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Archive for the ‘38 Degrees Blog Posts’ Category

Blogs by the 38 Degrees team, volunteers and members.

TTIP: 38 Degrees members meet Bill Cash MP

December 22nd, 2014 by

Here’s a blog by 38 Degrees member Linden Kaniewski, who lives in Stone constituency

Following on from the European Day of Action on TTIP, 38 Degrees members from Stone, Staffordshire organised a meeting with Bill Cash MP. We got about 15 minutes to pop some questions and to make our concerns known.

We got the ball rolling by handing Bill a report by the Austrian Foundation for Development Research which challenges the findings of the CEPR report commissioned by the EU. It argues that the potential economic benefits are very uncertain and rely upon assumptions such as continued full employment. Bill did not challenge the suggestion that the economic effect could be ten billion pounds either way.

He was, however, very keen to reassure us that he was concerned about TTIP and that he was fully aware of the issues involved. In fact he went to great lengths to explain to us how he was working closely with Lord Livingston, the Minister of State for Trade and Investment, who is taking part in the Lord’s Inquiry into TTIP. Apparently, Lord Livingston also has reservations but we were not told what these are.

On the topic of Investor State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) he agreed with 38 Degrees members that the ability of foreign investors to be able to sue governments in secret courts was an “undeniable” threat to UK sovereignty. It’s interesting to note that Bill’s website has a section entitled ‘The accountability and sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament’. This is where Bill became passionate. He was unsure who he was accountable to in the ‘chain of command’ and was uncomfortable with the ‘behind closed doors’ negotiations that he said had already been scuppered by the leaked document, making a mockery of the argument for secret talks.

38 degrees members were also concerned that the EU was being pressurized by powerful corporations in the agriculture sector to bring standards into ‘harmonization’ with the US. Bill baulked at the idea of hormone treated beef but was less clear on how he proposed to ensure that standards were harmonized without the EU lowering theirs. It is worth noting that the U.S. government lodged complaints with the World Trade Organization targeting EU restrictions on GMOs and growth hormones and that the U.S. hopes to push for changes to labelling laws.

Our time was up rather quickly so we didn’t get chance to ask Bill whether the taxpayer may end up compensating corporations for loss of future profits. Nor did Bill get a chance to say what he thought about the nuclear company Vattenfall demanding 4.7 billion euros from the German government for predicted loss of profits after it decided to phase out nuclear power. It would have been interesting to discuss the case of gold mining firm Occidental suing the government of Ecuador for $1.77 billion after the latter changed its mind about mining in the rainforest. Or what about the Philip Norris tobacco company suing Australia over a change in its packaging laws? We didn’t even touch on the NHS and its inclusion or not in the Investor State Dispute Settlement clause.

U.S. Rep. for Florida, Alan Grayson, was allowed to see a copy of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an equivalent of TTIP, after mounting public pressure. He concluded that “This agreement hands the sovereignty of our country over to corporate interests”. We just hope that Bill will discover all he needs to know via the Lord’s Inquiry just in case he isn’t allowed a peek at TTIP.

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Your decision: 13th December

December 15th, 2014 by

Every week a group of 38 Degrees members vote on which issues our movement should prioritise and which campaigns to get behind. Here are the results for last week.

Protecting the NHS by stopping the government’s dangerous plans like privatisation and closing A&E departments has come top this week followed closely by campaigning against TTIP – the trade deal that threatens our public services with permanent privatisation and would give companies the power to sue our government.

The next biggest issues were cracking down on tax dodging by big companies and making affordable housing a key issue in the General Election next year.

You can see how 38 Degrees members voted on other issues on the graph below. The blue on the graph shows how many people answered ‘a lot’ in support of the campaigns listed, the orange represents people answering ‘a little’, and the grey is ‘not at all’.

