Dear Mr Chyba
Thank you for your email regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States and the motion that was considered in Parliament on Thursday 15 January. Unfortunately I was not able to attend the sitting that day due to a long-standing obligation in my constituency. However, I can assure you that I was kept well-informed of the issues around the debate, and I have attached a link to the debate below for your attention.
I agree that greater Parliamentary scrutiny over TTIP should be a priority. We have seen in the past that UK public services are a particular priority for US investors. In 2009, for example, our higher education market was subject to several acquisitions by US companies; the for-profit company Apollo took over BPP in 2009.
The situation could potentially be worse than you have suggested, as for-profit companies who acquire certain public services can be eligible for public subsidies. To take higher education as an example, for-profit companies will be able to access public subsidies through the form of student support. This would be occurring at the same time as the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills removing even more of the funding from our universities.
The negotiations have been criticised by a wide array of organisations and unions, mostly on the grounds that the move poses a threat to our public services. It is also disheartening to see that the deal is being negotiated entirely behind closed doors. The Government was recently asked about the TTIP in Parliament; I have attached a link below for you to see their response in full, but I would draw your attention to several quotes from the Minister that may be of interest to you:
“The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a top priority for the Government. It has the potential to be the largest bilateral trade agreement in history and to bring significant economic benefits…it demonstrates clear EU-US leadership on the trade agenda and a firm commitment to liberalisation and open markets…negotiations will be tough but we hope that a deal can be reached by early 2015.”
The Minister was also pressed on what implications the deal would have for national sovereignty, and whether it would hamper the ability of the Government to act in the public interest with respect to our public services. The Minister replied:
“Negotiations for TTIP are at an early stage. As with any trade or investment agreement, the UK aims to promote the UK’s interests while ensuring that the UK Government is not prevented from acting in the public interest.”
There was also a Backbench Business Debate on the subject of TTIP in Parliament recently, and I have attached a link to the debate for you to see in full, which I think may be of interest to you.
You will be able to see that the Minister partly blames the media for the lack of publicity TTIP had attracted up to that point. You will also be able to see that the Opposition broadly accepts the proposals that the Government has put forward around TTIP, but has said that more action is required in order to guarantee that small businesses will not lose out, and that there must be exceptions in place to ensure services such as health and education are not affected by loopholes like the example I gave above.
Unfortunately, the comment made by the Minister regarding negotiations between the EU and the US being at an early stage are the closest we have come to finding out anything about the negotiations, as no information about them is being publicly distributed. The Government have maintained that they will not reveal any further information about the negotiations they are holding while they are at that stage.
Thank you once again for your email. If you feel there is anything further I can do, please do not hesitate to contact me again.
Madeleine Moon MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
47 Nolton Street
From the BILGEWATCH blog:
The run up to the General Election risks being truly horrid. The standard of mainstream “debate” will likely continue a frenzied downward plunge, founded on premises which are provably false.
Perhaps 2015 will be a key year in breaking the hold of the ceaseless, skewed and ill-informed nonsense so often presented as “news” and “debate”. But for now, stand by for a deluge of bile, which social media and broader campaigning will not escape, by any stretch. I want to address a growing build up of nasty and prolonged spats between supporters of the Green and Labour parties. They’re badly spilling over into groups normally united on issues such as public services, anti racism etc. and can be a dispiriting time-sink.
Likely to alienate most who are sympathetic to both parties, these odysseys often spawn several hundred posts. They disproportionately revolve around such themes as “Yeah, but Brighton bins…yeah, but Iraq”. They keep strong adherence to the great imagined internet law of “Last Post Wins”. People aiming to calm things down risk a dose of “But s/he started it” from both sides.
How much purpose does it all serve? With everything else going on, do we really need 4 more months of it?
As a Green, I’ve had many battles, close up and personal, with the Labour party. Most of it probably a bit petty and long ago in the scheme of things, but still…
I also have many valued friends and comrades in the party, which doesn’t mean I have to think much of the modern organisation as a whole. I can be a tribalist, but am not aiming for that here. My default setting is left-pluralist.
I’d like to create a sense of circumspection, if not harmony (which would probably be unrealistic). I’m certainly not after rancour, and I hope Labour supporters will take this piece in the constructive spirit with which it is offered.
The Greens have had a pretty good time of late. Polling numbers are healthily up, membership has shot past that of UKIP and the LibDems.
Labour supporters are increasingly concerned, attack pieces have started to emerge. Sadiq Khan has been tasked with addressing the issue on an official basis. None of this has had much effect so far.
