Letters: Transatlantic trade deal is an assault on democracy assault on

These letters appear in the 19 November issue of The Independent

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David Cameron is lying by omission when he says that “the NHS will remain free at the point of use” even if the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) goes ahead. The fact that the services behind the point of use will have been privatised courtesy of TTIP seems to bother him not one jot.

Can we be clear about what TTIP represents? Yes, it includes legislation to ensure the inability to renationalise any privatised industry – some people may shrug their shoulders at that. Far more sinister though is the right of companies to sue governments who bring in legislation which may damage those companies’ interests.

Far-fetched? It’s happening in South America right now, where Philip Morris is threatening to sue Uruguay if the country enacts legislation which the company feels will damage its profits.

Make no mistake, Cameron, in trying to push TTIP through, is representing vested interests and not mine or yours. It is less a piece of legislation, more a full assault on democracy. Get involved, people, before it’s too late!

Alan Gent

Cheadle, Cheshire


Cameron may indeed wish to “fire rocket boosters under TTIP” (report, 17 November) but it’s looking increasingly as if the controversial EU-USA trade deal will be a damp squib.

On Monday, the French government announced that it wouldn’t be signing the deal if it included the mechanism that would allow corporations to sue member states in secret courts for introducing legislation to protect public services, the environment or labour rights. Across Europe, almost a million people have signed a petition calling for the deal to be scrapped.

While Cameron claims that the deal could enhance food and environmental standards, not everyone in his party agrees with him. Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith has said he finds it “hard to imagine that the process will involve any key standards going up. On the contrary, I suspect that we will see a spiral downwards.”

The £10bn benefit that Cameron claims TTIP will bring to the economy is based on research that has been widely criticised.

A more recent peer-reviewed study from Tufts University has suggested that the deal could bring about the loss of more  than half a million jobs across Europe on top  of lower wage growth  and exports.

Polly Jones

Head of Campaigns, World Development Movement, London SW9


This university is brought to you by...

 It can only be a matter of time before the looming debt crisis in higher education leads to the financial meltdown of a number of universities (“Tuition fees: three quarters of students won’t be able to pay off their debt”, 18 November).

Fortunately, vested interests exist in every university town which depend for their very survival on the fresh inflow of thousands of new students each September. The prospect of seeing their milch cows going to the wall will compel property magnates to dig deep into their pockets to rescue the local citadel of learning.

This magnanimity is bound to involve considerable renaming and rebranding. So look out for the emergence of the Buy-To-Let Business School, the Property-R-Us Academy, and the University of Platonic Landlord Studies.

Ivor Morgan



It’s lucky men don’t have any feelings

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (17 November) comments on Julien Blanc, an American who “promises to teach men to pull, manipulate and (allegedly) ravage women at will”. She writes: “An internet petition has gathered more than 140,000 signatures calling for this ban [on allowing him into Britain]. I can’t be absolutely sure of this but I expect most of those who have signed up are females.”

In a few minutes of watching the signatures scroll by, I saw that about one third of them were male names. While two-thirds does count as “most” it’s a long way from the 95 per cent-ish her column seemed to imply she expected. It would probably have been easy for you to get the signature list and check the first 1,000 or so for a better figure, rather than going along with her assertion that “men are too scared to do anything about it”.

Oh, well. It’s not as if her misandry can hurt my feelings. As everyone knows, men don’t have feelings.

Chris Newman,

Boroughbridge,  North Yorkshire


It is a shame when respected feminists such as Yasmin Alibhai-Brown come out with generalised rallying calls to men. It shows how little acknowledgment there is for the men who are actively trying to embody gender equality and about the huge movement of women and men who are bringing into existence the most level ground between the sexes in modern history.

In my world, both young men and women are appalled by and condemn the actions of these “sexual villains” such as Julien Blanc and Ched Evans.

The point of gender equality is that we rally together, not separately. We don’t need to have a male only “not in our name” parade; we need to have a human “not in our name” parade.

Henry Gibbs

London SW4


Deciding not to vote is a democratic right

The proposals by a group of MPs to address the issue of voter turnout (report, 14 November) make depressing reading. They devalue voting.  What would the chartists and suffragettes, not to mention those living in less benign regimes, make of the suggestion that the civic ritual of going to the polling station is too much for people? 

The idea that the answer is to make voting physically easier has already been tried with postal voting on demand. This has led to fraud and corruption, and online voting would only worsen the debasement of democracy. People will vote if they feel inspired and perceive the options would make a big difference to their lives. How do the MPs account for the high turnout in the Scottish referendum?

As for compulsory voting, this really does look like saying we have the wrong electorate. Deciding not to vote is an expression of opinion and an important democratic right.

Rupert Fast,

Esher, Surrey


Plain words should apply to all killings

Laurence Williams (letter, 18 November) is surely right that plain words should be used to describe killings like those by the Isis jihadists: “murderers,” he suggests, or “terrorists”. What words, though, would he suggest to describe the US personnel who killed at least 40 wedding guests in a drone strike in Pakistan a couple of years ago? Are they not equally murderers or terrorists?

This is not a trivial point of nomenclature, but raises the much wider issue of the nature and status of killings organised by the state and, indeed, of warfare itself in the 21st century.

Dr Richard Carter

London SW15


Christmas comes early for some pensioners

Christmas comes but once a year, and once again the Department for Work and Pensions has today dropped £200 into my bank account to remind me to get started with the shopping.

If it really was a “winter fuel payment” they would hang on to their money until February or March. It must be the flimsiest cover story in the world for a feelgood benefit.

It’s untaxed and so worth more to higher-rate taxpayers: if you pay a marginal 40 per cent, then you would need to earn £334 to buy the £200 of Christmas gifts now being paid for you.

Mr Duncan Smith,  thank ’ee, kind sir!

Trevor Pateman



Ukip don’t want to stop NHS privatisation

Edward Thomas (letter, 15 November) thinks that the Ukip leaflet on what they would do in government shows that they are against privatisation of the NHS. It shows nothing of the kind.

I have read it, as I am sure has Ed Miliband. Nowhere in it does it say that Ukip would stop the privatisation currently being imposed by the Coalition Government.

Indeed, previous statements from Ukip suggest that they might be even more enthusiastic than the Conservatives.

David Bell

Standon, Hertfordshire


Why don’t fatal car crashes matter?

You are not alone in this, but why was the death of five people only worth a small paragraph on page 14 (17 November)?

Had this been a train crash the line would be closed for a week with massed ranks of media present and politicians calling for a public inquiry. Why don’t car crashes matter?

Rob Edwards

Harrogate, North Yorkshire


Don’t get shirty with scientist

Poor Matt Taylor, being pilloried for his colourful shirt. All the guy did was display a certain lack of gravitas, which seems highly appropriate for a slow-motion near-weightless landing on a comet. Perhaps all the criticism will just bounce off him.

Hilary Sternberg

Weymouth, Dorset