What is Ritchie blathering about here?

I fear that various lefties have, in the circlejerk (what is more politely known as groupthink) managed to concince themselves of something that is not true:

on signing TTIP – the trade treaty that will require the privatisation of the NHS whatever he says now.
The TTIP says absolutely nothing at all about whether the NHS need be privatised. It also doesn’t say that Spanish, French. German or any other health care system need be any different from what it is now.
What it does say is that if a government signs a contract then it must live up to that contract. And the people who define whether it is doing so will not be the national courts under the control (in some countries, obviously not us! Of course! But sauce for goose and gander) of the government being held to its contract.
Even the bloody unions don’t say TTIP means that the NHS must be privatised. They’re at least careful enough to point out that if a part of the NHS is contracted out (for example), and if that contract comes with investment requirements, or a compensation clause, then if the government wants to take that contract back in house they’re entirely at liberty to do so. As long as they pay up whatever compensation clause is in that contract and or refund whatever that investment requirement was.
That is, the government can legisltate as it wishes it’s just got to agree to honour the contracts that the government has signed. And that really is all the TTIP says and does.
So, other than a circlejerk of misinformation, where does this idea that it requires the privatisation of the NHS come from?

 

37 thoughts on “What is Ritchie blathering about here?”

  1. You can’t legislate away political risk. Look at the Euro: if Greece or Italy want to break away, they’ll do so, contracts be damned.

  2. From the 38 Degrees site:

    We want to prevent TTIP and CETA because they include several critical issues such as investor-state dispute settlement and rules on regulatory cooperation that pose a threat to democracy and the rule of law

    Now, they don’t say that it requires privatising the NHS either. And it does place some limits on democracy – rule of the mob – although they seem to be using an interesting definition of “the rule of law”.

    I’d also note that their statement “The ECI (European Citizen’s Initiative) supports an alternative trade and investment policy in the EU.” is wrong. The ECI is a mechanism whereby a million people can get legislation proposed to the commission. And there doesn’t appear to be a “trade and investment policy” initiative open on the ECI web portal (unless they mean the “New Deal 4 Europe” nonsense – which doesn’t mention health or TTIP.)

  3. > So, other than a circlejerk of misinformation, where does this idea that it requires the privatisation of the NHS come from?

    It comes from a different, older circle-jerk of misinformation: lefties are seriously emotionally invested in the idea that Tories want to destroy the NHS, by (a) cutting its budget (which they have not done in my lifetime), and (b) privatising it (which they have never remotely attempted to do).

    One of my hobbies is to point out to them that the last Westminster cut to the NHS budget was under Callaghan and that the only NHS cuts since have been thanks to devolution: Labour in Wales and the SNP in Scotland. That was particularly interesting in the run-up to the Referendum, when the SNP were pushing “Vote Yes to save the NHS from Tory cuts!”

  4. I think the argument has been distilled into Twitterspeak of 140 characters for purposes of sloganeering. from the following hypothetical scenario – if an American company is given control of part or all of the health Service, it will mean that if a Green/ Murphyite/ Stalinist government in the future attempts to renationalise it, the U.S. company will be able to dispute that with an independent body, the ISDS set up and the terms of TAFTA and potentially either have that decision overturned or be compensated for it.

    A few months ago I was able to get on to the comments section in TRUK when he put up a link from some French wing nut in The Guardian advocating that future governments should not be bound by policies they didn’t agree to. The goal is to limit any future governments adopting his policies from being bound by any commitment made under ‘neoliberalism’. TTIP would put a barrier in his way and that is why it is unacceptable.

    BF – I’ve noticed the falling polls for Miliband, combined with the Greens playing second fiddle to UKIP, have meant there is an increasing desperation in his posts even before his op. He can see his coming irrelevance, and that combined with his failing health makes one fearful for his mental state.

    Whilst I acknowledge that I’m stumped as to how you get from the above hypothetical to ‘guaranteed privatisation’ but this is Murphy we are talking about – when has intellectual coherence or logic been a factor?

  5. S2,

    Further to you wind up you could add that Thatcher increased the NHS budget by 3pc per year in real terms.

