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Party of European Socialists Manifesto for the European Elections

The Party of European Socialists recently adopted its manifesto for the European elections to be held in just over two months’ time on 22 May.

Unlike the other pan-European parties fighting the European elections, the Party of European Socialists has a common manifesto with all the national Labour and social democrat parties across Europe, though there will be some room for member state discretion.

The PES will also return MEPs from every EU member state unlike the ECR (European Conservatives and Reformist) Group whose mainstay is the British Tories.

I am posting the PES Manifesto on this blog in three parts.

PES Manifesto
Adopted by the PES Election Congress in Rome on 1 March 2014
Towards a New Europe

We strongly believe that the European Union must change. This May, in the European Parliament elections, your vote will give us the opportunity to deliver the EU that you deserve. A Europe that progresses, a Europe that protects, a Europe that performs. Our political family of parties across 28 countries will dedicate themselves to fighting for a secure future for you. The right wing has created a Europe of fear and austerity. During 5 years of an EU conservative majority, we have fought for a strong, socially just and democratic Europe. But now it is time to lead from the front. To do that we need your support, your help, your vote.

Our programme for the next five years of the European Union will bring back job creation, a productive economy, a sense of community and respect for people. We want to put you as a citizen and as a voter back in charge and bring back hope to Europe’s youth.

This May for the first time you will have a say in who runs Europe. Your vote will decide who the next President of the European Commission is. To change the right-wing majority in the European Union, the only vote that counts is a vote for European Socialists, Social-Democrats, Labour, Democrats and progressives.

I. A Union that progresses

1. It is time to put jobs first

This is our first and main priority: Europeans, women and men, must have a decent job that allows a good quality of life. Yet here is the legacy of the economic policies of the last five years, in stark figures: nearly 27 million Europeans who want to work cannot find a job, including nearly a quarter of our young people. 120 million in Europe are at or under the poverty threshold. Creating jobs for young people is a challenge which will define us, for this generation and the next, and will remain a key priority for us as part of our long-term commitment to full employment. Central to our job strategy is the full implementation of our Youth Guarantee plan. To make it successful, we will substantially increase its budget and extend it to everyone under the age of 30. To create jobs, we will introduce an ambitious European industrial policy and will support our Social Economy and our Small and Medium Enterprises. We will promote innovative green technologies and improve the performance of our economies. We want to put an end to social dumping, by ending the practice of exploiting workers and precarious contracts that harm many Europeans. We want to promote social justice. We will insist on strong rules to guarantee equal pay for equal work, the protection of workers’ rights and quality jobs; on reinforcing trade unions’ rights, social dialogue and anti-discrimination legislation; improving the protection of workers posted in a different country by revising the Posting of Workers Directive; and promoting better cooperation at European level on labour inspections. We will introduce decent minimum wages across Europe, established either by law or through collective bargaining. The jobs we create must allow all our citizens to participate in the economy as proud equals. All trade agreements, including the one currently under negotiation with the United States, must be bound to the protection of people´s human and social rights, decent work, environmental standards, culture as well as corporate social responsibility and fair trade.

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Business for Britain’s suggestions remind us of why we are pro-European

This blog post recently appeared on Labour List. Since it’s a very important issue, I am posting it again on this blog

Proposals recently put forward should remind those of us on the left of the need to fight the good fight when it comes to Europe.

A set of suggestions put to the government, previewed in the Daily Telegraph, have been compiled by the right-wing Eurosceptic lobby group Business for Britain. They are part of its effort to have certain UK companies made exempt from EU guidelines. A paper released by the organisation argued that British firms should be allowed to “opt out of some of the more onerous European regulations” in order to enhance “competitiveness”. They say doing so would save the UK £7 billion a year (a figure, incidentally, around a tenth of that which the CBI estimate that we gain each year from being in Europe).

That the man making the Business for Britain case is billionaire and former Tory Treasurer Peter Cruddas gives a sense of exactly where the group is coming from. Cruddas has joined Business for Britain’s eight man board – at present headed up by Matthew Elliott, founder of the Taxpayers’ Alliance – with the stated intention of “changing the terms of Britain’s EU membership”. His anti-EU offensive this week has centred on the apparently stifling level of “red tape” Britain is subjected to by Europe.

