Tag Archives: UKIP

More regulation, less regulation, or better regulation?

There are those who believe the EU is a legislative behemoth, producing vast reams of paper designed to swamp business. Certainly UKIP and their political allies love to make capital out of it, trotting out the statistic that 75% of laws applicable in the UK come from Brussels. The reality, as ever, is not quite so simple. Much EU regulation concerns the protection of workers, ensuring a host of rights and safeguards are in place to protect them from less than scrupulous employers. Less regulation isn’t better for them.

Ask any small business in any EU Member State, and they worry about the burden placed on them by rules, when all they want to do is get on with what they’re good at. Reflecting this, the new Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, has in fact designated his right-hand man, Frans Timmermans, as First Vice-President and Commissioner for Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, Rule of Law and Charter of Fundamental Rights. Juncker’s message is clear: the EU needs neither less nor more regulation, but better regulation. Timmermans, during his hearing before the Parliament prior to his confirmation as Commissioner, pledged to conclude an agreement between the EU’s institutions on better law-making, and also setting out a list of legislative proposals which should be withdrawn. The new decentralised structure of the Commission also reflects this desire to cut unnecessary bureaucracy, allowing the seven Vice-Presidents to scrap any proposal coming from Commissioners in their brief.

However, the financial crash has shown us the danger of under-regulation. With increasingly interconnected sectors, if we don’t build in safeguards, the risk that one company extended into several markets finds itself in the position of being ‘too big to fail’ is a real one. With so many people still feeling the effects of the crisis in the UK and across Europe, it is difficult to justify regulation simply being dismissed not on its merits, but because there is already a lot of regulation in the field.

There is therefore a trade-off. Sometimes we need to accept that certain areas, in particular the financial sector, should and will be subject to regulation. Added to that, complex subjects, like the environment or chemicals, require a great deal of complex regulation. On the other hand, European law-makers must be aware that too much complex regulation risks making starting a business or hiring an extra employee seem less attractive. Given that small and medium enterprises represent 99.8% of European business, and are now responsible for 85% of new jobs in the private sector, the new Commissioners will have their work cut out in ensuring that this balance is struck.

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Hitler-defenders and misogynists – UKIP’s new allies

Nigel Farage has struck a deal with a far right MEP in order to save his political group the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) in European Parliament.

The Polish MEP, which Farage has invited into his political grouping to save it from collapsing, belongs to the Congress of the New Right and its leader, also an MEP but who is not joining the EFDD, Janusz Korwin-Mikke, has questioned the Holocaust and made offensive remarks about the right to vote being taken away from women.

He has also made some terrible remarks about the difference between rape and consensual sex, claiming that “the difference is very subtle”. On the issue of the Holocaust he claimed that Adolf Hitler was “probably not aware that Jews were being exterminated”.

Korwin-Mikke even made remarks about the British national minimum wage claiming it should be abolished. And when he refused to withdraw and apologise for racist remarks he made he was fined 10 days allowance by The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz.

President Schulz said of the incident, in a statement: “As Members of the European Parliament, we are particularly obliged to respect and protect the fundamental values of the European Union. This includes the principle of non-discrimination and respect for human dignity.”

The EFDD would have disintegrated had Farage not invited the Polish MEP, this is because any group wishing to form must have a minimum of 25 MEPs across seven different countries in order to be considered. Farage lost the support of Latvia MEP, Iveta Grigule, who quit the group meaning Farage lost the minimum number of people required to form the group.

The EPLP referred to the party as: “Hitler-defenders and misogynists” and called them “UKIP’s sickening new allies”. Glenis Willmott MEP, Labour’s Leader in Europe, said: “Nigel Farage’s desperate attempt to resurrect his group has seen him sink to an all-time low. The views expressed by his new allies are sickening even by UKIP standards.

Farage was clearly so desperate not to lose the kudos, power, prestige, extra funding and speaking rights that he has taken this drastic and very worrying step of aligning with a far-right party whose leader has made these dreadful remarks.

Even Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s Front National, refused to form an alliance which included Korwin-Mikke on the basis that his political views are “contrary to our values.” It says rather a lot about Farage and his morals if he is willing to align with a member of a party who has such disturbing views, and which even other far- right politicians refuse to have anything to do with.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-up

Clacton in Essex, Heywood and Middleton and soon to be Rochester have all become symbols of what Patrick Wintour, in last week’s Guardian, called “Farageland”.

As the conference season ended the parties faced an almighty challenge little more than 200 days before a general election that even the most experienced pollsters are hesitant to call.