  6. This goes a lot further than enforceability of contracts. ISDS provisions allow overseas investors to sue governments (in special tribunals) over regulatory rulings which cost them money.

  7. PaulB

    I think you are making Tim’s point for him here (please do forgive me if that is your intention). The intention is to protect or at the very least adequately compensate the party bearing the risk of the investment requirement. It seems that 38 Degrees regards this as subverting democracy – to my eyes their version of democracy being indistinguishable from mob rule.
    Ritchie by contrast has viewed the world through his very own anaesthetic haze and convinced himself of fairies dancing in front of his eyes.

  8. @Van_Patten, why should RM be desperate to keep Miliband. RM’s policies would fit in perfectly with the Greens.

  9. “Ritchie by contrast has viewed the world through his very own anaesthetic haze.”

    It’s a safe bet that the anaesthetist at Norwich General does not know Ritchie personally. Had he known him, I’m confident he would have done us all a favour and accidentally on purpose put the great man to sleep.

  10. Re. PaulB’s point, you don’t have to be a Murphyite (et al) to have concerns about rules that open up governments to a whole bunch of new challenges from corporates, Particularly when there isn’t a contract being enforced. I’m not a TTIP expert, so I don’t know if ‘special tribunals’ are as sinister as Paul makes them sound, but I do know that I don’t trust any of these fuckers.

    I can see situations where a change in regulations would lead to investors losing out, and where it would be appropriate for them to have some redress. More often, however, I’d be inclined to think ‘tough shit’. It’s not like I get to sue the government whenever the pass a law that’s contrary to my interests.

    Quite how any of this requires privatization of the NHS, of course, remains uncertain… but if TTIP is about affirming relationships between governments and corporates, and is seemingly supported by corporatist politicians of all stripes, then it’s probably not going to be a very good thing, and I’ll not let the fact that a bunch of morons agree on that point distract me.

  11. “SadButMadLad
    November 17, 2014 at 3:25 pm
    @Van_Patten, why should RM be desperate to keep Miliband. RM’s policies would fit in perfectly with the Greens.”
    I guess he knows that a lot of people will always vote Labour whatever happens (look at Rotherham) so they are the only possible vehicle (apart from the Tories of course) for him to see his vision come to fruition.

  12. Thought Gang,

    > I can see situations where a change in regulations would lead to investors losing out, and where it would be appropriate for them to have some redress. More often, however, I’d be inclined to think ‘tough shit’. It’s not like I get to sue the government whenever the pass a law that’s contrary to my interests.

    I’m inclined to agree, with reservations. A major problem with the lefty outrage over this is that it’s filling up the Web and thus making it very difficult to find the unoutraged truth behind some of these cases. It does look as if some corporations have been suing governments for decisions that cost them money even when there is no contract in place, but I can’t be sure because it’s proving impossible to find unbiased and knowledgeable reporting.

    But yes, as a general principle, corporations should assess risk properly, and sometimes they’ll be wrong, and tough shit.

  13. The Thought Gang

    “…I don’t know if ‘special tribunals’ are as sinister as Paul makes them sound, but I do know that I don’t trust any of these fuckers.”

    Given that the tribunals will exist to arbitrate disputes between governments and corporates, which particular fucker don’t you trust so much that you wouldn’t wish them represented?

  14. @Ironman

    I don’t trust either. Isn’t it the essence of corporatism that they are in league with each other, with you and I picking up the bill. The politicians don’t give much of a fuck if ‘the government’ get’s sued every time some new law interferes with some company’s business plan.

    As with everything else that governments and corporates agree on these days, I work form the default position that it will afford more rights to those big companies with the connections and resources to lobby for/protect their interests, and to hell with the rest of us.

  15. So if corporations, (or other people), start suing governments who pass stupid laws that cost them money, might that not discourage said govenments from passing stupid laws?

    Granted that Big Corporations are awfully nasty, horrible things that want to control our every moment in order to perpetuate their power over us and governments are benign entities which only want to provide us all with nice things for a small fee, but even so, occasionally governments do slightly overreach themselves and make the odd mistake. (Or at least, mistakes are sometimes made, though lessons will be learned.)

