The feral political underclass is moving in

Self-appointed defenders of white society are taking advantage of Britain's anger and disillusionmen

Last Tuesday night, the Klan rode again. Not in Alabama or Mississippi, but in South and West London.

In Eltham and Ealing, hundreds of self appointed defenders of white society took to streets. They were not vigilantes but "patriots". There not to intimidate but "to protect".

"These are local people, not EDL, these are patriots who have come out to defend their area", explained the eponymously named Jack England, the EDL's south-east regional organiser. He then slightly gave the game away by adding, "The EDL has come down, about 50 of us, to manage them and control them, and to sort of guide them to make sure they don't move out of order."

Jack's definition of "out of order" is unclear. According to the Daily Telegraph's report of the scene, "as the number of people swelled, the mood became increasingly violent as suspected looters were chased and set upon."

What constituted a "suspected looter" is unclear. But I can guess.

A local cab driver I know spoke warmly of the night's events. "There were some naughty boys up there," he said, "Some Millwall. Some EDL. It all got a bit tasty."

It got tasty all right. A bus carrying black youths was set upon. Then, not content with targeting "suspected looters", the defenders of white decency turned on the police with bottles. Eventually hundreds of officers from eight different police forces dispersed them.

All of this took place in Eltham. Approximately five minutes walk from where it had all turned tasty for Stephen Lawrence.

Those currently urging against an "overreaction" to the events of last week should pause to consider what happened in Eltham. Personally, I find it sickening.

As I see it, a group of racist, political opportunists joined with a slightly larger group of broadly unpoliticised football hooligans, who in turn joined forces with an even larger group of beered-up, south London corner boys to indulge in a bit of old-fashioned black and paki bashing.

But I'm not deluding myself. Because I know that, in thinking that, I'm in the minority.

Some say the English Defence League was active in Eltham. But whether this is true or not, surely white communities are allowed to protect themselves too?

Who wrote that? Nick Griffin? EDL leader Stephen Lennon? Nope. Daily Mirror columnist Tony Parsons.

The mainstream political class is already moving on. Demanding enquiries. Seeking the reason why.

And moving in behind them are our very own feral political underclass. The EDL. The BNP.

Those who have a long history of smashing and looting and assaulting their way into the public consciousness sense an opening. Actually, not so much an opening as a gaping chasm.

As Britain burned, Nick Griffin's Twitter feed could hardly contain its glee:

Well I did say that the police failure to get tough in Tottenham would lead to more trouble. Should be all over TV that, just as Nick Griffin foresaw the London bombings with what the Crown Prosecution Service called "uncanny accuracy", I called this one too.

Stephen Lennon boasted of 1,000 EDL members patrolling the streets, and claimed, "We're going to stop the riots, police obviously can't handle it".

Meanwhile, Members of Parliament have been groping for answers, David Cameron from his new US super-cop, Ed Miliband from his DIY public enquiry.

But the rest of Britain isn't. It knows what lay behind the riots. Go into any pub. Stand at any supermarket check-out or any bus stop. The riots were caused by rapacious, predominantly black youths with a bag of crack in their pockets, gangster rap on their iPods, and hate and contempt for authority in their hearts.

There are underlying causes, of course. And again, Britain knows what they were. Our rampant benefit culture. Wastrel parents. Idle teachers. And, of course, immigration.

Mainstream politicians are wringing their hands over the wisdom of spraying water at rioters or evicting them from their council houses. Meanwhile one in three Britons would endorse firing live rounds at them.

Of course Britain is wrong. But Britain isn't interested in hearing that at the moment. It's scared, angry and disillusioned. And the focus of their fear, anger and disillusionment is not the BNP or the EDL.

We are in a dangerous place. A horribly dangerous place. Enquiries and soul searching are luxuries we cannot afford. Now is not the time for nuance or abstraction.

The political class needs to get ahead of the curve. It needs to park the liberal angst and the calls for understanding.

If we have to promise water cannon, promise them. If we have to threaten to use baton rounds, threaten. If we have to prepare for troops on the streets, prepare them. Demand exemplary sentences. Reverse the police cuts. Pledge to look at curtailing the use of social networking sites.

Above all, demonstrate that the state does not need to subcontract its obligation to ensure order on our streets. Because if the state doesn't do the job, others will. People do not like vigilantes. But nor are they prepared to stand back and see their communities handed over to those who beat and burned and looted with apparent impunity.

Last week, in Eltham and Enfield, the Klan rode again. And much of white Britain cheered them as they passed.

 

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Is TTIP a threat or an opportunity?

TTIP offers potentially huge opportunities to both Europe and the US - we should keep an open mind on what the final agreement will mean.

Barack Obama made it abundantly clear during his visit to the UK that if Britain left the European Union then it would be quite some time before we would be able to negotiate a trade deal with the United States. All the more reason to examine carefully what the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will mean for the UK. For Labour this is especially important because a number of trade unionists and Party members have expressed concerns about what TTIP could mean.

The economic worth of such a partnership between the European Union and the US has been questioned and it has been frequently stated that TTIP could give multinational companies unprecedented influence and undermine the British NHS.

With regard to the economic benefits of TTIP there are few that would argue that there are no economic gains to be achieved through the partnership. The question is to what extent economic growth will be stimulated. On the positive side the European Commission has argued that an agreement could bring economic gains of between €68 billion to €119 billion per year to the EU (0.3% to 0.5% of GDP) and €50 billion to €95 billion (0.2% to 0.4% of GDP) to the US. For Britain, this means that an agreement could add up to £10 billion annually to the UK economy.

