2012, London, Olympics, prostitution, Trafficking
Whilst a strong supporter of the Olympics and the opportunities it will offer the vibrant capital  that is my home, I am deeply concerned that unless decisive action is taken quickly the games may spark a rise in prostitution.
London's Olympic Stadium

London's Olympic Stadium

Fortunately, it now seems that the Metropolitan Police are beginning to share these concerns. A report they published this week  warned that an increase in prostitution and trafficking linked to the Games would put women at risk.
Over a million construction workers are set to work on the site over the next three years, when added together with spectators and athletes cxould a fuel a sex trade time bomb.
Kerb Crawling

Kerb Crawling

During the Athens Games, sex trafficking almost doubled and there were reports of sex attacks in the athletes’ village at Sydney in 2000.

The BBC reported yesterday that a  small increase in the number of trafficked women working in the five Olympic host boroughs has already been noted.

Previously when I have approached the police and the councils concerned on these issues they have backed away from making any link between sex crimes and sporting events, even when I used figures showing dramatic increases in trafficking in w0men around the Germany World Cup, which I also used to call for greater protections for women in last years Euro 2008 on Women’s Hour last year.
Given that the Met are now responsive on this topic I will look to work with them on reducing the risk to London women, caused by a potential surge in teh sex trade around the Olympics, over the next three years.


Equal Rights, feminist, London, prostitution, Sex Trade, Sexual Equality, Trade Unions, Women MPs, Women's Rights

I was delighted to be invited to speak, on work undertaken in the EU on prostitution, at the launch of OBJECT and eaves’ new DEMAND CHANGE! campaign in Parliament yesterday afternoon.

Two powerful and inspiring organisations, OBJECT, is a campaigning organisation which is fundamentally against the objectification of women. And eaves is a London based feminist charity that provides supported housing to vulnerable women, women trafficked into prostitution, and those who have experienced domestic violence.

The new joint initiative between eaves and OBJECT – DEMAND CHANGE! – aims to promote an increased understanding of the myths and realities surrounding prostitution; calls for prostitution to be seen and widely understood as a form of violence against women; and is lobbying for the adoption of the ‘Nordic model’ of tackling demand and decriminalising women in prostitution.

Answering questions at the DEMAND CHANGE! event in Parliament

Answering questions at the DEMAND CHANGE! event in Parliament

As an ardent supporter of the Nordic model, of tackling trafficking and violence against women through prostitution by criminalising the purchase of sex, I wholly support the DEMAND CHANGE! campaign and its aims. I believe campaigns such as these are key to changing the public perceptions and entrenched cultural attitudes towards the sale of women’s bodies for sex, which is  is the only route towards the UK adopting the Nordic model to reduce this intolerable violence against women, children and men.

This event was a great opportunity to take back the battle ground on prostitution from the garish vocalists for pimps and punters The English Collection of Prostitutes and the International Union of Sex Workers. Who interestingly, now that legislation on lap-dancing clubs and prostitution have now passed out of the Commons, were not present at the event. A key indication of the sorts of people that are behind these frighteningly naive organisations, which deny figures on trafficking and offer up prostitution as a feminist choice when the clear reality is that no one would ever wish this destructive and demeaning career  on anyone whom they cared about.

In my speech I discussed the European Parliament’s women’s committee’s inability to agree on the issue of prostitution due to the very varied legislation of each member state. As heated debate on the topic of the health of prostitutes, in the socialist group of the FEMM committee, showed last year, prostitution remains the last great feminist taboo.

Speaking to Swedish expert on the 'Nordic Model' Gunilla Exberg

Speaking to Swedish expert on the 'Nordic Model' Gunilla Exberg


London, Media

It’s rather an understatement to say “it’s a bit tough on the doorsteps at the moment”, but the hard-work of my colleague Anne Fairweather in persevering was reported in The Independent this morning.

Anne outside the European Parliament

Anne outside the European Parliament

Well done for hitting home with the message that lack-lustre attitudes towards voting will mean a free ticket to Europe for the BNP.

After a noisy ascent in a cramped and fragrant lift, she knocks on the fourth-floor door of Joseph Martins, a 21-year-old chef. He opens, clocks the New Labour rosette, grimaces. “We’re canvassing for the European elections on June 4th, may I ask, who do you normally vote for?”

“I normally vote Labour,” he says, “but I don’t know anymore.” Fairweather brings up the threat of the BNP and Mr Martins, who is black, says “OK” and goes back inside with the leaflet he has been handed.

This report did rather capture the attitude of many voters on the streets at the moment. Please all activists start helping your local party by leafleting, attending street events or doing whatever you can.

The overbearing sentiment was still apathy. One woman says she can’t remember who she normally votes for. A few doors down, Susie Smyth, 27, an interior designer, smiled: “They’re brave to be knocking on doors this weekend, but it won’t affect how I vote, because they’re all as bad as each other, aren’t they?”

Outside another flat, the smell of roast dinner permeates the air. Fairweather knocks the door, the curtains violently twitch. No answer.

Next door, Coral Evans, a 31-year-old businesswoman, answers and barks: “Who I vote for is my business.”



Boris Johnson, London, violence, Women's Rights

True to Tory form Boris Johnson has reneged on his explicit promise to ‘act immediately’ to put more funding into rape crisis centres in the capital.

The Mayor’s manifesto said “We will act immediately to provide longterm funding for four Rape Crisis Centres in London…To secure the funding for this centre and three others would require ringfencing of around £744,000 annually.”

But yesterday betraying  Boris said funding for the three new centres would not be found in his budget.