  16. Kevin,

    > So if corporations, (or other people), start suing governments who pass stupid laws that cost them money, might that not discourage said govenments from passing stupid laws?

    Yes. However, when corporations sue governments who pass perfectly sensible laws that cost them money, that will discourage governments from passing sensible laws.

    I think it’s safe to say that any conceivable law is going to cost someone money. That cannot be a measure of whether the law is good or stupid.

  17. Surely some risk is priced into these contracts? It would be a bit cheeky to price this risk and charge for it, and then sue over that same risk.

  18. S2:

    Hmmm… I think all the sensible laws were passed a long, long time ago. Nowadays most of the laws are nit-pickery such as trying to legislate whether tweeting “Chuka Ummuna is a bum-bandit” is racist or homophobic, or an attempt to put right the many flaws in the last law, or implementing some EU regulation.

    I suppose Murder Inc. might want to sue about the law against murder as depriving them of trade, (and I’m sure any amount of lawyers would rush to take the case), but there could probably be some statute of limitations thing about old laws that have stood the test of time.

  19. SQ2

    “It comes from a different, older circle-jerk of misinformation: lefties are seriously emotionally invested in the idea that Tories want to destroy the NHS, by (a) cutting its budget (which they have not done in my lifetime), and (b) privatising it (which they have never remotely attempted to do).”

    This canard goes along with an even older one which says that the Tories opposed the founding of the NHS right from the beginning.

    This is in direct contradiction to the 1943 White Paper on A National Health Service published by a Conservative Minister of Health in the Coalition government and the Conservatives’ 1945 election manifesto which promised a Con government would establish a National Health Service.

    I once had a copy of each bought in a charity shop.

    Opposition to Bevan’s Bill was solely predicated on the unnecessary nationalisation of all hospitals etc. The Conservatives were not opposed to *A* NHS just *The* NHS that was on offer.

    And given all that has transpired since with a single-provider, state-run service there is a mountain of evidence that said opposition was correct.

    But, of course, myths have a life of their own, especially when the promulgated by a self-righteous Labour movement.

  20. Squander>

    “when corporations sue governments who pass perfectly sensible laws that cost them money, that will discourage governments from passing sensible laws.”

    What kind of sensibly made law doesn’t acknowledge the costs it’s imposing?

  21. @ Kevin

    I think you should stop assuming that there is any meaningful separation between the governments and the corporates. Or, to be more accurate, the people who control them both.

    The only way of using financial/legal penalties to stop stupid laws being passed is to impose them on the politicians. As long as you and I are picking up the tab for the stupid things that governments do, governments will do the stupid things.

  22. GeoffH

    Richard Murphy has instructed (that is the correct term here) another blogger not to allow certain types to post comments on his blog because they are not trying honestly to contribute and inform. I hint you have just defined yourself as one of those types.
    You and I might think that pre – deciding a named person’s comments will not be constructive and so should be prohibited belongs to Eastern Europe 30 years ago; Richard would call the comparison ridiculous. Personally I think he just doesn’t like having his inadequacies exposed.

  23. Is passing laws the business of government? Or would we be better off if they didn’t pass as many laws?

  24. Just a hypothetical thought-experiment – suppose a government signed a contract with a bunch of unions and lefty organisations offering to turn the nation into a socialist utopia forever, with major penalties should they reverse their decision, and the unions/lefties invested on that basis. Could the lefties then sue the subsequent right-wing government for breach of contract and lots of money?

    Hmm.

  25. If they committed to capital investment then yes, they should be censored for the loss. That is assuming of course it wasn’t an open – ended and ‘voluntary’ contribution of the type the sort of government to which you refer is fond.

  26. Bloke in Germany in Taiwan

    Hang on a moment. This might not be what Ritchie says, but it is privileges for rich forriners. If I want to sue the German government I have to do it in a German court. If I want to sue the British government, I have to do it in a British court. And I definitely cannot sue either government for passing laws that interfere with my “business plan” for my life (for example if I sue the government for raising taxes I will get laughed out of court).

    So why the privileges for forrin legal persons?

