Standing in Solidarity with the Women of Poland

Today, along with fellow Labour MEPs, I stand with thousands of women in Poland who have downed their tools to go on strike from both professional work and domestic responsibilities in protest at the Polish government’s moves to ban abortion.  This proposal that will criminalise all women seeking terminations threatens the dignity and safety of women.

As the law stands, Poland already has some of the most restrictive laws in Europe on accessing abortion. Legal termination of pregnancy currently applies only in cases where the life of the foetus is under threat, where there is grave risk to the pregnant woman or where the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.

The change in the law will mean increased criminalisation of women, with those who seek abortion facing up to five years in prison. Consider a case where a 14 year old seeking the termination of a pregnancy resulting from rape will herself be seen as a criminal. Doctors who assist with terminations will face a prison term and women who have miscarriages will also be under greater suspicion.

It bears repeating that sexual and reproductive rights remain human rights enshrined in international human rights mechanisms. As a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Poland must guarantee women’s rights to decide freely and responsibly about the number and the spacing of their children.

Women must also be able to access information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights. Constricting access to abortion is an assault on women’s human rights and dignity, and countries that criminalise women who seek abortion inevitably put women’s lives at great risk.

These moves to restrict abortion access follow intensive trading between the Polish government and hard-line anti-abortion factions and it is clear that women’s reproductive rights are being treated as inherently disposable.

Poland must respect the will of Polish women in their call for sexual and reproductive rights, ceasing immediately these legal manoeuvres that deny the dignity of Polish women and put their safety at risk. Today, across Europe, we stand with Polish women who demand that they are heard and their human rights are recognised.

 

To keep up-to-date with today’s protest and share your support for Polish women’s right to access safe abortion, follow #CzarnyProtest on Twitter.

 

 

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Underrepresentation of women in the Labour Party

Throughout my 5 decades of activism with the Labour Party women have always been underrepresented. Now though this is more glaring. Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP is First Minister of Scotland. Arlene Foster of the DUP heads the Northern Irish government. Conservative Theresa May is Prime Minister. Caroline Lucas jointly leads the Green Party. Leanne Wood leads Plaid Cymru. Diane James leads UKIP. It was brilliant to see Sadiq Khan elected Mayor of London and Marvin Rees Mayor of Bristol. I was disappointed that our recent Mayoral selections resulted in a full slate of men. Sion Simon in the West Midlands, Steve Rotheram in Liverpool and Andy Burnham have served and will serve Labour well.

The pattern though is clear with  a few notable exceptions. Kezia Dugdale leads Scottish Labour. In Europe we have a majority of female MEPs lead for many years by Glenis Willmott. I am delighted Glenis has been elected Chair of Labour’s National Executive as she will ensure that Labour addresses gender underrepresentation. Her record in this is unsurpassed. Glenis will also be a vital voice on Europe and Brexit at the heart of the Labour Party.

Yesterday I discussed this problem on Sky News with Adam Boulton, Ivana Bartoletti and Sonia Sodha. You can watch our debate below.

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Guest Blog – Open Letter to Jeremy Corbyn

Today’s guest blog is from Hendon Labour Party activist David Beere. I have campaigned with David for 4 decades and he was always a great supporter when I was a councillor in Barnet. David’s email was prompted by an email from Jeremy Corbyn on Iraq.

 

 

I have been a member for 47 year and have no intention of going anywhere. 

Dear Mr Corbyn,

 

In 2003 I voted at my General Committee against intervention in Iraq.( I well remember the figures 10 against-6 for).

 

I was not convinced by the arguments for intervention at the time and neither were many others . Having been a party member for 47 years I have known who you were for many years.

 

Whether we like it or not the fact that the Commons followed the lead of the government in approving intervention set a precedent for military action.The government of the day should be given the credit for this.

 

The decision having been made, military personnel at the time deserved support. I think it fair to say that you did not agree with this.And yet I now note your sympathies for those families who lost military relatives.  This is not consistent ,to put it very mildly.

