campaign, Competition, europe, Free Trade

If you are an eBay user, you may already have received the following e-mail.  If you have, as a believer that everyone should be able to buy and sell on the internet, I would urge you to sign the eBay petition.  If you have not seen the e-mail before, it would be great if you would join eBay and sign their petition. (You never know you may also find some bargains to snap up!)   EBay has pioneered the concept on freedom on the internet and I believe they deserve our support.  I can assure you that in my MEP capacity I will be doing all I can to stop the unfair trade practices outlined in the email.    


EBay was built on a simple idea – that we could empower people by building a global trading platform where practically anyone could buy or sell practically anything. But that idea is now under threat from certain brand owners and manufacturers who are trying to turn back the clock and block the sale of their products on online marketplaces and other websites across the EU.

Ultimately, what is at stake is the right of sellers to compete fairly in the wider online marketplace, and the right of buyers to be able to access the best possible deals from the widest possible selection of goods.

Some of these brand owners argue that their objective is to prevent the sale of counterfeits on eBay.  But thanks to our work with 31,000 other rights owners, only 0.15% of listings last year were detected or
reported as potentially counterfeit. The real aim of these brands is to block the sale of all their products on our site – regardless of whether such items are new or second-hand, genuine or fake. It’s not just luxury items that are affected, but also everyday items like children’s toys, electronic equipment, lawnmowers and pushchairs. And if we want to prevent other brand owners from following suit, we need to act now.

We are therefore calling on European policymakers to amend EU competition law to stop these unfair trade practices. But we need your help to persuade them to take action. If you would like to join our
campaign against online trade barriers, please sign our petition.

Your eBay Team


bloging, campaign, Labour Party, London

I have to say the idea of a conference with Ken Livingstone monopolising the front of the programme sponsored by the GMB, UNITE and ASLEF filled me with some dread. What could possibly be progressive about that was my initial reaction. On further investigation this was not even a Labour conference. Greens and even Liberal Democrats were there in force. This confused me even more. As a pluralist use to the European spirit of discussion and compromise, I heartily approve of cross party working. But is this what our trade union comrades see as the way forward?

In actual fact, it proved a good day, an event which included a number of imaginative workshops. I attended “Blogging London – The New Media and London Politics” chaired by Ivor Gaber, Research Professor in Media and Politics at the University of Bedfordshire, with Adam Bienkov from Tory Troll blog, Martin Hoscik, editor of MayorWatch and Tom Barry from It was a shame about the all male top table and the overwhelmingly male attendance. However, it was a good hour and a half and very good indeed to meet other bloggers. Given that I get concerned about the disembodied nature of the blogosphere, the workshop provided a welcome opportunity to meet people and discuss issues face to face.
Ivor introduced the session with the idea that the online environment had been significantly enhanced by the Obama campaign. They had collected 10 million e-mail addresses. Staggering though this achievement was, information needs to be used in the right way. Left of centre blogging appears weak on the whole (except perhaps for Liberal Conspiracy) in contrast to the more vibrant work done by the Right. Moreover, left blogs in London did not appear to have any impact on the mayoral elections.

Adam Bienkov from Tory Troll said that as newspaper readership declines more people are turning to blogs which are now read by a number of people engaged in politics, including activists, journalists, civil servants. A blog needs to be distinctive to get noticed. Local newspapers are very stretched so there is often scope to follow local authorities. Adam was convinced that the main impact of blogs was on the politicians themselves.

The editor of the MayorWatch website, Martin Hoscik, pointed out that during the Mayoral election all the candidates were keen to harness some blogs. The smaller parties, especially, found blogs useful for getting their message across. However, bloggers need to make sure their content is attractive. Left politicians should also engage more with blogs; sometimes there is a feeling that it is beneath them. MayorWatch has, in fact, been rebuffed by every Minister of London since it was set up.

Martin predicted that by the next GLA elections there will be much more audio and video content on blogs. YouTube is becoming more popular, and politicians will be increasingly do interviews to be put on the internet.