The message from the two by election’s held last week is that UKIP are a real threat to all parties and, as I have said many times, Labour is also be affected and must take action to address concerns.

“Hurrah for Malala Yousafzai,” wrote Radhika Sanghani, in the Telegraph. “Her tireless work for girls’ rights to an education all over the world have just been awarded with the highest accolade imaginable: The Nobel Peace Prize.”

Malala is an inspirational young woman who wrote about the importance of education for girls. She was targeted and shot by the Taliban when she was 15.

Despite almost losing her life she continued to campaign relentlessly and her birthday, 12 July, is recognised by the United Nations which calls this day ‘Malala Day’. The purpose of the day is to campaign globally and recognise a child’s right to receive an education.

You can watch the Daily Telegraphs top ‘Malala moments,’ which show just inspirational she is.

Last week was the International Day of the Girl and Tanya Barron, head of Plan UK, wrote an article for the Telegraph explaining why it’s time for Britain to wake up to the plight of girls both at home and abroad. This was the third year of the International day of the Girls and the aim is to promote girls rights and to highlight gender inequality. This year’s theme concerned ‘empowering adolescent girls: Ending the cycle of violence’.

Barron wrote in her article: “Millions of girls in the developing world don’t attend school and, instead, are handed a curriculum of chores at home. They’re denied the chance to live in good health because of violent abuses such as female genital mutilation (FGM).”

The International Day of the Girl reminds us of how many girls across the globe are denied the basic human right of an education while others are abused in the most abhorrent way such as FGM. It provides an opportunity to really challenge the behaviour of those who seek to undermine or abuse girls and young women. You can read Tanya’s article here.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

It was encouraging to hear that the numbers of women on corporate boards has crept up again. However, we are only talking of a minimal increase of one per cent, but at least it’s heading in the right direction and it’s happened less than a year since the last figures were published.

So, the percentage of women on corporate boards in the European Union now sits at 18.6%, up from 17.8% in 2013, the European Commission figures revealed.

Although an increase is encouraging, this remains far short of the 40% target set by the commission. In addition just over 3% of Europe’s biggest companies have a female CEO. This is a poor figure and needs improving quickly which is why I believe there is a real need for quotas for women sitting on company boards. Three per cent is woeful and shows that there is still so much to do in order to make real impact at a corporate level.

The Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft, revealed in his latest poll that Labour will win in Lib Dem target seats. He also said that Labour is on course for a comfortable majority. There will be an abundance of polls between now and the general election next year, but The Labour Party is right to remain cautious because despite the election being a mere eight months away we still have a lot of work to do; not least fighting off UKIP in their target seats. Indeed we mustn’t lose sight of the real threat they pose and we must be vigilant in dealing with this. To ignore them would be dangerous.

We only have to look across the water to France and the municipal elections to see how well UKIP could do here in the UK. The far-right Front National (FN) won its first seats in the upper chamber over the weekend elections, marking a shift in the political map of France.

Anne Penkith in The Guardian writes, “scored a historic victory in elections to the French senate on Sunday, winning its first ever seats in the upper chamber as the ruling Socialists and their left wing allies lost their majority to right wing parties.” If the FN are starting to gain seats in France there’s no reason to think UKIP couldn’t pose a similar threat in the UK.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

David Cameron re shuffled his cabinet this week and in doing so increased the number of women in it from three to… five. In 2011 the number of women in his cabinet was five so there is no improvement in real terms. And even if you include those who can attend cabinet that figure has only increased from five to eight. We are just a few months away from a general election so Cameron placed a couple of women in some prominent positions to appease those who would criticise the lack of women in his cabinet in previous years.

As I said in a post from my blog earlier in the week, “it was not a good day for women…He [David Cameron] illustrated that he is in no way committed to any form of gender parity…”

Andrew Rawnsley wrote a powerful article in this weekend’s Observer in which he said that you can tell a lot from the appointments Prime Ministers make when they form a cabinet.

So what does Cameron’s decision tell us about him? He doesn’t have a particularly high regard for women if the choice words Downing Street used to describe the new women ministers are true. Rawnsley explains: “Getting the promoted women to parade up the Downing Street ‘catwalk’, as Number 10 spin had incited the hacks to call it, diminished both them and the claim that the prime minister is an equal opportunities employer. It strongly suggests that for all his rhetoric about valuing women for their abilities, he really believes, in Melissa Kite’s acute phrase, that “a woman’s place is in the PR strategy.”

