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
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
Jack Jones, leader of the Transport and General Workers (TGWU) from 1969 to1978 died last night aged 96. I was privileged to know Jack, who lived in south-east London not far from my old stamping ground of Lewisham and Deptford, and it was through one-time Lewisham councillor Mee Ling Ng that I met Jack and his wife, Evelyn, who sadly passed away nearly ten years ago. I joined Jack and Evelyn and their son Mick for Sunday lunch on more than one occasion – something which gave me great pleasure as well as providing much to think about.
Occasionally a person appears on the national, and indeed international, stage who is such a towering figure that the well worn word “great” seems sorely inadequate. Jack Jones was such a person. As a young man he fought the fascists as part of the International Brigades during the Spanish civil war in the 1930s. A docker in Liverpool, Jack grew up in poverty yet made it to the very top. Even his contribution after leaving the union was massive – he donated the money he was given as a retirement present to the TGWU Retired Members’ Fund and used this as a base to set up the National Pensioners’ Convention to which he gave truly committed leadership until his health forbade it.
Jack was, above all, a compassionate man. Rather than talk about his own tough upbringing, he preferred to comment about today’s poverty. ‘You’ve got slum areas, multi-occupied flats. There’s terrific poverty near where I live, even though people are working, slaving their guts out, wives as well as husbands, a pretty squalid existence. They’re living on ready-made food because there’s no time to prepare nourishing food. I was brought up in poverty but we fed relatively well, we had Irish stew, rabbit stew. And people were closer together, it was a more human collective existence. These days women are expected to work nights even if they’ve got babies. It’s shameful and it’s wrong.’
It was this care and concern for all, especially the vulnerable and the poor, which drove Jack. As the most formidable trade union leader during the turbulent 1970s he was said by some to be Britain’s real ruler. Nonetheless, Jack did it all because he believed in making life better for the majority, especially those whose lives were difficult. He was an inspiration to us all.
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:
The campaign to defeat the fascist BNP is being spearheaded by Hope not Hate, convened by the Daily Mirror and Searchlight. Hope not Hate is supported by the TUC as a whole and individually by the GMB, Unison, Amicus and Unite, in other words almost all of the trade union movement. This shows just how serious an issue the BNP has become.
We must fight fascism. It is no good backing off in the hope that starving the BNP of publicity will make them go away. This is simply not true now and never has been. We have to work hard to get rid of the fascists who already exist in local and regional government and prevent any more arriving.
Make no mistake – they are fascists. The BNP leader Nick Griffin has said:
• “I am well aware that the orthodox opinion is that 6 million Jews were gassed and cremated or turned into lampshades. Orthodox opinion also once held that the earth is flat………I have reached the conclusion that the ‘extermination’ tale is a mixture of allied wartime propaganda, extremely profitable lie and latter witch-hysteria.” (On the holocaust)
• “Without the White race nothing matters [other right wing parties] believe that the answer to the race question is integration and a futile attempt to create “Black Britons”, while we [the BNP] affirm that non-Whites have no place here at all and will not rest until every last one has left our land.” (On race)
• Adolf Hitler went a bit too far. His legacy is the biggest problem that the British nationalist movement has to deal with. It just creates a bad image.”
(On Nazi leader Adolf Hitler)
The GMB union recently spoke to the EPLP about the Hope not Hate campaign. It would be a disaster if the BNP made headway in next year’s European elections. As well as a toehold in local government and the Greater London Assembly, they would then have a parliamentarian. We all have a duty to make sure than does not happen.
18th Feb 2008
Last week I had my regular three to four monthly meeting with the trade unions representing people in the culture industries – BECTU, the NUJ, the Musicians’ Union, the Writers’ guild and those in the film industry. These meetings are helpful for me as I can judge things on the Culture Committee better for having had the unions’ input. I also like to think they find talking to me helpful.
At this last meeting, in addition to the perennial Working Time Directive, we discussed the allocation for the spare radio spectrum released by the move to digital technology – the digital dividend. There is a real danger that this spectrum, which is in the hands of Member States and will therefore be disposed of by the UK, will be sold to the highest bidder with little regard for the best use of this resource.
The highest bidder in this case will more than likely be the mobile phone operators. Since the spectrum is being released by broadcasters, there is a strong moral argument that the broadcasters should keep a large chunk of it. If broadcasting is to remain at a reasonable standard, adequate spectrum facility is important. Plus, do we want ever more fancy and extensive mobile phone communication, the end result of which may be lack of privacy and ultimately an end to any idea of free time?