I hope Greens keep a cool head about our progress, pride comes before a fall. We spent a generation in the electoral basement after the high of the 1989 Euro elections, where we still won no seats, (Euros were First Past The Post in those days). None of our recent fortune adds up to much till we win more seats under FPTP. Let the UKIP zealots be alone in giddy delusions about “earthquakes” and sweeping into power.
I’d also ask Greens to remember that, no matter how shallow, stupid or nasty they consider Labour attacks, Greens have been attacking Labour for a long time. We’ve often revelled in it, so it would be a bit daft to act all affronted at some return fire.
So, here are some things I’d ask Labour supporters to consider:
1) Respect the intelligence of Green/Labour considerers.
They understand the system. aware that most votes don’t really count toward the final outcome. We all know Labour had 13 years to change this, and failed to. Is it wise to now go round using emotional blackmail and erroneous slogans, such as “Vote green, get blue” on the back of that failure? Such soundbites are not valid in the vast majority of constituencies. As for the marginals, have faith in people voting according to their judgement, taste and circumstance, and perhaps splitting their national and local votes. Polling in marginals shows Labour doing sufficiently better than on average, this backs up my case.
2) Don’t assume that Green votes would automatically be yours as a second preference.
Taking votes for granted, as if by some divine right, is arrogant, complacent and alienating. Such characteristics could be a big cause of Labour’s current difficulties. Where Labour have taken support for granted in the past, votes have drifted to the LibDems, even the BNP. Now some of them have gone to UKIP. In other cases, people just stopped voting, but turnout in May will probably be high.
This isn’t all about left or “social justice” territory, but quite a lot of it probably is. Labour have no monopoly on that territory, and there’s no reason why they should assume it. In fact, a lot of votes they lost to the Libdems in 2010 were on that territory.
3) If Labour lose, it wont be The Green’s fault.
For all the “Green Surge” hype, a nationwide vote of even 5% on the day will be quite impressive.
What % of that in marginals might have been Labours? How much energy might go into wringing that % out with negativity and spin? would that energy yield justifiable return or be better spent elsewhere?
Two or three seats for The Greens will be astonishing. Even one will be a score draw. Increase in support can be ephemeral. There is a lot of work to do to build on our increase in membership. The first actual victories are more likely to be seen in 2016 locals.
To really blame a Labour defeat on a short period of progress for a much smaller party would be a dismal admission of failure in itself.
People may invoke the 2000 USA Presidential election, but that’s a far more cronky system than even ours. The comparison is fatally flawed by the fact that Gore won anyway! Bush got in on a courthouse coup, possibly the most horrific piece of electoral dodginess in modern western history. Is that Ralph Nader’s fault? Blaming him is letting a rampantly criminal regime off the hook. Gore’s personal cowardice was key in not letting so many voters in Florida have their voice heard. Murdoch’s Fox and a host of other nasties played parts too. The start of Michael Moore’s Farenheit 911 covers all this excellently, if you want to go revisit the sorry episode.
There are a host of things more likely to prevent Miliband getting into number 10 than The Green Party. Hideous and patronising right-wing propaganda is near the top of the list, but perhaps people need to look nearer to home as well.
4) Ask yourself why Labour are struggling.
By this I mean “struggling to be consistently in a position likely to bring around an overall majority”.
With 5 years of opposition, 100s of MPs and MEPs, thousands of councillors and scores of thousands of activists, there should be considerably more to offer the public than “The Tories are awful. You have to vote for us. It’s the system”.
What’s the point in fighting on right-wing territory now occupied by 3 other parties? Labour not only look indistinct in this neo liberal mush, it’s insincere as far as most of their activists are concerned. Between the 2 main contenders, if Labour are seen as too similar to Tories, especially on economics, the risk is that people will go with the devil they know.
Instead, Labour can persuade many potential Green, LibDem and even UKIP voters with a program that re-engages their centre-left core. Miliband has looked best, and rattled the right most, when taking on the likes of the energy cartel. Don’t lose sleep about being attacked as “too left wing” by Murdoch rags, The Mail et al. It will happen anyway, so you may as well make it worthwhile.
Also ask yourself if it’s strategically wise to argue on 2 fronts by opening a left flank on Greens, who will counter with skill and energy. Labour have a longer, more powerful past, with more clangers to draw on in arguments. I’ll spare the detail, you can fill in the blanks.