Tom Barry from gave an amusing talk, concentrating on how blogs can be used for reporting. He had found out where Boris Johnson wanted to site the new London airport by plotting a dredger Boris had taken down the Thames Estuary and noting where it stopped.

It won’t surprise you to hear that these presentations were followed by a lively discussion. I am particularly grateful to LabourList who not only provided a blog from the whole conference, but gave me the following mention when I made a contribution at the blogging workshop:

Mary Honeyball MEP makes the point that Labour bloggers need to be linked up far better. She also goes on to illustrate how driving more people to blogs like her own could show up just how fringe and nutty European Tories actually are. All fair points, in our view.


blog, campaign, Labour Party

It was meant to challenge ConservativeHome. We hoped it would be the activists’ arena. Instead LabourList is top heavy, dominated by people centred around Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and Ken Livingstone. These three may make interesting bedfellows, but where is the authentic voice of the Labour Party? Where are the grassroots members who make Tory blogging so appealing?
By no means an expert, I have nevertheless been blogging for almost two years, often but not exclusively, on issues and events in the EU. As a MEP I am extremely concerned that there appear to be no European references on LabourList. Foreign policy in general fares little better. I know from my post bag that Labour Party members care passionately about foreign affairs, as my massive inbox on Gaza amply demonstrated.

I am immensely proud of the Labour Government’s achievements over the last ten years in more than doubling overseas aid, writing off millions of pounds of debt and leading the world in campaigning for the millennium goals. Labour Party people are international people – it’s one of our defining characteristics. Conservative Home can’t beat us on this. The Tories stand isolated in the European Union with economic policies no other right wing party in America, France or Germany shares. Let them be Little Englanders, but let LabourList be a Labour InternationaList.

However, my biggest LabourList bugbear is its casual sexism. I expect it from ConservativeHome but not a Labour product. The Labour Party has striven to increase women’s political representation with all women shortlists and equal gender representation on closed lists. But frighteningly LabourList is taking us a step backwards by appointing just six women out of 34 as contributors on the site. Making up just 17 per cent of contributors, women are better represented in the Commons than they are on this Labour blogsite!

This gender bias is not just a loss to women in politics, but it’s a distinct loss to the quality of the site. In a recent discussion on blogs on women’s hour, media historian Professor Jean Seaton argued that political blogs run by men tend to be gossipy, aggressive and partisan, whereas those run by women are more often issue-led and constructive, with wider cross-party appeal.
On the same show, Iain Dale said that he is disappointed that women only make up 15 per cent of visitors to his site. This is not because women do not engage with blogging. Women fuel internet traffic with lively and amusing debates, for example campaigning on domestic violence on Nerys Evan’s blog and discussing women’s rights on the F-Word. The difference between these sites and Iain Dale’s, or some of the other overtly political sites, is that they open up blogging to real social problems, away from the arguments of Westminster, and into the day-to-day issues that affect people beyond the Village.

There’s an election coming. We have won the last three because we have taken record shares of women’s votes. New media should take us forward, not back. Sadly once again women must battle for their share of the political arena.

LabourList is also far too London centred. I say this as a London MEP. I truly believe London is the greatest city in the world, but LabourList needs more voices from the regions. Let’s have Bob Piper from the West Midlands or Grimmerupnorth, rather than yet another former minister or adviser from the London dinner party circuit.

LabourList should also make cleverer political judgments by, for example, remembering that the majority of Labour representatives, including myself, are in opposition rather than power. Someone like Stephen Cowan reporting from the frontline fighting the Tory Taliban in Hammersmith merits a slot. For a Trade union voice active in the Party, LabourList should perhaps include John Gray.

As a former member of the Labour Party in the South West region, I was especially pleased when Jim Knight won South Dorset. Up until university I spent my life in Tory areas. At times it was a little lonely as a socialist. One of the great things about the internet is the way it can bring people with the same views and interests together whatever the geography. So for the campaigner in a safe Tory seat, coming home and clicking on LabourList should feel like the embrace of solidarity from virtual comrades.

There is no doubt that a cohesive community has developed around Conservative Home. The feeling of working with like minded souls motivates Tory activists. Let’s reach out through the web to all Labour Party members in all parts of the country.

