Recipe for campaign success

Recipe for campaign success

Date: 16 January 2014

Earlier this week EU negotiators agreed legislation which would see limits on food speculation introduced in Europe for the first time. It follows over three years of campaigning by WDM local groups, supporters and staff and our allies. Here’s how…

3 reports
6 briefings
57 MEPs – met and lobbied by WDM local group and staff members
450 economists – signed up to a letter demanding reform
5,494 action cards – signed by concerned members of the public
3,244 signatures added to a petition to lead MEP Markus Ferber
45,952 actions taken by dedicated WDM supporters

Prepare carefully: take a complex issue and make it sexy and accessible
Our food speculation campaign launched in summer 2010 with interviews on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme and Newsnight as our report highlighted how bankers were literally gambling on hunger. 900 people signed-up to take our phone action to demand action from the UK’s financial regulator.

Give the banks a good grilling
Early in 2011 we honed in on Barclays – the UK’s biggest player in food speculation. We calculated that the bank had made up to £340m from food speculation in the previous year, and over the campaign ramped up pressure on them with protests and tough questions at their AGMs, a spoof video and a Public Eye award of corporate shame. Around the country, WDM activists turned up at their local branches to highlight their involvement in speculating on food prices – and in early 2013, following similar statements from other European banks, they finally caved and announced they would stop speculative trading in food.

Pour on the people power
The campaign simply wouldn’t have been possible without the help of WDM supporters and allies across Europe. In early 2011 we flooded the European Commission with responses to their consultation on proposals for new legislation on food speculation, forcing them to close their inbox. In 2012 we met lead MEP on the legislation Markus Ferber, handing over a petition with over 8,000 signatures from across the EU. Later that year, a 100,000-signature petition was presented to MEPs in Brussels as part of a stunt highlighting how unbridled food speculation was contributing to hunger and poverty. Over the course of the campaign almost all of the UK’s 72 MEPs were lobbied by WDM local groups, with over half of them met in face-to-face meetings and held account on the issue. And in early 2013, hundreds of people took part in our Bankers Anonymous five-step programme to help bankers kick their food speculation habit.

Take a generous handful of EU decision-makers, add to legislation and allow to stew, stirring regularly
The EU negotiations on food speculation were a rollercoaster ride. After initial proposals for the new rules were published by the European Commission in 2011, we got to work convincing MEPs that they needed toughening up. At first things seemed to be going well with suggestions of improvements, but then the financial lobbyists seemed to get their way and things went rapidly downhill. By the time MEPs voted in autumn 2012, some of the damage had been repaired, but despite our hard work, amendments to remove dangerous loopholes failed to receive enough support to pass. Meanwhile, negotiations between EU finance ministries dragged on until summer 2013, keeping everyone on tenterhooks. After the summer break, the final negotiations started in earnest – but limiting commodity speculation, initially expected to be agreed on easily, became a controversial issue as the UK government attempted to scupper a compromise, dragging out the debates much longer.

Remove from negotiations and serve with tough implementation
Negotiators emerged with a deal earlier this week, but the process isn’t quite over yet. Once the compromise is signed-off by MEPs and finance ministers, the technical details – including the level of the limits – still have to be agreed and the legislation implemented. With allies in Brussels we’ll be keeping an eye on these developments and making sure the new rules are not watered down so that they really do help stop food speculation driving the food price spikes witnessed in recent years.

We couldn’t have done it without you – so thanks, and enjoy your success!