On March 27th 1668 an event took place which has an important lesson for us today with the possibility of a free Trade Agreement between the United States and the UK replicating parts of the stalled Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement making democratically elected Governments subject to Corporate interests. I have written a post about how TTIP would work in practice. Back in March 1668, the restored British monarch Charles II leased Bombay (now called Mumbai) to the East India Company (EIC) for £10 a year. Charles acquired the Bombay islands from the Portuguese as part of a dowry payment when he married Catherine of Braganza. This was all part of a strategy to give extensive autocratic powers to the EIC and over the next couple of years Charles issued five Charters allowing the company rights to autonomous territorial acquisitions; to mint money; to command fortresses and troops and form alliances; to make war and peace, and to exercise both civil and criminal jurisdiction over the acquired areas. The Bombay islands was just one event in a series of significant events over the next 100 years which led to the EIC virtually monopolizing India (except for some minor areas of local control in the South) and becoming so powerful as to rival the British Government itself. This led to a series of Parliamentary Acts during the 1770s and 1780s which separated the commercial and administrative/political functions of the EIC and reasserted the supremacy of Parliament over the corporation. Apologists of the British Empire will point to the economic and administrative benefits of the EIC while avoiding the awkward facts of endemic corruption; massacres; looting of Indian treasures resulting in poverty; numerous famines including the Great Bengal of 1770; and exploitative systems of agriculture including the forced cultivation of opium in place of foodstuffs.
By Alison Rowland
I am delighted to welcome guest blogger Alison Rowland to the Radical I-Pamphlet with a post containing her thoughts on the EU Referendum debate. Alison is a jewellery maker, advocate for social justice and an enthusiast for Labrador dogs and Ancient History. She can be found on twitter as @ and on Facebook at BlueForestJewellery1
A referendum sounds like such a lovely fair and democratic thing, doesn’t it? Like something the British might have proudly created during that brave experimental time when we had de-capitated one King, and not yet replaced him with another equally as bad. Sadly, history is an object lesson in not learning from our mistakes. Granted, we have evolved to a situation in which our monarch has relatively little political influence, despite retaining obscene levels of wealth and privilege. But we still regularly vote into power people whose background allows them to control and influence the media and effectively buy their power, and then let them use that power to pervert the notion of democracy. And we are about to launch into a ‘debate’ which is already being defined around the notion of ‘sovereignty’ without any real hope that what that actually means will ever really be allowed to surface.
With all this jockeying about for power, its like they’re playing at kings
We have only managed two major referendums, the original EU one in 1975, and the Alternative Vote one in 2011. The first allegedly an exercise in gauging support for the EU which would never be legally or constitutionally binding; the second a bad tempered spat between the then coalition partners over an alternative many didn’t understand, with a disproportionate amount of debate focussing on whether voting Yes would lead to yet more dreadful coalition governments.
If the case of Jeremy Hunt was unique then we could deal with it. But dissembling and evasion appears to be the default approach of Government, one which is not just limited to the Conservatives. I spoke with two people yesterday, one 20 year old and one of 50 who simply view all politicians as devious, narcissistic money grabbers. They considered these vices to be endemic, a basic fact of life which meant there was little point in trying improve the situation. Now, like many other people I fully accept that Government has to keep certain information and discussions confidential. National security is the obvious example. But the UK Government assumes secrecy as a default.
Back to Jeremy Hunt for an illustration. On 8th February The Independent newspaper reported in this article that both the NHS Employers and Hunt’s own Department of Health were prepared to accept a proposal from the British Medical Association (BMA) thus averting the impending Junior Doctors strike. Here it gets a little murky as the paper reports it was ‘sources’ close to the BMA which claimed that Hunt personally intervened to block the deal and crashed the negotiations. ‘Sources’ means that the claim was unattributed and thus not subject to public verification. The following day, however, Hunt was asked directly about the assertion in the House of Commons by Shadow Health Minister Justin Madders. You can view the interaction here.
Instead of answering the question put to him, Hunt takes the usual path of answering his own question. If he did veto the deal then we need to know the reasons. The Department of Health is not his personal fiefdom to do with as he likes. It is not as if Jeremy Hunt hasn’t had other opportunities to set the record straight. For example he could have dealt with it in this article a few days later on 12th February for Conservative Home.