Presenting Euroscepticism as an attack on bureaucracy is a common – and unfortunately fairly effective – rhetorical device among those on the right. In enables protection for workers to be brushed aside as needless officialdom – vital safeguards on the financial sector to be dismissed as administrative window-dressing. It frames the debate in a way that, at first glance, is compelling to an outsider – no one wants more red tape, after all, do they? – but which in reality seeks to undermine employee rights and let businesses operate unchecked.

The supposed “red tape” currently binding EU firms includes regulations which protect workers from exploitation and discrimination, and measures which mitigate against the risks attached to international finance. There may be occasional news stories about EU guidelines missing their target or being too prescriptive, but in the great majority of cases they act as a brake on businesses looking to take shortcuts or exploit loopholes.

As we move towards the European Elections in May the debate about EU membership is likely to move in one of two directions, either becoming a more and more negative discourse about immigration, or an increasingly technical debate about whether, in financial terms, Britain gains more than it loses through being part of Europe. If we are to set out a more positive argument about the EU we need to avoid colluding in the idea that all Directives from Brussels are bad, and instead remind voters that being part of Europe is a means of protecting our social fabric.

With the likes of Peter Cruddas leading the Eurosceptic charge – and a Tory government at some point in the future unchecked by the EU seeking to further undermine employees – it is vital that the Labour Party does not just pay lip service to the European Elections. We must be sure to see the wood for the trees when it comes to the EU, and to make the case strongly.

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Nigel Farage gets too much air time (continued)

Following last Friday’s blogpost, there is, of course, more to say about UKIP’s disproportionate media coverage, exposure they would never get with virtually any leader other than Nigel Farage.

UKIP is a fringe party in British politics. They have no MPs at Westminster. The House of Commons is a UKIP free zone, in contrast to the Greens who have managed to secure Caroline Lucas’ election in Brighton. Greens 1, UKIP 0 graphically demonstrates the attitude of the British people towards the UK Independence Party. When it comes to the crunch UKIP are absolutely nowhere.

The number of votes cast in the 2010 general election shows just how far away UKIP is from any kind of breakthrough in returning MPs to the House of Commons. The three main parties polled as follows:
Conservative – 10,703,654 votes
Labour – 8,606,517 votes
Lib-Dems – 6,836,248 votes
UKIP gained a derisory 919,471 votes, 9,784,183 behind the Tories and 7,687,046 fewer than Labour.
UKIP a major political player? Give us a break.

UKIP do, of course, have seats in the European Parliament. At the last Euro elections in 2009 seats gained were:
Conservative – 26 (includes one from Northern Ireland and excludes later defections)
UKIP – 13 (this again takes no account of subsequent defections)
Labour – 13
Lib-Dems – 11
It is worth pointing out that the European Parliament elections are conducted under a system of
proportional representation which improves the showing of smaller parties.

When we look at local election results, the minuscule nature of UKIP’s appeal becomes even
more apparent – 139 councillors, mostly in parishes and just 21 at district level. UKIP is not a
Party with mass support, or indeed much support at all. They are, in fact, nowhere at all.

This is certainly not reflected in the national media coverage UKIP receive. Indeed there are times
when you may be forgiven for thinking Farage’s rump of a party was up there with the
Conservatives on over 10,700,000 votes, Labour with 8,600,000 and the Liberal-Democrats who
polled 6,800,000 in the May 2010 general election.

Both the broadcast media and newspapers should review their treatment of UKIP in the light of
the facts outlined above. Since the problem is mainly with television and radio to a lesser extent,
they should be the first to change their ways.

Broadcasters must understand that the fact that Nigel Farage is a good media performer does not
make him representative. In the interests of the impartiality so proudly espoused by the BBC, and
others who aim to follow the Beeb’s example, UKIP deserve much less of the cake than they are
currently gobbling up.

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Everywoman Safe Everywhere

Since the Tory cuts began, women have been seen to bear the greatest impact in every area of life. One area of growing concern for me is the negative effect of the cuts on women’s safety. 