By contrast, why should Greens single out Labour as the huge problem? We should (and do) attack the general right-wing consensus, based as it is around failed austerity, corruption, corporate rule, growing inequality and blaming those at the bottom for problems caused by those at the top. If Labour are too big a part of that, it’s their problem. They still have a chance to distance themselves from it, and I think they should.
I’m not a lunatic, I don’t want another half decade of festering, psychopathic tory corruption, masquerading as “government”. Yet, most people can vote Green without the slightest risk of brining that about, and it would be disingenuous to pretend otherwise.
To recognise the realities of the system, and that “vote green get blue” can apply no further than outside Lab/Con marginals, is a sensible compromise position. Yes, UKIP mess up the traditional maths somewhat, but probably more to Labour’s favour overall. UKIP will probably do well in a lot of safe Labour seats while putting otherwise safe-ish Tory ones in peril.
A solid vote for firm ecological, anti austerity, social democratic politics outside of the Labour Party will firm up those causes within it.
Some people have talked about “vote swapping” between key and non key constituencies. Heavily relying on trust, maybe it will happen on a moderate scale. But on the whole, it’s unrealistic to even expect non-aggression. Still, many of us campaign together for years without party hats much on, doing the election thing now and again, and returning to generally good relations afterwards. I’ll try to be one of them, even if I don’t always succeed. Thus, we might at least spare non partisan campaigns from our bickering, and to aim for less overall aggression, more respectful attention to nuance, genuine analysis, good humour and an avoidance of crude strawmen, ad hominem attacks and the like.
Thanks for reading.
Please share this, read my other stuff and follow if you thought it worthwhile. No offence is meant to anyone by this blog not addressing supporters of Left Unity, TUSC, any other left party, Plaid. SNP, etc, anarchists or the non aligned 🙂
It is a shame that the GPEW has not seen fit to issue a statement along these lines. I endorse it fully. Andy Chyba.
Speaking on behalf of the Greens/Europe Free Alliance MEP group at the European Parliament, this is a translation (by Green Left’s Nicole Haydock) of Michele Rivasi ‘s statement on the recent terrorist attacks in France.
“ One does not protect Human Rights by negating them; one cannot protect freedom with less freedom”
Mr President and dear colleagues,
My sympathy, our sympathy, goes to the 17 victims, artists and journalists, police officers, Jews , Christians, Atheists and Muslims, their families and their nearest and dearest.
My thoughts go to those millions of citizens in France, Europe and in the World who have expressed their sadness and support and who have reminded us again only yesterday that fear and hatred has not won.
And yet, following these terrorist attacks, when this huge awakening jolt in France and in Europe has taken place, we must be vigilant not to fall into a double trap:
The trap set by fanatics responsible for those dreadful terrorist attacks, but also the trap laid down by demagogues of all types who consider these recent events as a declaration of war against Islam in the rest of the planet. Just as we will not accept the idea of a war of civilisations, we will not accept either sickening conflations, such as those adopted by nationalists and those stoking the fire of a nationality identity crisis across Europe.
A second trap is also looming: that of seeing our freedom drowned under a new security arsenal invoked under the pretext of fighting against terrorism.
The “Patriot Act” voted on in the US in response to 11th September has led to the scandal of state sponsored illegal imprisonments and the CIA violating the rights of individuals to privacy. This has put in danger European citizens’ rights and freedoms too.
Let’s not fall into this trap: one does not protect Human Rights by negating them; one does not protect freedom with less freedom.
Let’s take action against the stigmatisation and discrimination towards the children of Europe because of their religion, their names and their origins or because of the neighbourhood they come from.
Let’s stop this spiralling downwards trend where failing our young people turns into despair for all of them and hatred and barbarism from a few of them.
And since we are preparing for a European investment plan, let’s use this opportunity to give priority to education, training and public services for those millions of young people.
Let’s give to the children of Europe “ More love and less hatred” as illustrated only a few days ago on the cover of Charlie Hebdo newspaper.
Tout est pardonee = All is forgiven
Should the Prime Minister be allowed to sign up the UK to TTIP without MPs even having a say on what’s in it? That’s the current situation, but this Thursday, MPs will vote on a motion demanding proper input on the final agreement. That gives each of us 48 hours to push our MP to support it. 
The TTIP trade deal between the EU and US will affect us all. It could give US corporations new powers to sue our government in secret courts, and could threaten further privatisation of public services.  It’s outrageous that the Prime Minister could sign us up without MPs even having a say on what’s in the deal.
