you can do.
You can write to your MP, to local newspapers, to the party leaders and the ministers running these government departments and you can bitch like hell about it!
The people of this country deserve elected representatives who are going to run this country by their own decisions, in the best interests of the citizens who voted for them – not employees of a dubious gang of unelected corporations, running this country in their own best interests and treating the citizens like dirt.
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