The safety of women across the country is increasingly at risk. It is at risk because of reductions in police numbers, as seen in my London constituency, and it is at risk because councils are cutting back on street lights in an effort to save money.

It is also at risk because organisations which support women to leave abusive relationships or jobs in which they are sexually exploited and abused have lost their funding. These are organisations like the Derby Women’s Centre which is currently under threat of closure as a result of cuts to its funding. My colleague Glenis Willmott, MEP for the East Midlands and Labour’s  Leader in Europe, spoke out against the cuts to its funding yesterday.

A number of women’s refuges and other specialist organisations which offer a safe space for women who have been abused are also suffering as a result of the cuts. Such organisations provide crucial support to victims of domestic violence, women who have been trafficked and the homeless. Last year I spoke a lot about the Poppy Project and the cuts to its funding. The Poppy project is an excellent organisation which provides support to survivors of trafficking.

For some of the most vulnerable women, like those who have recently left abusive relationships, access to a crisis loan can be an important resource. This is especially true if a woman has had to leave behind her possessions when escaping her abuser. This type of emergency loan can assist her in starting to rebuild her life.

Recent welfare reform proposals shift the control of such crisis funds to already stretched local authorities with no checks to ensure the funding is spent on providing crisis support.

They also rather ludicrously suggest that councils could provide support in kind rather than money to people who apply for crisis funds. Women who have taken the brave move of leaving abusive partners should not have to suffer the lack of autonomy and indignity associated with receiving food parcels.

A coalition of 20 charities, including Banardo’s and Women’s Aid, has called for the ring-fencing of funds to provide crisis loans in a letter to the Guardian last weekend. You can read the letter here.

In response to the ever increasing impact of Tory cuts on women’s safety, the Labour Party is carrying out a Public Consultation.

The Consultation was opened shortly before the Christmas break but I felt given the hectic holiday period it might be a good idea to revisit it with you now we are in the New Year.

The findings from the Consultation will be used get a clearer picture of the cumulative impact of tory decision making and to develop legislative measures that could be used to make women safer. It will also be used as an opportunity to consult on Labour’s proposals for a new Personal Safety Bill.

The consultation is chaired by Vera Baird QC who will be supported by Kate Green MP (Shadow Minister for Equalities) and Stella Creasy MP (Shadow Minister for Crime Prevention).

If you would like to find out more about the consultation or take part, please visit the Everywoman Safe Everywhere website. Together we can make Britain a safer place for women.

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Hackney Labour in Brussels

Earlier this week I was delighted to welcome a visiting group of members of Hackney Labour Party to Brussels. The European Parliamentary Labour Party’s Secretary General Giampi Alhadeff (pictured by the plants) is a Hackney resident and he had been the driving force behind the intensive visit to the European Parliament to meet MEPs and Parliamentary officers.

As the pictures show we had an enjoyable meal. There were speeches from Stoke Newington Councillor Rita Krishna, who is Hackney’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services; former councillor John Hudson from Hackney South Labour Party and Giampi Alhadeff. Giampi had organised an excellent programme of meetings as sevral of those at the dinner told me.

Regrettably my London Labour MEP colleague Claude Moraes was unable to join us. Claude is unwell and everybody at the dinner wished him a speedy recovery from his current illness. Claude is a Hackney resident so it was particularly unfortunate that he missed our dinner.

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At Conference: From Pioneers to Power and Back Again: Why Have Women Been Forgotten?

As the Parliamentary season gets into swing we once again find ourselves back in conference season. This Saturday the Labour Party Conference begins in Liverpool.  I am looking forward to the first couple of days in particular as Saturday and Sunday are the days of the Women’s Conference which I hope as many of you can make as possible. You also might be interested to know that I have organised a Fringe Event on the Sunday: “From Pioneers to Power and Back Again: Why Have Women Been Forgotten?”

One of the most overlooked aspects of the Labour Party’s history is the contribution of its women activists. By holding this event I plan not only to pay tribute to the work they did and the successes of women in the Labour Party but also to ask why women have been forgotten in the socialist movement.

I believe this question is more important now than ever before as the Tories are in the process of rolling back all of the advancements women have made in recent years.  As a result, the women’s vote may cost the Tories the next election.

