Launch of Labour In Campaign

europe, Labour Party

Former Home Secretary Alan Johnson made a passionate speech about Britain’s place in Europe yesterday. As leader of the Labour In For Britain Campaign, Alan made it clear that there is no progressive case at all for Britain to leave the EU. Doing so would expose the country to greater risks.

Speaking at the Campaign’s launch in Birmingham, Alan told the audience: “There is nothing patriotic about condemning this country to isolation. The first duty of any government is to keep our country safe and I firmly believe that leaving the EU would fail that test.

“From the European Arrest Warrant to cross-border data sharing on terrorists, the speed of our response is vital.

“The lesson from Paris is clear: to tackle terrorism we must stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies in Europe. The security of Britain is inextricably linked to staying in Europe.”

He went on to say: “With challenges like the refugee crisis, terrorism and Russian aggression on the EU’s borders, Britain is stronger when working with our allies, committed to peace, democracy and international law.”

You can see the whole speech on this video:


Euro Election, europe, european parliament, Labour Party, President

We spent this morning casting our votes for the President of the European Parliament, an important position, the holder of which chairs the meetings of the European Parliament and is often seen as the public face of the European Parliament to the outside world.  Many are those who aspire to its lofty height, but as ever few are chosen.  Thise who do  arrive usually get there by a mixture of ambition and stealth and almost always as a result of deals made in backrooms between the political groups.

This time the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) has carved the position up with the European People’s Party (EPP) the centre-right group, still the largest group in the Parliament even though the Tories have left to set up on their own with a few cronies.  The deal was that the EPP have the President for the first half of the parliamentary term and the socialists/democrats  for the second two and a half years.  So it’s now the turn of the EPP until the end of December 2011.

This is all very well except that the President of the Parliament is elected by MEPs by secret ballot – the very process we have been taking part in today.  There were, in fact, two candidates, which I suppose was some kind of nod in the direction of democracy: Polish Jerzy Buzek from the EPP and Eva-Britt Svensson, a Swedish MEP from the GUE (left green) group.  I have worked with Eva-Britt for many years on the Women’s Committee where she has done much good work, including gaining the backing of the European Parliament for the UNIFEM campaign against violence against women.  Eva-Britt demonstrated her commitment to women’s rights by talking about the subject in her address to the Parliament prior to the vote.

Eva-Britt Svensson, Swedish MEP

Eva-Britt Svensson, Swedish MEP

Yet the forces behind the deals won out in the end by a very substantial margin – Mr Buzek had 555 votes to Eva-Britt’s 89.  This is the full story according to the European Parliament news service



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


Conservative, europe, Labour Party

Denis MacShane has just written this article for the new look, vastly improved “Tribune” .  Denis asks WILL KEN DO A GEOFFREY HOWE?

Just when you thought the Conservative Party could not get any more hardline against Europe, William Hague has announced that Kenneth Clarke will be expected to vote “No” in any future referendum on a European Union treaty. Overlooked in the Damian McBride furore, the Shadow Foreign Secretary used an Easter weekend interview in the Daily Telegraph to warn the Shadow Business Secretary that he must toe the Hague line on Europe and vote against ratifying new EU treaties. Hague also says the Tories will call for a retrospective referendum to reject Europe if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified later this year.

Kenneth Clarke

Kenneth Clarke says "No" to Europe

It seems that Hague is now back wearing his mugger’s baseball cap and taking aim by roughing up his much older Shadow Cabinet colleague in the columns of the press. Will Clarke accept this humiliation? Or, like Geoffrey Howe finally rebelling against Margaret Thatcher’s anti-EU posturing, will he stay true to his pro-European beliefs?

Current Tory hostility to Europe is without precedent in post-war British politics. Even in the worst days of Labour’s Euroscepticism in the 1980s, politicians such as John Smith and Tony Blair were allowed to stand up for Europe. Hague is telling Clarke to renege on a lifetime’spro-Europeanism and instructing all other Tories who want to work with Europe to keep quiet.

In tactical terms, Hague’s appeal may be aimed at trying to get hardline anti-EU voters to return to the Tory fold ahead of June’s European parliamentary elections. But these voters are ready to vote for the UK Independence Party and the British National Party, as those two extreme parties share the same objective of immediate British withdrawal from Europe.