We don’t have long, but if thousands of us write to our MPs, they’ll see that we won’t accept a deal that rides roughshod over our democracy. Please can you take two minutes to email your MP and ask them to vote for a say on TTIP this Thursday, 15th January? 
Giving parliament the final say over whether the UK signs up to TTIP would force MPs to start taking some responsibility. They won’t want to put their names to something that could threaten our NHS and see big businesses holding the government to ransom.
When you send your email, copies will also be sent to the people standing to be your MP at the next election. Your MP won’t want to be caught on the wrong side of the argument in front of their opponents! 
Together we’ve already done so much to fight this trade deal. 38 Degrees members have signed petitions, written to their MEPs and taken to the streets to tell the public about the deal. We’re having an impact – the more that people hear about TTIP, the less they like it! 
But right now our Prime Minister says he wants to put “rocket boosters” under the deal.  We’ve got a real problem if he’s able to ignore everyone and sign us up without MPs having a say on what’s in the deal. So let’s turn up the pressure on MPs, and make sure they realise their voters expect them to take some responsibility for ensuring TTIP can’t be waved through.
Please email your MP now:
Thanks for being involved,
Megan, Nat, Blanche and the 38 Degrees team
PS: The debate this Thursday is a backbench business debate. It’s been put forward by Geraint Davies MP. While the vote won’t be legally binding, if all MPs support parliament having a final say on the deal, it will be harder for that right to be denied to us when negotiations for TTIP are over.
PPS: TTIP is a far-reaching deal that won’t just affect our NHS. To read more about it click here:
 BBC: Week ahead:
 Independent: What is TTIP? And six reasons why the answer should scare you:
 Parliament: parliamentary business for Thursday 15 January 2015:
 When you send your email, it will be copied to the candidates that the 38 Degrees office team is aware of in your constituency. If none have been announced, your email will just go to your MP. These candidates, along with your MP, will then have your email address. If you know of candidates in your constituency that are not on the list, please email their details to ttipaction
 38 Degrees: Vince Cable: fix or scrap TTIP:
38 Degrees: TTIP: EU consultation:
38 Degrees: TTIP: day of action:
38 Degrees: European day of action:
 BBC: TTIP: Cameron pledges support for EU-US trade deal:
I, Andy Chyba, am now going to use the principle of freedom of speech to embark on some heartfelt observations that will be far from universally accepted, and that some will choose to find offensive. Tough! But first, let me make clear that I too was shocked by the nature of this crime and the direct attack, on principles we hold dear, that it represented. Despite never having heard of any of the victims before, they and their magazine clearly represent an attitude to religion that I relate to. As such I do mourn their loss and hope they would endorse what I am about to say. Just about everything I have read so far about this atrocity has gone on about it being an attack on ‘freedom of speech’. This is fine as far as it goes (although there is a debate to be had about the extent to which we actually have freedom of speech), but I tend to find such comments a bit condescending and patronising much of the time (even when I make them myself). It is almost as if people are saying “You are talking a load of rubbish, but feel free to carry on saying it, you idiot”. Some of the comments about Charlie Hebdo have been close to this, but I also think that there is another dimension to this that people are loathe to articulate, and that is to defend and endorse what Charlie Hebdo has actually been saying, not just about Islam, but religion in general, i.e. religion is ridiculous and it should be ridiculed. One of my main reasons for saying this may seem untenable at first, given the events in Paris. Ridiculing all religion in general is possibly the best way we have of ridding the world of the scourge of religious fundamentalist extremists. Extremities of any sort are the far-flung elements at the periphery of the more substantial main body. That is the same for fingers and toes, as it is for leaves and twigs. You can remove extremities and the main body will survive easily enough, and their is always the potential for regrowth of the extremities. Take the main body away from the extremities and they simply cannot survive – they just shrivel away to nothing. It is the main body that generates and sustains the extremities. Rationality alone is not enough to rid people of deeply ingrained and indoctrinated religious beliefs. Scientists with religious beliefs are not common, but far from unknown. Highly intellectual clergy apply their intelligence to trying to solve the inevitable riddles of their irrational beliefs. But constant challenging, and yes, repeated ridiculing, does get through to people eventually. When everyone around you points out your stupidity, you may get defensive at first, but all but the most stupid will start evaluating their position. I therefore contend that rather than politely respecting religious beliefs, especially those of the mild-mannered middle ground, we owe it to humanity as a whole to do our best to consign these ancient and primitive creeds, focussed on supernatural nonsense, to the dustbin of history. ‘Doing our best’ will never involve guns, bombs or violence of any sort. Violence is never a rational response to any problem. ‘Doing our best’ will never involve unduly picking on one set of religious beliefs in particular. We do not discriminate – they are all ridiculous. ‘Doing our best’ does not involve banning anything, or denying people anything. ‘Doing our best’ does involve using the power of the spoken and written word to keep on pointing out the idiocy of it all. Let them be offended. Let them be indignant. These are the responses of people losing the rational arguments and having nothing else to defend themselves with. But beware – these people are the ones that then give up on words and turn to violence – never to avenge their (non-existent) gods, but as the last resort to shut up the people they can’t stand seeing and hearing highlight their stupidity. They are losers, and when they are all gone we may finally achieve some semblance of a sane world.