  27. GeoffH

    You are absolutely spot on, and probably the only occasion I have managed to silence the man completely is by exposing his historical ignorance (combined with his two primary ‘historical experts’ – Andre Dickie and Ivan Horrocks.) they actually don’t have much of a historical background and as such are very easy to out-Argue.

  28. Sadbutmadlad

    Apologies for delayed response to your quite valid query. Murphy was originally targeting, and indeed rumored to be in line for the Alan Walters role in a Miliband government – his lauding of the Greens above Labour is only a relatively recent thing, partly a consequence of his arrogance, hyper- sensitivity, penchant for gaffes and outright sexism over the Newsnight affair rendering him unacceptable in terms of the feminist lobby. 8% of the vote isn’t likely to allow the Courageous state to be viable, so as I suggest he is looking unite desperate – his son left in A UKIP controlled Britain and his dream torn asunder….

  29. B in G

    For the same reason we sign trade agrees at all; to encourage movement of investment between nations. Sure, a domestic firm might invest and then find the rules changed and it’s money stolen from it. And sure, there might be little it can do about it (depending on the courts). Eventually, however, investment stops, money is moved away wherever possible and…general shit. For example, why are you in Germany and not France right now? A foreign though is much less likely to invest if it thinks it is going to have its money stolen by a Courageous State. That state will of course find weird and wonderful ways to dress up that theft, but it will still be theft. These provisions are therefore necessary. I do have an issue with secret tribunals, but it seems they are very popular with firms and governments alike.

  30. BiGiT,

    I quite agree. If there’s a contract (or maybe an agreement a bit more vague than a proper contract but still understood to be a commitment — sorting out such things is surely what the courts are for), then yes, allow firms to sue the government for breach of it. But if it is true that firms are now suing governments simply for policies that lead to decreased profits (and, as I said, it’s a bugger trying to figure out if that is true), then that’s absurd and antidemocratic.

    Ironman,

    Yes, that’s a problem, but the solution is not to allow investors to sue a government who have enacted polciies that were subject to democracy. The solution is for the opposition to say “Look! The country’s falling apart because these eejits have driven all the investment away. Vote for us!”

    Kevin,

    > I think all the sensible laws were passed a long, long time ago. Nowadays most of the laws are nit-pickery such as trying to legislate whether tweeting “Chuka Ummuna is a bum-bandit” is racist or homophobic, or an attempt to put right the many flaws in the last law, or implementing some EU regulation.

    Nonsense. Just because lots of new laws are stupid, doesn’t mean there are no sensible ones. The Data Protection Act, for instance. We might argue about the details, but I’d hope we could agree that it was quite good that government noticed that companies were storing more and more customer data on databases and decided that they should not be allowed to hand out your data willy-nilly without your express permission. The Freedom of Information Act, too: imperfect, but a move in the right direction, and it’s already bitten Parliament on the arse, which is surely a Good Thing.

  31. I can see why foreign corporations would want to sue governments for changing regulations. I know of several instances of foreign oil companies investing in a place with clear regulations on which they’ve based their investment decisions, only to find that the host government quite deliberately changes the tax structure (not simply the rate) of that particular activity once the installations are built in order to squeeze more money for themselves. Although I think a better response would be for the oil company to call the government and say “fine, you win this one. But unless this is reversed by next week, we’re off and never coming back”. Fat chance of that.

  32. S2: Shoudn’t the Data Protection Act be replacable by a bit of advice to consumers: “These companies hold your data. If you deal with them be sure to agree a contract that either ensures they keep your data secret or costs you less to use as compensation for selling it on. And if they bugger up, then sue them and if they bugger up big-time then a class action suit is in their future.”

    As for the Freedom of Information Act, well I suppose you are right, but I can’t help feeling that the government should have extremely limited rights to keep information from it’s employers, (us), especially information that we have paid for.

    They should be forced to justify secrecy rather than we be forced to justify openness and it should be part of the deal, (the constitution if you wish), rather than requiring an act of Parliament.

  33. Kevin

    “So if corporations, (or other people), start suing governments who pass stupid laws that cost them money, might that not discourage said govenments from passing stupid laws?”

    Up to a point. My understanding is that foreign corporates can sue via the arbitration provisions, but locals can’t.

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