Hague dare not go that far, although the Yorkshire-based “Better Off Out” group of Tory MPs look to him as their man who will so wreck Britain’s relations with Europe that withdrawal becomes possible. However, Hague could not have laid down the challenge to Clarke without Conservative leader David Cameron’s decision to break links with mainstream conservative parties in Europe – the most isolationist move in decades of British politics.

Nominally, the Tories are now looking for partners among European parties who share Hague’s anti-EU fixation. This has already led to an embarrassing meeting with Latvian right-wing politicians who venerate the Waffen SS.

Hague’s hunt for anti-EU right-wing parties with which to align is going to be tricky. One favourite of Conservative Eurosceptics is Philippe de Villiers, the French right-wing MP whose “Movement for France” uses anti-Lisbon Treaty language similar to the Tories. Unfortunately, de Villiers has blamed the current recession on “cosmopolitan financiers” – and “cosmopolitan” in French, as in English, is a codeword for Jewish. So it’s no go there as the Conservatives hunt for anti-EU bedmates.

Phillippe de Villiers campaigning for a 'Non' vote

Phillippe de Villiers campaigning for a 'Non' vote

The other friend of the Tories in Europe, the Czech right-wing Civic Democratic party has just been ousted from power after its leader attacked Barack Obama for taking the American economy on the “road to hell”.

But it is doubtful if Hague is serious about forging links with a ragbag of oddball rightist parties in Europe. His objective is to create conditions in which Britain moves to the exit door of the EU. The implications for global policy and this country’s relationship with the United States, China, Russia and the Commonwealth are enormous, as the Foreign Office faces up to having an openly isolationist Foreign Secretary if the Tories win power.

It should not be forgotten that Cameron won the leadership of his party in 2005 by outflanking David Davis on hostility to Europe. After the first round, there were some 40 Tory MPs who had voted for Liam Fox, who never hides his venomous contempt for the EU which has been a long-standing feature of his right-wing politics.

Fox’s supporters offered their votes to whichever of the two remaining candidates in the race would appease their virulent anti-Europeanism. The price these anti-Europeans wanted for their votes was a pledge to break all links with the European People’s Party – the loose association of centre-right parties in Europe. Pulling out of the EPP was the first step on the road to pulling out of the EU.

To his credit, Davis knew that such a move was unsustainable. He refused to make the promise. Cameron was more cynical and more of an opportunist. He promised to give the anti-Europeans what they wanted. And he then appointed Hague as his chief foreign affairs spokesperson. Hague makes cheap jokes about the French and Germans and has always been an anorak when it comes anti-Europeanism.

In the past, Tory leaders in opposition could play the race card, as Margaret Thatcher did with her notorious “swamped by people of an alien culture” speech. She used this as a “dog-whistle” with which to win back Tory voters who switched to the National Front in the 1970s.

In 1976, Andrew Brons, an extreme right-winger obsessed with the ideology of the Nazi party stood for the NF in a Birmingham by-election and won 22 per cent of the vote. The Tories were worried that the NF would win support from racist admirers of Enoch Powell.

Thatcher’s speech, with its unmistakable xenophobic pledge to stop Britain from being “swamped” (she never said by precisely by whom, but everyone understood who she meant), killed the NF vote and encouraged the Powellite working class to back the Tories in 1979.

David Cameron dithering and dodging European issues

Cameron cannot play the race card. He is a liberal cosmopolitan without a gram of racism in his make-up. To his credit, he has promoted ethnic minority candidates, MPs and peers. He needs votes from Hindi, Muslim and other faith communities in order to win a majority.

Instead, to counter the racist appeal of the BNP, he is playing the anti-European card and using Hague, who does not bother to hide his contempt for Europe, as his dog-whistler.

With most newspapers pumping out anti-EU propaganda and with Labour failing to make the case for Europe with conviction and energy, the Tory strategy may work. But the price of an isolationist Britain will be high. And will Ken Clarke pay it?

Denis MacShane is Labour MP for Rotherham


europe, Labour Party

ibiza-plageWith the Easter Holidays coming up fast, I thought I’d give all travellers and their families some important information about European Health Insurance Cards and the need to make sure they are still valid.