Labour’s future lies in once again becoming the party for women. So join me, Harriet Harman, Rachel Reeves and Baroness Joyce Goulding for an afternoon where we examine where we went wrong and how to become the women’s party for the future.

You can also find details of it in the Conference Guide (page 63) or online here.

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Best wishes to Debbie Abrahams in Oldham East and Saddleworth

While it would be folly to claim victory prematurely in Oldham East and Saddleworth, there’s no doubt it’s looking good for Labour. The latest polls point to a comfortable Labour victory and by a margin much larger than that achieved at the 2010 general election.

Polls conducted by ICM and Populus both placed Labour 17 points ahead of the Liberal Democrats. ICM put Labour on 44%, the Lib Dems on 27%, the Tories on 18% and others on 12%. Populus put Labour on 46%, the Lib Dems on 29%, the Tories on 15% and others on 10%.Labour selects candidate for Oldham East & Saddleworth by-election

And Labour has a woman candidate, Debbie Abrahams who was Labour’s candidate in Colne Valley at this year’s general election. If and when elected she will be a huge asset in Westminster. A public health consultant, a former director of public health research at Liverpool University and the former chair of Rochdale primary care trust she is set to make a truly valuable contribution. Health is, after all, Labour’s flagship policy area where we must do all we can to fight the Tory-led coalition’s cuts.

What is more, Debbie lives in Oldham who has promised to deliver the best possible deal for local people.

There are currently 95 female Labour MPs – three times the number of those in all other parties put together. However, according to the Fawcett Society it would still take Labour 20 years to get an equal gender split in the House of Commons.

If you think that’s bad, the Liberal Democrats would need twice that amount of time.  But, as ever, it’s the Tories who have the real problem; they would need 400 years before they had the same number of women as male MPs.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

This week saw the humiliating ejection from the chamber in the European Parliament of the UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom. I blogged about he episode here. Bloom was ejected because he used the phrase “ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer” towards German MEP Martin Schulz, the Leader of the Socialist and Democrat Group.

This was totally inappropriate behaviour for the chamber as I said in my blog. Bloom feels the Second World War isn’t yet over but yet bases himself at the heart of the very institution in which post war coperation and understanding was born. I don’t understand his stance and find his behaviour at odds with what we are all working so hard and succeeding to achieve in Europe.

In other news the new leader Ed Miliband announced yesterday at the Party’s National Policy Forum that he would  hold a two-year review of all the party’s policies – it is to be led by Liam Byrne. Miliband wants to move the Party beyond New Labour.

He told the Forum that people are more likely to actively chose their allegiance to a party than to inherit it. This is true, and we as a party must be aware that the electorate expects a party to be able to deliver and they will not passively support it based just on ideology – they want to see active policies which set the party apart from its opponent, something which can sometimes be blurred in modern politics.

So I wait to see how Milibands planned reforms  take shape. He’s obviously taking it seriously – it’s a two-year project and he’s appointed Byrne to over see it. You can read full details in todays Observer.

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Ireland – Labour’s Double Opportunity

The Irish economy is in a mess. I’ve seen little mention of how effective the Irish Labour Party has been in holding the ruling Fianna Fail government to account. Thire talent and ability comes as no surprise to me working alongside Irish Labour MEPs Nessa Childers, Alan Kelly and Proinsas de Rossa. People in Ireland are turning to the Labour Party and it is riding consistently high in the opinion polls. At times for the first time ever it is the most popular party.

Irish people are rejecting the financial policies of Fianna Fail which George Osborne has praised. A great opportunity for the Irish Labour Party and I hope they make substantial gains and form part of the government after the forthcoming general election.

There’s also an opportunity here for the British Labour Party. The coalition government have been successful in starting to establish a political narrative which says that the British economic problems are a result of Labour government. It’s not true, any economic literate person knows that it was the “banks wot caused it”, but you can’t blame them for trying, especially as so many of the Conservatives have close links with bankers.

