I’ve tried to summarise all the aspects of last week’s EU summit conclusions elsewhere, but one issue really needs separate attention. Cameron’s claim that he exercised his veto in Britain’s interests has won plaudits from the right-wing media, but needs to be exposed as the most staggering hyperbole, and as the proof that his Government exists for the benefit of the few and not the many. The key issue on which Cameron split from the rest of Europe was the Robin Hood Tax – something he claims to support at a global level. As the Robin Hood Tax campaign said, this demonstrates absolutely that the current Government of the UK puts the interests of the small number of super-rich hedge fund owners who pay the Conservative Party’s bills ahead of the vast mass of the people of Britain and of Europe.
This week saw the Conservative Party’s dependence on hedge funds exposed once and for all by, of all people, the Financial Times (£). As Carl Roper has argued over at Stronger Unions, attempts by Conservative Central Officer to argue that all this money doesn’t buy anything in the way of access and influence ring staggeringly hollow, given that this is precisely what Tories claim unions are doing.
The utter hostility of big finance to the Robin Hood Tax was also underlined as the summit came closer. Already mobilised by the success of campaigners in getting a draft European Union directive tabled, and now supported by more and more Governments in Europe, the inclusion of common corporation taxes and a Financial Transactions Tax (FTT) as one of the four key objectives for the summit of the French and German Governments sent the financial sector into overdrive. They were revealed to be demanding legal action against any attempt by the EU to impose even a eurozone FTT.
As Will Hutton argued in the Observer today, claims that the interests of the City’s financial ‘masters of the universe’ align with the interests of the rest of the UK stretch credibility. The million-strong financial sector workforce are mostly working in high street banks and insurance companies, and only a fraction of the third of a million working in the City are implicated in the high frequency trading that an FTT would target. As several European commentators noted, the common perception of Europe’s other heads of government is that it is precisely the deregulated City of London (and its close allies on Wall Street) that got us into the current mess in the first place.