The Ecologist magazine (not a publication I read often, so hat-tip to Google alerts) has just attempted a mendacious and malicious hatchet job on UKIP and UKIP’s energy policy, and it focuses its criticism on my association with ALEC the American Legislative Exchange Council, with which I have occasionally worked over ten years or more. They totally disregard the fact that for three quarters of those years I was sitting as a Conservative MEP, and that during that time quite a number of other Conservative MEPs (and MPs) also visited ALEC Conferences.
Indeed I have only one good thing to say about The Ecologist: they allowed me a right of reply, and published my rebuttal. Find it here.
I have covered the arguments on climate so often that I won’t repeat them here. What is worthy of mention, though, is The Ecologist’s instinctive anti-capitalist, anti-industry bias, the profound mistrust of the private sector. Get this: “UKIP’s big-picture goal is a bid to achieve independence from the European Union – but in backing the agenda of ALEC and Heartland it appears only too keen to turn us into vassals of unaccountable American corporations”.
We in UKIP do not, of course, back anyone’s agenda but our own. We are, however, open to work with people and organisations with whom we share common views. The suggestion that UKIP wants the UK to be anyone’s “vassal” is the diametric opposite of the truth, and a clear and deliberate misrepresentation.
The Ecologist is very exercised by the fact that ALEC drafts “model legislation” for American state legislators, which is frequently adopted, with or without editing, by State Legislatures. They see this as sinister and wrong. But it is simply a service from a technically-qualified ALEC Secretariat to assist state legislators in drafting bills. ALEC members are under no obligation or pressure to use these drafts — they are merely there to help. Maybe the Ecologist thinks that in the USA, state legislators should re-invent the wheel forty-nine times for each new piece of legislation — but few will agree.
We have here two opposing views of industry, and of “unaccountable multinational corporations”. The Ecologist sees industry as seeking to abuse its position to bear down on the rights of citizens. Having worked in a number of multinational corporations, I see it rather differently. Yes of course they are there to compete and to strive and to grow and to make profits, and we should welcome that as the paradigm that has created wealth that our grandfathers could scarcely have dreamed of.
But they are also there to create jobs. And to provide goods and services. And to pay dividends — and not just to bloated plutocrats, but to ordinary folk who have unit trusts or ISAs or pensions funds. And to pay the taxes which fund our public services (and remember that corporations have a fiduciary duty to pay the minimum tax consistent with the law — so if you think Starbucks don’t pay enough corporation tax — and there I should agree with you — don’t blame Starbucks. Blame the Treasury for making the rules that allowed Starbucks to pay not very much).
Of course multinationals must be taxed and regulated. Of course in the UK, they must play by UK rules (not by American model legislation). But we should welcome their ability to create wealth and jobs, and to pay dividends and taxes, and we should not put unnecessary barriers in their way.