On the negative side, a study commissioned by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left Group in the European Parliament has maintained that TTIP would bring only “limited economic gains”. These gains have to be weighed, it was argued, against the “downside risks”. Those risks have been identified as coming from the alignment of standards in areas such as consumer safety, environmental protection and public health.

These are important concerns and they should not be quickly dismissed. They are made all the more important because the existence of already low tariffs between the EU and the US make the negotiations to reduce non-tariff barriers to trade all the more significant.

There are a number of areas of concern. These include food standards and the regulation of GM crops and the worry that the EU’s focus on applying the environmental precautionary principle might be weakened. The European Commission, which has a responsibility for negotiating TTIP on behalf of the EU, is however acutely aware of these concerns and is mindful of its legal responsibility to uphold, and not to in any way weaken, the agreed legal standards to which the EU adheres. A concern has been expressed that irrespective of what European law may say, TTIP could undermine those standards. This I find difficult to accept because the ‘rule of law’ is absolutely central to the negotiations and the adoption of the final agreement.

But the EU is mindful of this concern and has brought forward measures which have sought to address these fears. The latest proposals from the Commission clearly set out that it is the right of individual governments to take measures to achieve public policy objectives on the level that they deem appropriate. As the Commission’s proposal states, the Agreement shall not affect the right of the parties to regulate within their own territories in order to achieve policy objectives including “the protection of public health, safety, environmental or public morals, social or consumer protection or promotion and protection of cultural diversity”.

Of course, this is not to suggest that there should not be vigilance, but equally I believe it would be wrong to assume the theoretical problems would inevitably become reality.

The main area of concern which has been expressed in Britain about TTIP relates to the NHS and the role of the private sector. Under the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions investors would be able to bring proceedings against a foreign government that is party to the treaty. This would be done in tribunals outside the domestic legal system. If a Government is found to be in breach of its treaty obligations the investor who has been harmed could receive monetary compensation or other forms of redress.

The concern is that the ISDS arrangements will undermine the ability of democratically elected governments to act on behalf of their citizens. Some have maintained that measures to open up the NHS to competition could be made irreversible if US companies had to be compensated when there is a change of policy from a future Labour Government.

In response to these concerns the European Commission has proposed an Investor Court System. This would be based on judgements being made by publicly appointed and experienced judges and that cases would only be brought forward if they were precisely defined. Specifically, it is proposed that cases would be limited to targeted discrimination on the basis of gender, race or religion, or nationality, expropriation without compensation or the denial of justice.

Why, you might ask, is there a need at all for a trans-national Investor Court System? The reason in part lies in the parlous state of the judicial systems in some of the relatively recent EU accession countries in Eastern Europe. To be frank, it is sadly the case that there are significant shortcomings in the judiciary of some countries and the rule of law is, in these cases, more apparent than real. It is therefore not unreasonable for investors to have an international framework and structure which will give them confidence to invest. It should also be noted that there is nothing proposed in TTIP which contradicts anything which is already in UK law.

We need to remember too that this is not only about US investment in Europe, it is also about European investment in the US. No US-wide law prohibits discrimination against foreign investors, and international law, such as free trade and investment agreements like TTIP, cannot be invoked in US courts. The Investor Court System would therefore benefit European companies, especially Small and Medium Sized Enterprises. 

It is of course impossible to come to a definitive conclusion about these provisions because the negotiations are ongoing. But it would surely be unwise to assume that the final agreement would inevitably be problematic.

This is especially true regarding the NHS. Last year Unite the Union commissioned Michael Bowsher QC to provide an opinion. His opinion was that “TTIP does pose a threat to a future government wishing to take back control of health services”. The opinion does not express a view on whether TTIP will “force” the privatisation of the health service (as some have claimed) and Bowsher admits that much of the debate is “conducted at a rather speculative level” and he has been unable to produce any tangible evidence to support his contention about future problems. On the other hand, it is the case that there is nothing in the proposed agreement which would alter existing arrangements for compensation. There are of course many legal opinions which underpin the view that existing legal arrangements would continue. While I accept that it is theoretically possible for the Bowsher scenario to occur, it is nevertheless extremely improbable. That is not to say that there ought not to be watertight safeguards in the agreement, but let us not elevate the extremely improbable to the highly likely.

A frequently heard criticism of TTIP is that the negotiations between the US and the EU are being conducted in ‘secret’.  Greenpeace, for example, has strongly sought to make this a central part of their campaign.  Although the Commission publishes EU position papers and negotiating proposals soon after they are tabled, it is impossible to see how complex negotiations of this kind can be practically conducted in public.  However, I believe that the draft agreement should be made public well before the final decisions are taken.

Once the negotiations have been concluded, the draft agreement will be presented to the European Council and the European Parliament, both of which have to agree the text. The European Council is, of course, made up of representatives of the governments of the EU and the European Parliament is democratically elected. Both Houses of the British Parliament will also debate the draft and there will need to be parliamentary approval of the agreement.

Transparency and democratic scrutiny are two things which there cannot be too much of. But, in practical terms, it is difficult to see how there could be more of either without making it nigh on impossible to secure such a complex agreement. Unite, of which I am a member, and others are quite right to express their concerns about TTIP, but let’s not exaggerate the potential difficulties and let’s not assume that the worst case scenario will always come about. TTIP offers potentially huge opportunities to both Europe and the US, and we should therefore at least keep an open mind on what the final agreement will mean.

Wayne David is the Labour MP for Caerphilly and is Shadow Minister for Political Reform and Justice. He is a former Shadow Europe Minister and was a junior minister in the last Labour government.