PS. While standing by my comments above, I have been made aware of some debatably racist stuff published by Charlie Hebdo. This is, of course, a wholly different matter. Racism is even more indefensible than religion, and has more to say about the people who espouse it than those it is directed at. It therefore should not be banned – the free speech argument again – but needs opposing and ridiculing in itself. So as much as “Je suis Charlie” re religion, they perhaps cannot be granted unconditional solidarity even at this difficult time.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 21,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
7.00pm Thursday 8th January 2015 at the Railway P.H., Derwen Road, Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan CF31 1LH (one minute from train station and 2 mins from bus station)
ALL WELCOME (Especially new members!)
- Welcome and Introductions
- Apologies for Absence
- Minutes and matters arising
- Officers Reports – including membership update
- Councillor feedback
- Campaigns Update- fracking/bedroom tax
- Elections – General Election candidates for Bridgend and Ogmore
- Bridgend Green Party AGM
- AOB – incl National Conference
REMINDER – If anyone needs a lift to any of our meetings, let Andy know (andy.chyba) and we will organise it for you.
Re Agenda item 7: I am considering my future with the Green Party at the moment and as such have decided to withdraw my candidacy as Bridgend’s PPC for the General Election. Wales Green Party’s aim remains to stand in as many constituencies as possible, and there are rumours of candidates being ‘parachuted’ in if we do not find candidates from among our ranks. Personally, I think this should happen if the Bridgend membership are happy for it to happen. There are other places these ‘volunteer’ candidates could stand if we did not want to contest our constituency, for whatever reason. I have no strong feelings over this at all, one way to the other. GE selection rules attached.
Re Agenda item 8: The AGM will take place on Thursday 5th February – venue to be confirmed. This is going to be a ‘make or break’ AGM for Bridgend Green Party.
I am no longer going to be effectively running the party as chairman, irrespective of whether I remain a member or not. I will, however, be happy enough to advise and assist whoever takes over.
The Elections Officer role has been John Evans’ domain until he resigned his national membership earlier this year and reverted to being just a local member. He is not therefore eligible to continue in this role, which has to be taken by a full national member.
The Treasurers role has been undertaken by Neil Rogers for the last 4 years. I will ascertain whether he is happy to continue, or not, at January’s meeting.
If these roles are not filled at the AGM, the Local Party becomes unconstituted and should be wound up, or merged with another local party. I will be submitting a provisional motion to the AGM to cover this eventuality. Bridgend Local party Constitution attached:
AGM Provisional Agenda:
- (1) Welcome, Election of chair,
- (2) Minutes,
- (3) Reports from officers and councillor,
- (4) Election of officers,
- (5) Review of year (including campaigning activity and Conference feedback),
- (6) Report on Election campaigns and situation re target wards,
- (7) Motions and BGP constitutional amendments (if any),
- (8) Dates and venues for next 12 months
- (9) A.O.B.
We run on a skeleton executive of three officers at present in order to satisfy National Party and legal requirements.
These consist of:
- Chairman – acting also as Local Party Contact (and PPERA Second Officer)
- Elections Officer – acting as Election Agent and Nominating Officer
On top of this, there is a need for a Minuting Secretary (currently being done by the Elections Officer) and Blog/Website Officer (currently being done by the Chair). In an ideal world, we also need a Membership Secretary (sort of done by the Chair currently); and, ideally, a Fundraising Co-ordinator.
MOTIONS and/or BGP Constitutional Amendments
If any body wants to propose any, then please do so by email or post by 20th January, so that they can can be distributed for consideration before the AGM itself. They will need proposing and seconding by full members (either at the AGM or via email/post in advance) before they can be put to a vote at the AGM.