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Petition hand-in: Don’t deport Wadih

December 15th, 2014 by

There’s a horrible proposal by the Home Office to deport Wadih, a Lebanese man with Down’s syndrome who’s lived in the UK for 17 years. Wadih was forced to leave Beirut after being targeted for his disability. If he’s removed from his loving family and sent to Lebanon there will be no-one there to care for him and protect him.

People all over the UK have come together to campaign for Wadih to stay. Yvonne, a 38 Degrees member from Leicester, started a petition on the Campaigns By You site back in the summer when she heard the news. Over 80,000 people have signed it so far!

Today we delivered the petition to the Home Office. Yvonne came down from Leicester – and Wadih, his brother and friends came along too. Now the Home Secretary Theresa May will know just how many people are watching her decision.

Click here to sign the petition. Even though it’s been handed in, every signature still counts and builds on the pressure on the Home Office.

Hopefully we’ll be able to update you on the campaign soon.

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Victory: MPs expenses

December 15th, 2014 by

Plans to cover up investigations into MPs expenses have been scrapped – thanks to 38 Degrees members.

As soon as the plans were floated, 38 Degrees members got together to stop them. Over 200,000 of us signed a petition. And a whopping 31,000 of us flooded the MPs expenses watchdog, IPSA, with objections.

Together, we made sure that there was no doubt – MPs work for us, so if their expenses are being questioned we have a right to know about it.

Everything we do together is funded by 38 Degrees members like you. Small, regular donations from thousands of 38 Degrees members mean that together, we can act fast when we need to.

Could you chip in £2 or £3 a week to make sure 38 Degrees is ready to respond whenever we need to? Click here to donate on our secure site:

YES – I’ll set up a direct debit

NO – But I’ll make a one-off donation

IPSA say that they’re committed to transparency – today 38 Degrees members have held them to account on that.

38 Degrees is a movement of people fighting to make democracy work. Together, we’re holding our politicians to account and influencing decision makers to make choices that benefit us all.

It’s a hard slog, but we’ll never give up, because winning campaigns like this one take us one step closer to the world we want to live in. What a great way to end the year together!

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TTIP: 38 Degrees Bath meeting

December 12th, 2014 by

This is a guest post by Barbara Gordon from the 38 Degrees local group in Bath.

38 Degrees members packed the Friends Meeting House in Bath on Friday 5 December for the  TTIP debate. So many people came that some had to be turned away, and there was a lively, passionate and well-informed discussion.  John Hilary of War on Want explained some of the many concerns about TTIP and our MP, Don Foster, promised to take those concerns back to Westminster.

As deputy chief whip, Don is a member of the government but he clearly struggled to defend the government’s support for TTIP.   38 Degrees members have been accused of raising unnecessary alarm about this trade deal but the audience in Bath was concerned about the secrecy surrounding the talks whereas many MPs and MEPs seem content to accept what they are told without having any access to the details of the negotiations.

It was clear the audience didn’t accept assurances that the NHS and other public services will be safe from exploitation by big American corporations or that food safety standards, labour rights and environmental standards would not be compromised by this deal.

MEPs and national governments won’t get to vote on TTIP until after the negotiations are completed which is why we have to keep campaigning while the talks are continuing.

If you’d like to be involved with the 38 Degrees local group in Bath, please pop the staff team an email – emailtheteam@38degrees.org.uk

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TTIP: Rother valley votes

December 12th, 2014 by

Exciting news! Rother district, could become the first in the country to formally oppose TTIP. If we act fast, we could make this possibility a reality.

TTIP is the trade deal which could lead to American companies taking over bits of our NHS. It’ll also allow big corporations to sue our government if it makes changes to the law which affect businesses’ profits – like raising the minimum wage.

Councillors are meeting on Monday to vote on whether to oppose TTIP - and it could be the start of something amazing. If towns, cities, and whole districts declare themselves ‘no TTIP’ zones, we can show the government that TTIP is simply too toxic to back.

