Day 1 at the G20 for Robin Hood
The day got off to a great start when we arrived in Nice (of the many sacrifices I have made in my life for the world’s poor this is clearly one of the toughest) and went straight to the march where we were greeted by the vision of 100 campaigners dressed as Robin Hood (or Robin des Bois to be precise). We marched along with them behind some fantastic drummers, also dressed in the now famous green hats.
We were relatively near the front of the march with thousands stretching out behind us, winding through the streets. There was a heavy police presence, and a few amusing anarchists dressed as clowns, but the atmosphere was very positive and peaceful. The Robins were made up of activists from across France and also joined by others from Spain, the UK, Germany and others.
About half an hour into the march everyone suddenly came to an abrupt stop in the sunshine. About thirty of the Robin Hoods then proceeded to strip down to their underwear and green hats to huge applause, including a toot from the driver of a passing train- all very good humoured and immensely European.
Needless to say I and the rest of the English (and the US supporters) stood on the sidelines laughing. Obviously I didn’t want to show up my French cousins by revealing my buff frame, and spoiling their moment in the sun.
During the day we received various bits of intelligence regarding progress towards the FTT. The decisive discussion is now likely to be on Thursday afternoon, with Bill Gates meeting Sarkozy that morning and presenting his report that afternoon. As always these days the wild card is the extent to which the Greek/ eurozone/ world crisis completely dominates, but we remain hopeful we will secure some progress. We heard over the weekend that South Africa are now fully on board which is great. Today saw an excellent op ed in Germany by the former German development minister calling on Merkel to use the revenues to help fight poverty, and the German coalition placed a fantastic advert in the FAZ newspaper pressing for Merkel to do the right thing, and at the same time handed in their 200,000 signatures to Finance Minister Schauble. He again reiterated that Sarkozy wants to see the revenues spent on development and that Germany is open to this if that is the way the discussion develops. Hardly a ringing in endorsement, but a start. Jeff Sachs also wrote a brilliant op ed in the Huffington Post excoriating Obama for being on the side of Wall Street, and he also featured strongly in the two biggest Brazilian papers pressing for an FTT.
Then just as we were going to bed an brilliant surprise- in the UK the Archbishop of Canterbury coming out in favour of a Robin Hood Tax, on the front page of the Daily Telegraph, and also in the Financial Times. This really helps to pile the pressure on David Cameron. Over 22,000 people have written to Cameron in the last ten days, calling on him to shift his position and support an FTT. Unlikely to budge him, but all pressure helps.
Tomorrow will see our big Robin Hood Stunt on the beach, with various Oxfam staff dressing as G20 leaders to be regaled by Robin. Who would have thought two years ago this idea would have taken off is this way really captured the imagination of many people around the world. A simple idea. As the slogan of today’s march put it well, ‘Les peuples d’abord pas la finance!’ – Put the people first, not big finance.