Day 3 at the G20 for Robin Hood: The Bill and Bill show
Well really not enough sleep last night. But with strong coffee and a hearty bowl of Special K, I made my way with the team to the media centre. Life in the fast lane for me. We met Bill Nighy who had arrived last night and to do BBC Breakfast- the 8.10 slot which is dynamite prime time and was vintage Bill, on the roof of the media centre looking out over the windswept luxury yachts. My favourite moment was when he said ‘of course the Banks won’t leave. In fact the Economist has reported that some of them tried to go to Switzerland, but came back to London as Geneva was so terribly dull’. His publicist Ciara also gave the best description of the carpet yet- ‘oh my god I feel like someone killed Kermit and skinned him! uggh!’
We rushed from this to our press conference at the Palm Beach Hotel, in the casino bar, which is ironic. In fact come to think of it, the G8 was held at a casino in May, and the media centre itself is a giant casino. Mmm. Almost in Alanis Morrisette territory. The hotel was pure Cannes kitsch, with huge naked statues of nubile men holding up the roof. We did the press conference with WWF and the the international trade unions, and representatives of the nurses unions from across the world.
The nurses in the US in particular have been incredible, mobilising tens of thousands to march on Wall Street. They first did this in June, and had a brilliant picture of the Statue of Liberty in a wheel chair on a drip- which said it all- ‘Heal America, tax Wall Street’. So inspiring. This for me is what the Robin Hood Tax is about- solidarity between ordinary people all over the world, who simply what a fairer world and are sick of growing pernicious inequality and the weakest being made to pay, whether in Birmingham or Burkina Faso. Bill really got into it, literally jumping into bed with the nurses, which was a fantastic picture.
Meanwhile the Greek grenade continued to explode centre stage. This is a huge drama unfolding, as the exit of a country from the Eurozone becomes a very real likelihood. The referendum is now possibly off. Papandreou was about to resign, then he wasn’t. The main agenda was largely sidelined. Obama arrived, and we had to wait in the middle of the road as his 20 car delegation of imported SUV’s shot past. He gave a press conference with Sarkozy, where they said they would reach agreement on the issue of their different approaches to taxing the financial sector, which was tantalising.
All day the other Bill was making himself felt too, giving lots of interviews on the report, which was released mid afternoon. As expected, Gates was clear that he believes that an FTT is possible, and that if implemented, it must be spent on development, and this got loads of coverage. Bill put it very well in the different markets- in the UK press he drew attention to the fact that the UK has the Stamp Duty of 0.5% on shares already, which is a very successful transaction tax, and one of the biggest in the world. Cameron doesn’t like to mention that much. At the same time he challenged the French to move ahead unilaterally. This is brilliant. The 99% being helped by one of the few members of the 0.001% who is actually trying to give something back.
Honestly though I spent the day feeling rather deflated, as we were very concerned that despite all the fabulous campaigning across the world, despite the multiple endorsements, we would be defeated not by disagreement, but by an agenda completely hijacked by the Greek crisis. I would have spent two years regularly wearing green tights to no avail.
With this sombre mood we traipsed into the press conference with Sarkozy at 6pm. It was almost all about the eurozone crisis but at the very end he announced that the FTT was discussed, and that despite a number of countries opposing, he was pleased to announce that Brazil and Argentina had signalled their support for an FTT and were willing to join a group of countries working on the tax. Germany and Spain also reiterated their support. This is potentially great news, and exactly what we are fighting for. It remains very vague indeed though and could all still unravel. Still definitely a ray of light. As we went to bed the negotiators were further discussing the text on FTT, with some slow progress. Fingers crossed.