Yesterday UKRep, the UK Permanent Representation to the European Union, held their traditional reception to welcome British MEPs to the European Parliament. It was, for me, a deeply depressing experience. Not only were most of the UKIP MEPs present; they were also accompanied by young women in fairly flimsy purple dresses. We had, in addition, Tory sceptics and other assorted Brits, most of whom appeared at best lukewarm towards the EU. It brought home to me just how far Britain has moved away from support for Europe.
However, there were some bright spots. It was good to see British Commissioner Cathy Ashton there. The keynote address from Baroness Glenys Kinnock, Minister for Europe, was absolutely delightful. At last we have a Europe Minister who knows not only knows the subject but has years of experience as an MEP. Glenys, of course, talked about her passion, international development, and how she wished to continue contributing to Europe on the world stage.
Unfortunately, but maybe not surprisingly, I head a voice from the back barrack Glenys when she said how pleased she was that more women have been elected to the European Parliament. As you may have guessed, it was none other than UKIP’s Godfrey Bloom (of women should clean more behind the fridge fame) grunting that women should make the tea. Not quite as bad as the BNP calling Glenys Kinnock a “political prostitute” but, together with the purple dresses, indicative of UKIP’s undisguised sexism.
The European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP), the Labour MEPs, held our AGM today. Unsurprsingly it was a subdued affair, with all of us feeling the loss of respected colleagues. All credit to Richard Corbett, Glyn Ford and Neena Gill who all came to the AGM, as they are entitled to do. I know I speak for all the EPLP when I wish them the very best and hope they are given useful and gainful employment.
We did, of course, have one newcomer, Derek Vaughan from Wales. Welcome to Derek – hope you enjoy your time in the European Parliament.
The EPLP Officers are:
Leader Glenis Willmott
Deputy Leader Claude Moraes
Chair Richard Howitt
Whip Brian Simpson
Good luck to all of them. We have not as yet made any decisions about Committee membership or posts in the European Parliament. This will happen when we go back to Brussels towards the end of June.
The meeting was addressed by the new Minister for Europe, Baroness Glenys Kinnock, a former colleague, and the first Europe Minister for a very long time who understands Europe and is qualified to do the Ministerial job.
Harriet Harman followed Glenys and received universal acclamation for her role in the European election campaign and the way she handled the sorry saga of MPs expenses in the media.
We, as Labour MEPs, now have to do the very best job we can in Europe and work hard to take the European message out to the country at large. This is where we start out fight to bring home the relevance and the benefits of Europe to the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. There is no doubt that the European cause has been put back some long way by the results announced on Sunday. But this is no time to give up, and I know all my EPLP colleagues will do their level best for Britain and for the Europe.