I also reminded people in my blog that “what is particularly disappointing (but not very surprising) is that back in 2009 before Cameron was in power he had promised to ensure a third of his cabinet would be women by the end of his first parliament.”

Meanwhile the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has urged the UK to stay in the European Union, hours after UKIP’S Nigel Farage promised the UK was “close to exiting.”

Renzi was addressing the European parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday, as Italy started its six month presidency of the European Union, when he said: “Europe without the UK would not only be less rich, but less Europe and less itself.”

Meanwhile, what Farage meant by “Britain is close to exiting” is anybody’s guess, since that’s so obviously not the case.

And last but by no means least, congratulations to Emily Benn on being selected to contest Croydon South for Labour. If elected Emily will be the fifth generation of her family to sit in the Commons; Stephen and Nita must be very proud. On a more mundane note, I was pleased to chat to her uncle Hilary at the National Policy Forum on Saturday.

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Gender make-up of the new European Parliament

Gender Balance 2014

I thought it would be a good time to take a look at the gender balance of the new European Parliament.

The Parliament has always been ahead of the curve in terms of gender representation, with a steady increase in the number of female MEPs with every election since its inception. In 2009, thirty-five per cent of MEPs elected were women, and this time it was thirty-seven per cent. This somewhat puts to shame the UK parliament which currently only has twenty-two per cent female MPs with little hope for significant change at the general election next year.

Which is why is slightly surprising to see that within the UK delegation to the European Parliament, women make-up forty-one per cent of representatives (30/73). This might be in large part down to Labour efforts to get more female MEPs, with eleven of our twenty seats going to women. It’s the first time that women have made up more than fifty per cent of the Labour delegation here and it is a very encouraging sign.

The Conservatives have only six women in their ranks of nineteen, while UKIP have a rather measly seven of their twenty-four. The Conservatives have never been very good on this issue, with only fifteen per cent of their MPs in Westminster being women, and they don’t seem to be any closer to addressing the issue as I discussed in a recent blog.

I must admit that UKIP have made some improvements since last time, where they only had two female MEPs in 2009. They had even fewer by the end of the parliamentary term though, with Marta Andreasen and Nikki Sinclaire leaving the party, both citing various reasons of which the sexism and chauvinism of their colleagues were prominent. I hope that this current group of UKIP MEPs can be slightly more accommodating to their female colleagues, but I don’t have much hope.

Country by Country Break Down 2014

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-up

Labour’s deputy leader, Harriet Harman, gave a revealing and frank interview to the Observer this weekend. In it she revealed that taking her seat in Parliament 32 years ago was a very different experience to what today’s female elected MPs might experience. When she was first elected, Parliament was 97% male. “We were very much fish out of water and regarded as intruders in the world of politics. But I think there is now a critical mass of women,” she said.

Of course the House of Commons is still disproportionately made up of men, just 22% of seats are represented by women. While this is a significant improvement even since 1987 when just 41 MPs were women, evidently there is still a huge amount of work to do before any kind of equality is reached.

The opening of the European Parliament took place in Strasbourg last week, and to mark the occasion an orchestra played Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, the EU’s unofficial anthem. However, in an act of protest UKIP, Led by Nigel Farage, stood with their backs turned while the anthem was played. It was extremely ignorant and disrespectful. However, their display simply served to reiterate that the party doesn’t in any way take its role seriously and is not able to act in anyway as a credible opposition.
Over the weekend it was announced that Police would lose the power to unilaterally “drop” rape investigations, even if they think there is insufficient evidence to proceed, under a Labour government.

The party will tackle the way in which sexual crimes are handled if elected. It was revealed over the weekend that the shadow Attorney General, Emily Thornberry, will announce this week that the Police service will have to get agreement from the Crown Prosecution Service if they wish to end an investigation. Under current rules the Police are not obligated to investigate a case or present it to prosecutors.

The Independent on Sunday revealed: “she hopes the plan would end the culture of rape and sexual violence being an ‘optional’ crime to investigate and help end a ‘culture of defeatism’ where the authorities believe there will never be a large number of rape convictions because it is ‘too difficult’ to prosecute.

I don’t doubt sexual violence is a hugely under-reported crime in the same way that human trafficking is. These crimes are heavily associated with power and control and this would be a significant move towards supporting victims and letting them know that the crime will be properly investigated. Hopefully, with knowledge that they will be believed, this will go some way to encourage more victims to report the crime of which they are a victim.

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