Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Are the Conservatives the Vulture Party?

Conservative MPs including whips killed a bill to prevent profiteering from third world debt; If Cameron and Osborne didn’t want them to why haven’t they expelled them from the party?

Every time I think the Conservatives couldn’t be any worse than ‘New Labour’ they do something to prove me wrong. This time they pretended to back a bill to outlaw ‘vulture funds’ – funds that buy up the debts of third world countries when those debts are about to be written off, before suing the debtor governments for huge amounts of money. Then they blocked it at the last minute (according to the Guardian here and here, the Independent here and the Jubilee Debt Campaign here.).

This is not just a technical matter of finance law. People are dying in their millions every year from hunger and preventable diseases due to poverty. This is partly due to foreign debts which countries like Haiti, Liberia and the Congo have to pay interest on to private firms, banks, funds and governments in the wealthier countries (which, despite the credit crisis, still includes the UK). These debts are largely the result of unfair trade policies pushed by the US, the EU and other economic and political powers.

For instance Haiti was self-sufficient in rice, until US governments backed dictatorships there which agreed to abolish import tariffs on American (US government subsidised) rice imports. Even when there was a democratically elected government in Haiti (briefly, before two more US backed coups in 1994 and 2004) the US and EU made aid conditional on the continuation of these policies by the Haitian government and the privatisation of more of Haiti’s public services. As a result many Haitians often have to pay to eat mud mixed with salt because they can’t afford food.

So the Conservative party, if they continue to block this bill, will be condemning people to death in large numbers, possibly even so that those profiting from this suffering will donate money to party funds. I might be wrong – but if i’m wrong the party leadership’s failure to expel these MPs from the party is very difficult to explain.

David Cameron and his Shadow Chancellor George Osborne say the party leadership was not involved in blocking the Bill, despite two of the three Conservative MPs who were in parliament at the time being party whips appointed by David Cameron as party leader. The three MPs moved together on the benches and hid their hands with their mouths to try to prevent anyone knowing which of them had killed that reading of the bill by shouting ‘I object’ (see the Guardian here, Jubilee Debt campaign here and Osborne’s response to the Jubilee Debt Campaign here).

If Cameron is telling the truth why hasn’t he sacked both the whips and expelled all three MPs from the party to ensure such a shameful action is never carried out again by any Conservative MP? If they don’t, everyone will know they are liars who couldn’t care less about how many people die as a result of their actions.

If he refuses to expel these three from the party then perhaps this is the ‘transparency’ that David Cameron says he would ensure in government – transparent lies?

The think-tank Ekklesia has reported that a previous planned amendment to the bill (since dropped) which would have killed it came from Conservative MP Phillip Davies, who accepted campaign donations from a firm which the Times newspaper reported as being owned by the billionaire Lord Ashcroft (whose lordship derives from donations to party funds). Does Lord Ashcroft have investments in vulture funds?
; I don’t know, but I’d like to find out.

You can ask David Cameron whether he will prove he opposed killing the bill by expelling the three MPs responsible from the Conservative party on the Jubilee debt campaign’s site here.

You can email Shadow Chancellor George Osborne at osborneg@parliament.uk and David Cameron at david.cameron@conservatives.com

There’s a facebook group which you can join which includes the email of the Conservative MP identified by the Independent as responsible for blocking the bill – Christopher Chope MP. It’s chopec@parliament.uk It also has a link to his constituency party’s website.

You can ask Harriet Harman, the leader of the Commons, to give the bill more time here (it may be too late for this now, i’m not sure – only found it this evening unfortunately)

P.S. Christopher Chope claims his motive was to avoid a bill that might make it harder for poor countries' governments to get loans from private banks in future. Some people think this shows his intentions were good. Maybe they're right, but personally i greatly doubt it. Vulture funds buy claims to debt that is about to be written off and then use those claims to sue for debts that were written off. The cause of the 'developing' countries'' debts is not lack of loans, but unfair trade imposed on them by more powerful governments and companies(including banks and loans funds) lobbying those governments. So i suspect Christopher Chope's explanation is just an excuse or a cover story.


James Nelson said...

Of course, you probably know the link but if not, it is certainly worth reading and watching.

calgacus said...

Thanks James - i love Greg Palast - he's a great investigative journalist,