 

Your increasingly frequent missives are no doubt connected with the fact that you do not have the confidence of the Parliamentary Labour Party. No doubt many members will feel that you deserve loyalty. I do not. I was emphatically what would now be called a critical friend of the New Labour Government. As a very ordinary member of the party, however, I was not disloyal and did not align myself with anti-Labour organisations such as the Stop the War Coalition. Its leadership seems to have comprised various strands of trotskyism , communism and Greens. You had every right to vote against the Labour whip. I would probably agreed with you on some counts. However you took your disloyalty  to phenomenal levels. Given this can you seriously expect those of us who have had continuous membership of the Labour party for all our adult lives to take you seriously because you have a ‘mandate’ from people who have just managed to bring themselves to join or part with £3?

 

Given constraints of work and family I have done what I can for Labour over the years, whatever the leadership and whatever the policies-and whatever the source of those policies.

 

Polling suggests that 90% of Labour members supported Remain. You did not support those members at all. You seemingly declined many opportunities for publicity and your comments in favour of Remain seemed measured to the point of indifference. You showed no leadership over Europe at all. In your campaign to become leader you made much of the fact that you believed you could motivate those who were normally non-voters to follow your lead. On June 23 the ‘extra’  voters (beyond the General Election turnout) were undoubtedly Leave voters. And they were overwhelmingly in what used to be called Labour heartlands. In class terms they were massively the least well-off. Your actions ,or rather lack of them, have given many such people the chance to identify with UKIP and vote for it in the future.

 

You should take responsibility for this.

 

For the sake of the Party you should resign.

 

David Beere

 

P.S.To “the team’.I don’t suppose this will get anywhere near The Emperor but I hope somebody will tell him about his new clothes.

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Why I’m supporting Angela Eagle

Along with many in the Labour Party I am angry and saddened that the Party now finds itself in what must rank as the worst crisis in its history. To find anything comparable, we need to go back to Labour’s first Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald who formed a National Government with the Conservatives in 1931 is order, mistakenly as it turned out, to deal with the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression. Macdonald split the Labour Party which was heavily defeated in the subsequent general election.

The Labour Party has faced other crises along the way, but none, I contend, as great as the one now confronting us.

I now think the only way Labour can resolve its difficulties is by choosing a new Leader. Angela Eagle is taking a very courageous step in standing against Jeremy Corbyn, a decision she announced within the last few hours.  It has become glaringly obvious that Corbyn is not up to the job. He is also on the hard left of the Labour Party, allied with fringe groups who do not believe in parliamentary democracy.

Labour needs a new, vibrant and enthusiastic Leader who will take us forward and win the next general election, a leader who is committed to gaining a majority in the House of Commons while at the same time upholding Labour values.

That person is Angela Eagle. I will be nominating Angela and campaigning for her all the way.

Angela has a wealth of experience. She has held ministerial office, having been appointed Minister of State at the Department of Work and Pensions in 2009. She has subsequently been Shadow Leader of the House, Shadow Chief Treasury Secretary and Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

I got to know Angela on the National Policy Forum. I am a NPF member and Angela has been the Chair for a long time. She has done that job very well, being both hard-working and thoughtful, weighing up evidence and avoiding trite conclusions based on ideology. I urge Labour Party members to support Angela Eagle for Leader.

 

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What exactly was the Brexit manifesto?

The European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP) has raised concerns over the future of Britain’s immediate involvement of the European Membership and our current membership following the referendum.

There are, the EPLP warns, “two unpalatable options”. These are currently being contemplated but both of options are problematic. Some believe we can exit the European Union but retain membership to the European Single Market. The issue with this is that in order to gain full access, Britain must accept the common rules, and this means it will no longer have a say over future changes. A further consideration is that one of the central points of many leave campaigners was the issue of free movement of labour.

The free movement of labour, is part of the strict criteria which members must sign up to if they are to enjoy membership to and trade in the single market. It is very likely therefore that the UK would need to accept free movement as part of the terms.

The other alternative advocated by some ‘Brexiteers’ was to leave the single market entirely. In this scenario the damage to the economy will be significant, not least because we would face tariffs on exports to the EU.

