Ed Miliband is right to say that a Brexit would endanger lives

The spectre of the UK leaving the EU is, unfortunately, rearing its ugly head again. In a question and answer session last week, Ed Miliband draw attention to the many benefits Britain gained by its membership of the world’s largest trading bloc. Focusing on the downside of a British exit from the EU, Ed stated that “jobs depend on it (the EU), families depend on it, businesses depend on it…I just think we are much, much better working within the EU than not”. Speaking at Stevenage in Hertfordshire, Ed Miliband said that, economics aside, there are other drawbacks. “Just think about countering terrorism. We are much better working across borders to do that”.

In the light of this speech of Ed’s, it is worth reiterating that it appears the Conservative Party has not yet understood that in the 21st century terrorism, along with organised crime and trafficking, is transnational in nature, and shutting ourselves off from our neighbours and allies only serves to encourage the extremists and weaken our position. Under the Lisbon Treaty, the UK had the option to reject all the measures adopted prior to its entry into force.

The Tory-led coalition did, in fact, do this, and then selectively opted back into some of the provisions, meaning that law enforcement can rely on its European counterparts sometimes, and sometimes not. The Tories have determinedly kept us out of Justice and Home Affairs measures, weakening the opportunities of our police forces and security services to effectively neutralise threats. Once more the ideology has trumped the practicality, although this time with potentially fatal consequences.

As if that wasn’t enough, it has also meant that the other Member States are becoming more rigid in their attitude to our picking and choosing; meaning that the era of the UK having its cake and eating it is coming to an end.

As I have stated before on this blog, the almost schizophrenic stance of the Tories leads to unpredictable results, lengthy court cases and difficulties in practical enforcement. It will be interesting indeed to see how they justify this to the British people in the run-up to the general election.

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My top political reads for 2015

Tomorrow evening the political and literary world will gather together for the Paddy Power Political Book Awards in London. The evening will recognise new and emerging talent as well as established authors and commentators all of whom have written about political and or historical affairs in one way or another.

Ahead of the much anticipated awards night, I have picked out my top political reads all of which will be published in 2015. I am, of course, looking forward to reading all of them and may even get round to posting some thoughts on one or two.

Top reads:

Lady in Disguise the Aristocrat Who Gave Her Life for the Suffragettes. By Lyndsey Jenkins published by Biteback and published in March:
Lady In disguise tells the story of a most unlikely suffragette, who was among other things a lady in waiting to the Queen. As she became more involved in the suffragette movement, however, Lady Lytton found herself in prison and because of her privileged status on the outside she found she enjoyed privileges on the inside too. True to her cause though, she disguised herself before re-entering prison where she went on hunger strike. During her incarceration she was force fed eight times before her identity was discovered and she was released.

Lady Constance Lytton’s story has never been fully told and this fascinating insight in to the suffragette movement and the terrible experiences these women endured in order to achieve voting rights for women. Lady Lytton died in 1923, never fully recovering from the trauma she suffered following enforced feeding:

Saving Safa: Rescuing a little girl from FGMBy Waris Dirie published by Virago in March:
From the synopsis alone this promises to be both a harrowing and enlightening story of Safa who was saved by the supermodel Waris Dirie from being subjected to the same Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) that Waris Dirie endured and has since tirelessly campaigned about.

Safa is chosen to play Dirie, in a film of the model’s life, based on her autobiography but the young girls parents had to sign a contract promising never to expose her to FGM. However, Safa feels she may well be forced to undergo the painful procedure and contacts Dirie. The supermodel turned campaigner drops everything to save her.

Saving Safa is not just a story of Safa but of the thousands of girls who can be and have been saved though Dirie’s Desert Flower Foundation which supports communities and families who receive aid for choosing not to force their daughters to undergo this painful procedure.

The Election. By Elenor Levenson Published by Fisherton Press Ltd and published in January 2015:
For children: This is a fantastic idea. It’s true that children in the UK are often not taught about politics enough and this is an essential children’s guide to understanding a general election.

How Good We Can Be: Ending the Mercenary Society and Building a Great Country. By Will Hutton Published by Little, Brown and published in February 2015:
Will Hutton’s latest book observes the state of the nation today and he explores what we can expect tomorrow. Today we are beset with an economy that is not innovative and productive but which extracts value rather than creates it. Hutton finds massive inequality and shrinking opportunity and a society organised to benefit the top 1%.

He warns us not to be misguided by the nature of our new world, a world of throw away people who work in throw away companies. As always with Hutton this promises to be a very enlightening read.

Original Spin, Downing Street and the Press in Victorian BritainBy Paul Brighton, published by IB Tauris and published in February 2015:
And finally, calling all spin doctors. Want to know how the Victorians did spin? Then original Spin reveals how its political spin doctors gave off the record briefings and leaked information. Published in February. Brighton delves deep  into Victorian Fleet Street culture and explores why the relationship between journalists and politicians remains one of the most controversial even today.


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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-up

Last week we were told that the out dated, sexist, objectification of women- in the form of The Sun’s Page 3 ‘girls’-was to cease. There was excitement across feminist circles, women commentators and campaigners who couldn’t hide their delight at this surprising victory, following a sudden apparent change of heart among the chiefs at The Sun.

However, it was all rather short lived and before the end of the week the paper had yet again featured a winking, topless model on its infamous third page.

It was disappointing to say the least but perhaps the most hurtful event was the goading tweets sent by the paper’s (evidentially rather childish) head of PR.

He sent offensive messages of the model winking to the journalist Kay Burley, Roy Greenslade and Labour’s Harriet Harman via twitter. He later apologised for this and specifically to Harman whom he admitted he had never been involved in a twitter spat with.