As Boris might look if women's rights campaigners got a good shot

Artist's impression of how Boris might look if women's rights campaigners got a good shot at him

Rumours that funding for these centres might not be found have been circulating for some time. As a woman living in London I am deeply frustrated by Boris’ distinct lack of commitment to women in the captital. This, he has clearly demonstrated throughout his time in office – deleting the post of women’s advisor, cutting funding for Capital Women and producing an extremely shoddy report on Women in London 2009 in which he carelessly spells the name of Kids Company charity chief Camilla Batmanjella [sic], rather than its correct spelling of Batmanghelidjh. You would have thought even he could spell his supposed ‘hero’s names correctly?

Thankfully, the press are now finally waking up to Boris’ bad behaviour:

Boris ‘betrayal’ as he breaks his promise

The strong words from Assembly Members Joanne McCartney and Jenny Jones should be heeded by the Mayor. Reneging on election promises is never acceptable, but most especially when it is for desperately needed services such as Rape Crisis Centres.


Back in the good old days...Joanne McCartney and Ken Livingstone standing up for womens rights in the capital

Back in the good old days...Joanne McCartney and Ken Livingstone standing up for women's rights in the capital

At his previous people’s question time in March Boris promised to make his next one about women. Women of London need to attend this on mass – we need to hold this bumbling betraying mayor to account. Click here to register to attend.



China, Labour Party, London
Mee Ling Ng OBE

Mee Ling Ng OBE

I have been involved with Chinese for Labour (CfL) since its inception. My longstanding friend Mee Ling Ng, then Deputy Leader of Lewisham Council asked me and I have been very happy to support events and activities since then. Street stalls in China Town are a favourite activity, preferably with the chance to have some Dim Sum before or after. I have met a number of outstanding activists, Dr. Stephen Ng, Soon Hoe Teh and Lady Katy Tse Blair who all work hard for Chinese for Labour. All were present last month fundraising for Karen Buck MP. This blog was prompted by the latest excellent Chinese for Labour newsletter,  The Orient, reaching me. Bilingual, it has a crisp design and benefits from the expertise of Chinese for Labour’s Chair Sonny Leong.

I will be out campaigning with CfL for the European elections. I am pleased to see that a celebratory event to recognise the contribution of Chinese women is being organised for the autumn. The Chinese community is significantly under-represented in public life. 300,000 people should mean at least 2 MPs and dozens of councillors. As well as fundraising for the Labour Party, Chinese for Labour needs to talent-spot and nurture young Chinese people so that more of them are selected, and then elected.

With the Olympics coming to London after Beijing we also should be working with the Chinese community for them to act as a bridge. The largest Chinese community in Britain is in London, and it is a privilege to represent them. For more information click here.


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 Boriswatch.co.uk. 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 Boriswatch.co.uk 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.


broadcasting, culture, London, Trade Unions

London is one of the most dynamic cities in the world for the media, film, television and broadcasting sectors. As a London MEP I have regular meetings with employees in the creative industries. On Monday I’ll be meeting with representatives of the culture trade unions.

You can read my latest briefing on culture issues in the European Parliament by clicking on the link below:



2012, Edward Leigh, London, Olympics, Public Accounts Committee, Tessa Jowell

Seventy-five pence in every one pound spent on the Olympic site will aid regeneration in east London. The Olympics will be of tremendous benefit to certain run down areas of London badly in need of extra resources.

Instead of supporting the Olympic preparations and understanding the opportunity the Games will provide for London and the country as a whole, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has now jumped on the anti-Olympic bandwagon. Edward Leigh, Tory Chairman of the PAC has accused ministers and officials of underestimating the true cost in order to win government and public support for the bid.

Tessa Jowell, the Olympics Minister, has denied that there was any intention to mislead on the costings for the Games. Quite right too. We need to stop whinging and get on with the Olympic project which will be good for London and good for Britain.


2012, London, Olympics

Will the interminable Olympic bashing ever end? In case the whingers hadn’t realised, the UK and London worked hard to host the games. We believed the Olympics would promote London as a world class city and leave a lasting legacy of regeneration and superb sports facilities.

A report from the New Economics Foundation is now saying the Games will not improve the lives of the poorest people in London. They cite previous Olympics in other countries as evidence for this assertion. It may simply be that those who held the Games in the past did not intend to provide any kind of economic boost for the less well or improve decaying infrastructure.

In case the whingers hadn’t noticed, the 2012 Olympics intend to do both these things. The Olympics will be a huge benefit to London and Londoners. Please let’s talk up our amazing opportunity.


Expenses, Greater London Assembly, London, Mayor

Tory GLA Member Brian Coleman has run up a £4,147 taxi bill this year – more than all the GLA Members put together, including Ken Livingstone. He managed to claim £420 in one fell swoop by asking the cab to wait while he addressed a meeting of the Jewish Forum in Barnet during December.

While I firmly believe we elected representatives need adequate resources to do our jobs, over four grand to travel round the capital seems a bit steep, especially since Ken’s transport improvements have made it much easier.

The odious Coleman denies booking any of the cars himself. He thought he was being ferried around in a GLA official car. “Because I’ve been Chairman and Deputy Chairman I’m entitled to an official car when attending official functions in the morning dress and wearing the diamonds around my neck,” he told “Metro” newspaper.

Yet there is no official car and indulging in the bells and whistles of office is Coleman’s choice ninety-nine percent of the time. Murad Qureshi, a Labour Member of the Greater London Assembly said, “He (Coleman) justifies getting taxis everywhere because he wears his bling around. There’s no reason for him even to be wearing it.”
You and I are paying Mr Coleman’s insecure need to puff himself up. His sense of self-importance is really quite extraordinary and expensive.