Obviously I hope that readers don’t need to get emergency healthcare when on holiday in Europe. But if emergency treatment is required, producing a European Health Insurance Card will mean that no payment is needed. A great peace of mind for travellers and a benefit for being in the European Union.

However, many of the cards that were issued in the first batch are coming up for renewal. Only 292,089 people have renewed their EHIC so far. This means that 3.3 million people have an out-of-date card. Make sure that yours is still valid!

It’s easy to get a new one. To renew or obtain an EHIC, call the EHIC Application Line on 0845 606 2030 or apply online at . It will be delivered to your door within ten days.

And what’s more I’m currently working on reducing the cost of making mobile phone calls, sending text messages or accessing the internet while on the continent. The European Parliament will be voting soon and I hope that we can see reduced costs in time for this year’s summer holidays.

Have a safe trip and don’t forget your health card!


europe, The Post Office

Labour MEPs have managed to secure a defined universal service whereby letters will go on being both delivered and collected at least once a day, at least five days a week, for every EU citizen, in remote areas as well as towns and cities. These standards will apply irrespective of who is running the service and are imperative to keeping a postal service where the priority is public service not profit.


We have also fought hard to secure safeguards for postal workers, making sure under EU law that Members States in conjunction with unions have the right to impose certain conditions on postal services operators for non-economic reasons, such as compliance with employment conditions and social security schemes.


The part privatisation of Royal Mail is a decision for the UK Parliament and has nothing to do with the liberalisation process of postal services as proposed by the EU which is an issue of market access not privatisation.


Labour MEPs will continue to support the postal sector and its workers within the EU and at home and will continue to work hard in all aspects of postal and employment legislation to guarantee the best deal for the consumer and postal workers.


I believe that the best way forward would be for the Government and the social partners to engage in constructive dialogue with full consultation to find a mutually acceptable way to resolve this important issue that is beneficial to workers, pension holders, customers and the nation as a whole, and which will continue to guarantee the universality of the service.


Euro Election, europe

 Great post by new European Parliamentary Labour Party leader Glenis Willmott about Vaclav Klaus’ speech to the European Parliament. Glenis has vast energy and in addition to all her new duties as Leader she has launched a blog. I am pleased to see her allowing comments. Too many senior politicians can opt out of this. As I am sure Glenis is finding running a blog can be quite a time investment. I am delighted though that as Leader she is embracing New Technology and better communications. I hope her example will lead to more of my colleagues of all persuasions joining us out in the blogosphere!



I recently had a problem where the European Parliament security staff refused to allow journalists in to report on an event I had organised in the Parliament. Last Thursday there was an armed robbery of a bank in the European Parliament building in Brussels. I am appalled the Parliament security service stopped guns coming into the building. Just think of some of the world leaders who could have been assasinated. Obama is due to visit, what on earth will his security people be thinking? Unbelievably, it took the security service 4 hours to tell anyone that there could be gunmen loose in the building.  In addition, the day before the gun attack they refused to allow an “assistance dog” for disabled people coming into the parliament because it was a “security threat.” Click HERE to read the story. Dogs bad. Guns OK?

Dogs for disabled people, like the one above, should not be banned from the European Parliament

Dogs for disabled people, like the one above, should not be banned from the European Parliament

My staff have suffered from all the problems outlined in this email. “Over the past 2 years we have worked here, there have been dozens of thefts of valuable items, and in many cases cash itself, from locked offices in this building. Often, badges are not inspected or even requested when entering or leaving the Parliament. These are not the only problems. I think if you asked the people who work here every day, no-one is surprised that Parliament Security have failed to prevent yesterday’s armed robbery.   The current Security Unit priorities seem to be:   a) guarding the canteen, to make sure temporary staff cannot enter before 13.00; and b) ensuring no boxes are removed from the Parliament premises, even if the boxes are the private property of MEPs or assistants. Perhaps it is time to reassess these priorities?   I couldn’t put it better myself!


europe, Mark Mardell

I see Mark Mardell in his Euro Blog (HERE) has flagged up the special special EU summit on protectionism to be held on Sunday 1 March. I recently did a debate on Europarl TV and I was quite clear about saying no to protectionism. I am waiting to be provided with a internet video of the debate and I will post it here as soon as it is avaliable.