The latest episode shows a huge lack of respect for those who have campaigned for so long to put an end to the out-dated and sexist images and also fails to acknowledge that Page 3 is offensive to so many of us-not just women. You can read more on this here.

Writing for the Guardian last week, Alberto Nardelli, the papers data editor, revealed “Four ways Labour has had a better start to 2015 than the Tories”. Among them, he reminds us that the parties’ first round of election poster wars was won by Labour and he goes on to describe how voters are closing in on Cameron with analysis of a number of polls including some commissioned by Lord Ashcroft.

You can read his analysis here. 

Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman launched the party’s national women’s tour, during which she promised to get more women to vote. As the campaign progresses there will be a battle van on the road. There is so much interest from Labour women activists who want to get involved, Harriet promised: “There is so much enthusiasm, so many women want to join the tour, it is going to be great,” she told the Eastern Daily Press while at a round table event in Norwich. Read more here.

The deputy Labour leader also warned of the dangers of supporting Ukip last week, especially if you are a woman. She said it tolerated appalling anti female remarks and offered a policy platform which is bad for women, while some 90% of its PPC candidates are men.

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We are witnessing the most significant decline in British influence in Europe for a generation

Today, our Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander, will tell the Parti Socialiste, our sister party in France, that over the period of this Conservative-Liberal Democrat government, we have witnessed “the most significant decline in British influence in Europe for a generation”.

He stressed that “no country that seeks to play a leading part in the modern world could contemplate walking away from the world’s largest single market, or to cut itself off from some of its closest allies”. He will also say that “our place at Europe’s top table has made the UK stronger, more secure, and more prosperous”, and that “Labour believes that the UK will stand taller in Washington, Beijing, Moscow and Delhi – when we stand firmly at the heart of the EU”.

This is exactly the kind of engagement the UK really needs in Brussels, not the kind of intransigence that has caused grumblings of discontent from our European partners. Continued opt-outs from cross-border criminal prosecutions and investigations, opposing capping banker’s bonuses, failing to condemn rape in marriage, have made even the normally stoic Angela Merkel despair of David Cameron. We need instead a government with a policy to be an integral part of the European Union, to represent the UK’s best interests not by simply throwing the toys out of the pram when a proposal is made and refusing to play, but constructively negotiating to find a better solution for everyone.

The Labour Party has a clear plan to review, repair and reset our relations with our neighbours. We must take our advice from those in the field; the ambassadors, experts and civil servants, and not be held hostage by the irrational ideologies of a Eurosceptic fringe in the Conservative Party and UKIP.



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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

You know it’s serious when the EU Commission President contemplates a British exit from the EU. Jean-Claude Juncker did exactly this when he suggested, in a speech to French delegates last weekend, that if the conditions aren’t right then it is time for Britain to consider a “divorce.”

He also steadfastly refused to “get down on his hands and knees and beg Britain to stay,” comparing the relationship to a doomed romance, stating that he is against “ all forms of grovelling”.

With his constantly negative rhetoric and irrational behaviour (a style which doesn’t work well in European politics), Cameron is leading the UK on a dangerous path of which there will be no return. I have said for some time that senior EU representatives are losing patience with Cameron’s approach and this latest announcement from Juncker is designed to be a stark warning to Cameron, but will he listen?

Meanwhile plans to introduce new rules which would oblige health professionals to report cases of female genital mutilation have been attacked by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

It has intervened in the proposals arguing there is “no credible or conclusive evidence that the move would better protect children.”

In fact, the body says that mandatory reporting of FGM cases could deter families seeking medical advice.

All those who are involved in the debate regarding FGM appreciate its sensitive nature; however, we should be unapologetic about our need to protect vulnerable young girls from this barbaric, invasive and painful procedure.

Mandatory reporting is necessary because the poor statistics indicate how under reported this crime is. For example, since 1985 there have been just two prosecutions. Yet there are an estimated 137,000 women and girls who have experienced FGM, born in countries where FGM is practised who are permanent residence in the UK.

Last week Ed Miliband took David Cameron to task for saying he would refuse to participate in a leader’s debate if the Green Party was not invited to the podium. If this hadn’t rattled Cameron enough then perhaps Lord Patten’s warning to Cameron concerning the threat the Labour leader poses to him, will.

In an appearance on BBC radio 4’s the Week in Westminster the former Conservative Party Chair, Lord Patten, described Mr Miliband as “highly intelligent” and a “good debater”, and went on to warn: “the Tories should be much more worried about Ed Miliband than Ukip’s Nigel Farage.”

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Women on Company Boards


Both the Latvian Presidency of the EU and the European Commission have pledged to make progress in getting more women on the boards of major companies.

Speaking in the European Parliament yesterday evening, Vera Jourova, the European Commissioner with responsibility for gender equality, together with her counterpart from Latvia, made strong statements about the need for movement on the women on boards draft Directive which, having been passed by the European Parliament, has been stuck in the Council of Ministers since November 2013.

My contribution to the debate in the European Parliament is featured above.

For further information please click on this link to The Parliament Magazine – http://tinyurl.com/kcmkcgx


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Farage’s shameful response to the Charlie Hebdo victims


First thing yesterday morning the European Parliament paid tribute to the victims of the Charlie Hebdo tragedy.

It proved a very moving session during which one speaker from each of the political groups in the Parliament condemned the violence and remembered those who had been killed.

Unfortunately there  was one exception, one person who used his speaking time for purely political ends. That individual was Nigel Farage, who made a shameful and disgraceful intervention.

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