Labour Party activists frequently tell me how much they appreciate National Executive Committee member Ann Black’s reports on meetings. Why not sign Ann up to provide a forum where Labour Party supporters can discuss events after every meeting of the Party’s governing committee? She’s a voice from outside London too.

LabourList could also put the informative campaigning work done across the Party online. Someone like Mary Southcott in Bristol who sits on the National Policy Forum and the South West Convention, writes for Chartist and campaigns on Electoral Reform and Cyprus would be an ideal contributor. Such Party stalwarts are one of the strengths of ConservativeHome.

I know LabourList will not have much in the way of resources, let alone the Ashcroft untaxed millions, but I question whether the money is being used to the best advantage. Why only a weekday operation? Why the fixed deadline of the lunchtime list? Many Labour people will only be able to surf in the evening or at weekends. Most people can’t surf the web for long in working/childcare hours, and if they can very few will have LabourList as a priority ahead of Facebooking friends or making online purchases.

Too many of the initial LabourList bulletins contain large chunks of press reviews. If people want that they will sign up for a press summary service, a newspaper email service or get text alerts. It is not sensible to spend resources on such duplication. References to other media are fine; a Labour press list is not.

I think there is a real need for a blog space for Labour Party members and I very much want LabourList to succeed. I hope these comments will be taken in the spirit in which they are intended – to do the very best for the Party and the Government.


bus, campaign

The following piece recently appeared on the Guardian “Comment is Free” site. I love the idea of the Atheist Bus Campaign. It’s good to see those of us who are rationalists and humanists taking positive action.
I hope as many of you who can will donate to this excellent campaign.

Comment is free
All aboard the Atheist Bus Campaign
It’s real, it’s happening: you can sponsor the first atheist advert on a bus – and Richard Dawkins will match your money
Comments (537)

Ariane Sherine,
Tuesday October 21 2008 07.00 BST

The Atheist Bus Campaign launches today thanks to Comment is free readers. Because of your enthusiastic response to the idea of a reassuring God-free advert being used to counter religious advertising, the slogan “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” could now become an ad campaign on London buses – and leading secularists have jumped on board to help us raise the money.
The British Humanist Association will be administering all donations to the campaign, and Professor Richard Dawkins, bestselling author of The God Delusion, has generously agreed to match all contributions up to a maximum of £5,500, giving us a total of £11,000 if we raise the full amount. This will be enough to fund two sets of atheist adverts on 30 London buses for four weeks.
If the buses hit the road, this will be the UK’s first ever atheist advertising campaign. It’s an exciting development, which I never expected when I first proposed the idea on Cif in June. Back then, I was just keen to counter the religious ads running on public transport, which featured a URL to a website telling non-Christians they would spend “all eternity in torment in hell”, burning in “a lake of fire”. When I suggested the atheist counter-slogan (now shortened for readability), the response was extremely positive, and hundreds of you pledged your support after the follow-up article.
As you read this, a new advertising campaign for Alpha Courses is running on London buses. If you attend an Alpha Course, you will again be told that failing to believe in Jesus will condemn you to hell. There’s no doubt that advertising can be effective, and religious advertising works particularly well on those who are vulnerable, frightening them into believing. Religious organisations’ jobs are made easier because there’s no publicly visible counter-view to refute their threats of eternal damnation.
The Atheist Bus Campaign aims to change this. In addition to the slogan, the adverts will feature the URLs of secular, humanist and atheist websites, so that readers can find out more about atheism as a positive and liberating alternative to religion. We’ve also set up an interactive campaign website and Facebook group, so that questions raised by the adverts can be publicly debated.
CBS Outdoor, the bus advertising company, will run the atheist adverts in January if the funds are raised – but we need your help to make this happen.
Your donations will give atheism a more visible presence in the UK, generate debate, brighten people’s day on the way to work, and hopefully encourage more people to come out as atheists. As Richard Dawkins says: “This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think – and thinking is anathema to religion.”
To donate to the Atheist Bus Campaign, please visit here.