Philip Stephens writing in the Financial Times on Tuesday about the Irish bail out said:-

“As it happens, Ireland’s property-boom-turned-banking bust had little to do with its membership of the single currency. Ireland is not Greece. The closer parallels are with Iceland and dare one say it, Britain. Gordon Brown got precious few things right as prime minister, but Gordon Brown’s bank rescue package probably saved Britain from Ireland’s fate.”

Indeed you do dare say it Stephen, and I think there’s no doubt about it, Gordon Brown may not have saved the world, but he did save Britain. Labour should be proudly stating this.

Labour should also be posing the question if Labour/Gordon Brown is responsible for the current economic problems, why is Greece in such a mess? Why has Ireland just been bailed out? What happened in Iceland? Why is Portugal nervously considering the possibility of a future bailou,t with Spain being talked of as the biggest country to face similar problems. Or put another way, how did Gordon Brown create such a mess in the Greek, Irish, Icelandic, Portuguese and Spanish economies? And of course the answer is obvious even to the economically illiterate, he didn’t.

Are all these crises unrelated? Of course not. Was it some international political conspiracy, or was it international bankers? British Labour needs to achieve some of the political confidence of Irish Labour to loudly proclaim the dangers of economic austerity packages rooted in ideology not practicality. I’m grateful to Proinsas De Rossa for the link to this explantion by Mark Blyth Professor of International Political Economy, Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University. It’s well worth a view, or maybe even two!

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Glenis, David and Alistair

It’s been quite a morning at Labour Party Conference.  Although the talk of the town has been David Miliband’s gracious and heartfelt speech as Shadow Foreign Secretary, my interest also lay with EPLP Leader Glenis Willmott.

Speaking to conference delegates, Glenis pointed to the work being done by Labour’s team in the European Parliament: “Day in, day out, Labour MEPs are still making laws for the whole of the UK.”

Focussing on examples of recent wins, covering civil liberties, social protections and banking regulation, she told the conference that even when Labour is out of power in Westminster it can still make a real difference by acting in Brussels.

She went on to say: “The political battles we fight are not with Europe. They are with the right – in Brussels, at home and elsewhere.

“And in this battle Europe can be our ally.”

“It’s wrong that within our own party, we still regard the European Parliament as being over there. We still see the EU as merely a branch of foreign policy. Don’t forget: over there is also over here.

“Conference, up until now Labour hasn’t quite “got it” on Europe. “But I’m delighted to say that Ed (Miliband)”get’s it”.”

Next on stage was David Miliband who, eloquent as ever, gave us a passionate but thoughtful   speech.

Appealing for party unity, David declared: “no more cliques, no more factions, no more soap opera.” He even went as far as to quote Labour’s fourth leader, John Robert Clynes, who said Labour politicians went into politics “not to practice class war, but to end it”.

At the heart of the speech was what David called “hard-headed internationalism”. On Afghanistan, he said: “we’re not an occupying army, we’re trying to prevent an occupation.” He also reminded delegates that foreign armies never end civil wars. In addition, in what looks like an unaccustomed outbreak of consensus, he promised to support David Cameron if he did the right thing. “When he takes risks for peace, we will be the first to congratulate him every step of the way.”

David looked very inch the statesman. Those of us who supported David for the Leadership of the Labour Party must now unite behind his brother to take us to victory and a Labour government.

The final big speech of the morning was Alistair Darling, not as he himself lamented ever the “darling” of conference, but an excellent Chancellor of the Exchequer and a likeable, understated politician.

In his last weighty conference speech Alistair said that Labour should be proud of its record in power, “Proud in the way we changed Britain for the better, in ways big and small.”

He  accused the coalition government of gambling with the economic upturn kickstarted by the previous Labour administration.

Although Alistair had himself planned spending cuts to bring down the deficit, it would have been done at a lower and slower rate while continuing to invest in public services.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that there is no difference between us and the coalition …we never have been, and never will be the same,” he told us in no uncertain terms.

“The Tories are using the need to reduce borrowing as a way of dismantling the support millions depend on,” and their Liberal Democrat partners are passively going along with cuts targeted on the poor and needy.

Alistair also said that to abandon Labour’s balanced approach will put tens of thousands of jobs at risk and hit the living standards of millions of people.

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