Sunday, 15 March 2015

38 degrees and TTIP

I'm sure other PPCs have been inundated with e-mails from 38 degrees in recent weeks, mainly on the issue of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Today I received yet another:

Dear Andrew,

Would you vote for this?
  • More privatisation of our public services, including the NHS in Scotland
  • Dangerous additives and pesticides in our food
  • Secret courts that allow corporations to sue the government
That’s what’s on the table if the EU-US trade deal called TTIP goes ahead.  It’s being hashed out in secret by corporate lobbyists in Brussels, but it could be stopped if our politicians intervene. And right now, the people with the power to stop it are desperate for our votes in the election.

There’s less than 60 days to go until we vote. Most MP candidates don’t have a strong stance against TTIP yet, but we have the chance to persuade them if we move fast. To make that happen, every candidate from every party needs to know two things: TTIP is a huge threat, and they have to oppose it.

If we build huge public petitions in every constituency in Scotland, they won’t be able to ignore the issue. Will you sign the petition for your constituency?

In Scotland, the reaction to TTIP has been huge. Tens of thousands of us have already taken action to stop this dodgy deal - and we’re making a difference. David Martin, a Labour MEP with a powerful position in Brussels, pushed his fellow European MEPs to take a stronger position on TTIP. It happened just days after 20,000 of us signed the petition asking him to take a stand. [3]

It’s a good start, but it’s not enough yet. Now, let’s pile the pressure on our Westminster MP candidates and make sure they know that TTIP must be scrapped. We have less than 60 days until the election: let’s go.

Will you join in? Add your name to the petition.

Thanks for being involved,

Jen, Bex, Blanche and the 38 Degrees team

This is followed by a few links: one to an Independent piece (What is TTIP and six reasons why the answer should scare you); the opinion of the director of War on Want as to why the NHS is at risk; Jamie Oliver writing in the Daily Mail about how TTIP will mean we'll all be eating rubbish food filled with pesticides and growth hormones and a tweet - yes, a tweet - from Nicola Sturgoen confirming she would oppose any parts of TTIP that would affect the NHS.

This is of course interesting. It's interesting because - of all the source material they could choose to empower the public to better understand TTIP - they opt to use two sensationalist newspaper articles, an opinion from a charity with its own political agenda and a non-commital tweet from the First Minister.

Of course, Ms Sturgeon would be right to oppose TTIP if in fact it would have a detrimental effect on public services. But what 38 degrees are not telling you, for reasons unknown, is that public services would be excepted from these provisions. Interestingly, 38 degrees do not refer their audince to any of the relevant working documents, especially in relation to public consultation to the ISDS provisions. Neither do they refer them to the letter from the EU Trade Commissioner to the UK government, which confirms that TTIP would not open the NHS up to privatisation.

Nick Clegg, answering questions at Liberal Democrat spring conference yesterday, sought to destroy some TTIP myths, especially in relation to the NHS.

To be honest, I've not made my mind up yet about TTIP. What I do resent, however, is attempts to either influence me or enlist my support for a stance without providing any kind of real evidence to confirm very serious suppositions. So I responded with a short e-mail of my own:

Dear friends,

You ask if I would "vote for this" - of course I wouldn't vote for this and neitehr would any sensible person.

However, this isn't what TTIP actually is.

Perhaps you should be supplying better information about the reality of what TTIP is and does so that people can be better informed. Petitions are good and well, and there is a place for them. But I would prioritise reason and considered analysis in place of sensationalist scaremongering. There is a reason that most candidates don't have a strong stance, and that is because understanding TTIP requires a great deal more information than what you're suggesting.

It also requires a seperatiion of fact from fiction, and perhaps accepting the truth that the EU actually excludes public services from many of the provisions of trade and investment agreements.

I haven't made up my own mind, but I will do so on the basis of factual research rather than flagrant misinformation.

Andrew Page

I retain concerns about TTIP and how it will work in practice (not in respect to the NHS issue, however) and am always interested in engaging with those with the relevant expertise who could perhaps better enable me to understand its complexities and its potential ramifications. However, I will not support campaigns based on scaremongering and which appear to withhold, rather than empower voters to connect to, sensible analysis and factual data.

Personally, I'm more inclined to listen to Vince Cable (who said "ISDS cannot force governments to open markets or privatise public services, nor will it give excessive rights to US investors") or even Nicola Sturgeon (who doesn't seem too concerned about the provisions of TTIP as a whole), than I am to accept at face value the views of Jamie Oliver as reported in, of all newspapers, the Daily Mail. It usually takes more than a Mail article to convince me of anything, and this is no exception.

Is 38 degrees actually interested in aiding the public to understand the issue? Or is it yet another example of a campaigning organisation seeking to adjust the facts to fit its own perception?

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