But, the Council will only oppose TTIP if enough of our local councillors turn up and vote the right way on Monday. There are thousands of 38 Degrees members in the Rother area and councillors aren’t used to receiving floods of emails – especially ones about an international trade deal. If enough of us email them today there’ll be in no doubt which way they should vote.

The vote is on Monday – so we’ve only got two days. If you live in Rother, can you email your councillors urgently to ask them to vote to oppose TTIP? It’ll take two minutes, please click here to email them.

The more councils who vote to stand against TTIP, the more likely the government is to realise they won’t get away with selling our NHS down the river, or allowing huge corporations to sue our government.

The last few months have been amazing. 38 Degrees members in the Rother district, and across the UK, have come together to campaign against TTIP. We’ve targeted MPs and MEPs, through days of action, petitions and flooding their inboxes.  Now we’ve got an opportunity to spread the campaign to a local level, and it could be Rother Council leading the way.

Can you go along to the vote show the huge local interest in this issue? You can RSVP here.

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No TTIP motion before Rother District Council

December 12th, 2014 by

The following motion is being proposed by Councillor Sam Scouster at Rother District Council on TTIP:

“The Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a comprehensive free trade and investment treaty currently being negotiated – in secret – between the European Union and the United States of America. The main goal of TTIP is to remove the regulatory “barriers” which restrict the potential profits to be made by transnational corporations. However, these “barriers” are in reality some of our most prized social standards and environmental regulations, such as labour rights, food safety rules, regulations on the use of toxic chemicals, digital privacy laws and banking safeguards. The TTIP would also restrict the ability for an incoming Government to bring back into public ownership, services such as those already outsourced and privatised by the NHS and other public services.

The TTIP endangers the democratic process of our country. We call on the Rother District Council to condemn any move to implement the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) and that the the council must declare its opposition to the TTIP as a matter of urgency.”

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Save Glasgow’s Steps!

December 10th, 2014 by

The steps to the Royal Concert Hall in Buchanan Street are a popular place to watch the world go by.  Even on wet days you’ll find scores of people eating lunch, having a chat, busking, or staging protests.  Stand at the top of the steps and you have a beautiful view of steep, bustling Buchanan Street, the rooftops of Glasgow’s grand city centre buildings, and the hills in the distance.

But all this could be gone if property developers LS Buchanan Ltd get their way.  As part of a major development of the shopping centre, the steps are to be demolished and replaced with a huge glass ‘rotunda’. [1]

Cities and towns across the UK have seen a dramatic reduction in public space. [2] Our urban spaces are being privatised and closed off at an alarming rate, and Glasgow is no exception to this.  But residents are fed up with it. [3]

38 Degrees members Ben and Stephen started a petition on the Campaigns By You site, quickly gaining the attention of the public and the press.  The planning consultation closed on Friday 5th December, by which time they had gathered 12,688 signatures against the removal of the steps.

Handing-in the petition at Glasgow City Council

Stephen, Ben and other campaigners held a street stall at the steps on Friday and were flooded with passers-by wanting more information, outraged residents writing their own letters of objection.  By the 5pm deadline they had 243 written submissions to present to the Council.

The proposal to remove the steps is backed by leader of Glasgow City Council Gordon Matheson, and his colleagues.  However other councillors are backing our campaign to save the steps.  Now the decision lies with the planning committee.

We’ll keep the pressure on them over the next few weeks, showing how strongly people in Glasgow feel about this issue.

Though the petition has been handed in, you can still add your name and comments:
https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-the-steps

And have a look at the campaign’s facebook page here:
https://www.facebook.com/saveourstepsglasgow?fref=ts




NOTES

[1] Evening Times: Land to be Snapped up for Expanded Galleries:
http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/news/land-to-be-snapped-up-for-expanded-galleries-175657n.24989503

[2] See Anna Minton’s fantastic book on the issue of public space and private control in our cities – Ground Control (2012)
http://annaminton.com/groundcontrol.htm

[3] STV Glasgow interview passers-by on the steps issue:
http://glasgow.stv.tv/articles/297738-call-to-save-iconic-glasgow-royal-concert-hall-steps/

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts, Campaigns by You

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Cuts, cuts and more cuts…

December 8th, 2014 by

There’s been a lot of talk about money over the last week. Last Wednesday George Osborne, the chancellor, laid out the government’s tax and spending plans in the last big budget announcement before next year’s elections.

