New Internationalist

Tobin or not Tobin

I was in London for the Put People First G20 Counter-conference on Saturday. The turnout was not vast, but it was substantial and, as can sometimes happen, the experience was all the better for that. The place was buzzing with optimism of the will, as well as some judicious pessimism of the intellect.

So I very much hope that rumours of PPF’s demise are premature. People in Britain need fresh alliances now more than ever. If PPF goes, as Make Poverty History did before it, the credibility of all such alliances will be seriously damaged.

I wonder whether some of its backers are quite as much afraid of success as they are of failure.

Saturday proved to be a case in point. Even as we talked, Gordon Brown was at the G20 Finance Ministers’ meeting in Scotland announcing his support for some sort of global ‘Tobin’ tax on financial transactions. When PPF was set up, not much more than a year ago, it included this among its key demands. Any hope that it would be adopted by the British Government anytime soon would have pushed optimism of the will to its limits. Yet, so far as I can tell, the only powerful country now opposing it is the US - a sad reflection on the bad economic advice President Obama still seems to accept.

Of course it would be foolish to pretend that the alliance behind PPF was entirely responsible for making Brown’s change of heart happen. But it would be just as foolish to imagine that PPF had nothing to do with it at all.

In the run-up to general elections in Britain next year, the assumption in the corporate media is that the Tories are bound to win. But, as Neal Lawson of Compass pointed out on Saturday, a ‘hung’ parliament remains a distinct possibility, and with it the prospect of change to Britain’s creaking democratic structure.

The PPF alliance could have a vital role to play here. I fear it is precisely this prospect that frightens some of its more resourceful backers.

Rather, PPF needs to strengthen its alliance with climate-change activists and advance a platform that is much the same anyway. This is, after all, the one point in Britain’s antique political calendar when everyone is supposed to be listening.

To do otherwise would be irresponsible. And to do so without providing some sort of forum for the many thousands of us who have backed PPF would be, quite simply, wrong.

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  1. #1 disgruntled 11 Nov 09

    Put People First, not your brand

    Point well made. I have it on very good authority that there are 2 culprits in particular who have sabotaged PPF and with it any chance of having a united front for the election that might bring real political change on climate and poverty. PPF will not continue next year because these organisations are more concerned with their brands and their 'insider' access to the (likely Tory) government than with achieving change. And everyone tip toes around it! So, supporters of Christian Aid and Oxfam, please write to them and ask them to back coalitions like PPF even when the glory doesn't accrue to them. Quite simply, they can't do it on their own and seem to arrogant to admit it.

  2. #2 Posh Dave 17 Nov 09

    Politics and PPF

    Oh dear. I hope disgruntled is wrong. I fear otherwise. The problem is with Big International NGOs (BINGOs), though personally I'd be saddened if that now includes Christian Aid. Complete with their brands, they behave more like corporations and use the same techniques. The best remedy would be for PPF to continue without them.

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About the author

David Ransom a New Internationalist contributor

David Ransom joined New Internationalist in 1989 and wrote on a range of issues, from green justice to the current financial crisis, before retiring in 2009. He was a close friend of Blair Peach, once worked as a banker in Uruguay and continued to contribute to New Internationalist as a freelancer until shortly before his death in February 2016. He lived on a barge on the waterways of England’s West Country.

His publications include License to Kill on the death of Blair Peach in 1979 and The No Nonsense Guide to Fair Trade. He also co-edited, with Vanessa Baird, People First Economics.

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