In addition, many current trade agreements we have in place globally will need to be replaced because these deals were agreed as part of our relationship with the EU. They were made centrally by the European Union. So the UK would need to rapidly re negotiate trade agreements to replace these.

Although the result of the referendum was to end our membership of the European Union, there is no explicit mandate for what happens next as my colleague Richard Corbett MEP has pointed out.

The problem with the Brexit campaign, as we now know, is that there was no clear plan offered for life post Brexit. Neither was there a clear manifesto and as a result the next steps are muddy and unclear. A full debate in the British Parliament is therefore essential.

Richard Corbett said yesterday: “The idea that the recent referendum has completely settled the issue is surely dead. Referendums are supposed to settle issues. But does the UK look settled and calm?”

The new Prime Minister has a huge task ahead of her (or him) and how s/he directs the narrative and the first stage of negotiations is crucial, but first Parliament must hold a full and in depth debate about the future of negotiations.

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Channel 4 News Interview: Labour’s Future

Last week I discussed the future of the Labour Party on Channel 4 News with Michael Crick. You can watch the clip here.

 

It followed an article I wrote for the New Statesman which you can also read here.

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Calls for better protection for victims of trafficking

A joint report published yesterday Europol-INTERPOL Report on Migrant Smuggling Networks revealed that the agencies estimated the annual turnover of migrant smuggling to be  worth $5 -$6 billion in 2015, representing one of the main profit-generating activities for organised criminals in Europe.

It also found, among other things that, “travel by 90% of the migrants to the European Union (EU) is predominantly facilitated by members of a criminal network.”

Meanwhile, Members of the European Parliament called on member states to do more to support and protect victims of human trafficking during last week’s plenary session in Strasbourg.

The resolution voted on in the European Parliament raised concerns that specific European Union legislation intended to protect victims of trafficking has not been adequately enforced by national governments and that the European Commission has failed to meet reporting deadlines.

The report for which I was the shadow member, revealed details and raised concerns regarding the European Commission. It also found the European Commission failed to keep to the timetable of reporting on the issue of human trafficking as is clearly required by them to do and is clearly stipulated in the Directive.

However, it has been noted that progress has been made in tackling trafficking gangs. But concern about the level of support victims receive remains. National governments must fully implement measures which are designed to help victims including collecting proper statistics which help governments and the European Union gain better insight into the problem.

Statistics, collected by Europol, estimate that 10,000 unaccompanied children have disappeared since arriving in the EU in 2015. As we have argued before EU member states must ensure that agencies involved in helping victims must receive adequate training. This includes a range of sectors from the Police, medical staff, the judiciary and charities so that they are able to identify the needs of the victims early on and help them work through their trauma.

There are also practical areas where help and support should be offered including helping victims to source safe accommodation, medical treatment and legal counselling.

The report also calls for member states to grant victims residence permits and access to the labour market in the member state to which they were trafficked.

Members of the European Parliament called on member states to do more to support and protect victims of human trafficking during last week’s plenary session in Strasbourg.

The resolution voted on in the European Parliament yesterday raised concerns that specific European Union legislation intended to protect victims of trafficking has not been adequately enforced by national governments and that the European Commission has failed to meet reporting deadlines.

The report, for which I was the shadow member, revealed details and raised concerns regarding the European Commission. The report found it failed to keep to the timetable of reporting on the issue of human trafficking as is clearly required by them to do and is clearly stipulated in the Directive.

However, it has been noted that progress has been made in tackling trafficking gangs. But concern about the level of support victims receive remains. National governments must fully implement measures which are designed to help victims including collecting proper statistics which help governments and the European Union gain better insight into the problem.

Statistics, collected by Europol, estimate that 10,000 unaccompanied children have disappeared since arriving in the EU in 2015. As we have argued before EU member states must ensure that agencies involved in helping victims must receive adequate training. This includes a range of sectors from the Police, medical staff, the judiciary and charities so that they are able to identify the needs of the victims early on and help them work through their trauma.

There are also practical areas where help and support should be offered including helping victims to source safe accommodation, medical treatment and legal counselling.

The report also calls for member states to grant victims residence permits and access to the labour market in the member state to which they were trafficked.

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