We’ve already seen £35bn of spending cuts – but £55bn more are coming. And the government still hasn’t outlined everything they plan to cut.

38 Degrees members have been talking about the government’s plans on social media. James Meadway, an economist from the New Economics Foundation (nef), has been helping us make sense of it all. [1]

The discussion is still going on. Just click ‘like’ on the Facebook page to join in, or leave a comment below if you’re not on Facebook:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/facebook

 

Here’s some of what we’ve have been talking about together since Wednesday:

  • Anger that the welfare state is facing huge cuts when the rich carry on getting richer
  • Concern that the government is trying to destroy public services so that private companies can buy them up on the cheap
  • Unease that the ‘have nots’ – the sick, disabled and the vulnerable – will suffer the most from cuts to welfare, while the rich will profit
  • The problem of closing tax loopholes and stop tax dodging
  • The need for a green economy

Tax
On Wednesday Osborne announced a 25% tax on companies like Google and Amazon when they move profits abroad to avoid paying tax in the UK. But Lucy on Facebook wanted to know: “will the announcement about the 25% tax on profits for multinationals really stop big companies like Google tax dodging?”

Among suggestions from members like introducing a “Land Value Tax” or a corporation tax, James from nef made the point that Osborne’s tax announcement was “unlikely to be effective as a single measure – tax avoidance is effectively a systemic problem, so unless you address a range of issues at once (including closing tax havens), it’s not clear you’ll get too far on it.”

Welfare and the deficit
Steve asked “Why are the poor and disabled being punished by benefit cuts (leading to suicides and deaths in some cases), yet no bankers have been punished for gambling away billions?” And Ruth wanted to know “Given that the deficit has fallen much more slowly than expected, how realistic is it to expect a surplus in five years time?”

James made the point that “official forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility for this depend on continued high (if lower rate) growth, a big rise in tax revenues, and low interest payments. OBR forecasts don’t have a good record – they are the people who originally thought the deficit now would be £40bn rather than £91bn.”

A greener economy
Other members voiced concern about the lack of a vision for a green economy. Gareth and Margaret asked “How do we motivate government to switch their subsidies (our taxes) to renewables from fossils?” and commented that “No investment is being made in the future of the UK or indeed the Planet.”

There is a feeling from many members on Facebook that austerity measures don’t work and are unfair, and a concern that announcements on stopping tax dodging won’t be effective. So what do you think?

The discussion is still happening – why not visit the 38 Degrees Facebook page to get involved?
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/facebook

And if you’re not on Facebook, just leave a comment below.

NOTES
[1] New Economics Foundation: James Meadway:
http://www.neweconomics.org/people/entry/james-meadway

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London: Want to find out more about TTIP?

December 3rd, 2014 by

TTIP is the trade deal that could allow big American companies to bid on our NHS. This shady pact could also give corporations the power to sue our government in secret courts.

Want to know more? There’s a great opportunity to do that on Thursday 11 December. It’s an event hosted by lots of different campaign groups, where you can hear all about the deal and – most importantly – how we could stop it. Click here to RSVP.

Here are the details:

When: Thursday 11 December
Where: Toynbee Hall, 28 Commercial Street, London, E1 6LS

The meeting’s designed to inform more people about the deal, so don’t worry if you don’t know anything about TTIP. In fact, that’s even better. There’ll be loads of opportunities to ask questions, and there’ll even be a theatre performance explaining the deal.

Please click here to RSVP to the event here, so the local group knows how many people to expect. The page is outside of the 38 Degrees website, but it’ll allow the organisers to keep track of how many people are attending.

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