Tag Archives: Boris Johnson

Sorry gentlemen, Britain is Stronger In the European Union

Over the weekend I watched two household names dodge logic and truth and declare themselves for leaving the EU.

George Galloway, a perennial contrarian, stood onstage with Nigel Farage and, as in the Scottish referendum, invoked the glories of a long-gone Britain, standing alone against the might of fascism. Aside from his unprovable claims that he would have been first in line to defend the UK and the dubious historical accuracy of such a statement, his argument was essentially that we could become the great trading nation

we once were, that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership would no longer be a reality.

Does he really believe that the Conservative Party, a party he proudly claims to have spent his political lifetime fighting against, will suddenly become all social-democratic and cuddly outside of the EU? That the workers’ rights, consumer rights and citizens’ rights that we have thanks to the EU will simply be untouched, treated as part of British culture? This is a party which has said it wants to repeal the Human Rights Act!

Additionally, his view of international trade is totally defunct. We always hear how nimble and agile the UK would be outside of the EU, making deals to suit us with the great powers of the world. Again though, Boris and George have both forgotten that we no longer have an empire, and we will soon be overtaken by growing economies. We are an island nation of 65 million people, with little manufacturing and a service-dependent economy, and we seek to trade with – as equals – China and India with more than 1 billion people each, and economies streaking ahead, the USA and Russia with 350 million and two of the largest and most developed economies in the world, putting up increasing trade barriers, not to mention the idea of a ‘special relationship’ with the Commonwealth.

Boris Johnson, standing outside his home in London and causing a headache for David Cameron, harkened back to the notion of sovereignty, a concept that a nation or people is free to choose the law which governs it.

Legally, Boris doesn’t have much going for him in a best case scenario. In a case called Factortame, a seminal case in British and European law, judge Lord Bridge reminded us that the sovereignty of the British parliament is still absolute, we have only chosen to relinquish it as long as we are members of the European Union. This logic has been picked up on by both the German and Italian Constitutional Courts.

Politically and economically however, he has no leg to stand on. As mentioned above, we live in a multi-polar world, in which we are confronted with growing economic and military powers. Sovereignty, as pointed out in the Economist, in the 21st century is always relative. We can’t impose our will on others, so why cut ourselves off from our friends and try to go it alone? Especially since, as I have mentioned before, the Out campaign doesn’t seem to have a clue what the UK will look like post-Brexit.

 It’s time to deal in hard facts, not just wishful thinking.

Comments Off on Sorry gentlemen, Britain is Stronger In the European Union

Filed under Labour Party

‘The poor can’t cook” says Tory Peer

If last week was dominated by offensive comments made by Ukip leader Nigel Farage regarding breast feeding women and the heavy traffic of the M4 being the fault of immigrants, then this week’s offering of offensive and regrettable comments is delivered by the Tory party.

On the day an important report looking at ways to tackle food poverty in the UK was launched, a Tory peer who had been involved with the report was quoted as saying that the poor can’t cook.

Baroness Jenkin was part of a panel that has written a report exploring ways address the problem of the number of Britons who are struggling to feed themselves. Yet this important reports launch was over shadowed by the Baroness’ remarks.

It was a foolish thing to say and hurtful, especially to those who are struggling to feed themselves and their families each night. Indeed for some there might be a trade-off of paying your rent, keeping your house heated and warm or feeding yourself. That’s a really difficult decision some families have to make so comments like that are totally unacceptable, even if they were said off the cuff, it is revealing nevertheless.

Meanwhile the London Mayor made some very peculiar remarks on LBC responding to a caller who asked him what he thought about Nigel Farage blaming the bad traffic jams on Britain’s motorways as being the fault of immigrants.

Although Boris Johnson didn’t condone Farage’s remarks initially he went onto claim that xenophobia was natural. He said xenophobia was a “natural concomitant of the human condition” that came from a suspicion of “the other” and which must be dealt with in a systematic way rather than “freaking out about traffic jams”.

Again, another unhelpful set of remarks made by a senior Tory figure.

Comments Off on ‘The poor can’t cook” says Tory Peer

Filed under Labour Party

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Protesters this week took to the streets in the Ukraine after the government there reversed plans for greater EU integration. Events were sparked at the start of the week, after the country’s President, Viktor Yanukovich, succumbed to pressure from The Kremlin and backed out, at the eleventh hour, of a free trade and political integration pact with Europe. At the subsequent EU summit on Friday, Yanukovich stood by his decision, prompting further demonstrations, with peaceful protesters dispersed from Kiev’s Independence Square early on Saturday.

Over the weekend 300,000 strong crowds converged on the city, and marchers carrying EU flags clashed with riot police. Tear gas was used on demonstrators, many of whom had travelled from Ukrainian-speaking parts of the country where pro-EU sentiment is strongest. Recent polls show 45% of Ukrainians support EU integration– compared to less than a third who say the country should remain in Moscow’s orbit.

Those involved in the Orange uprising of nine years ago described developments this week as “a revolution”. With opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko still jailed, many feel the demands of the 2004 insurgency – for a more transparent, less corrupt democracy – have not been met. For some it came down to a straight East-West decision. One demonstrator said he was there “to support a European choice for the Ukraine”.

The Ukraine is very difference place to Britain, and drawing overly close parallels would be pointless. But I do find it striking, when so many recognise EU integration as their best hope of a stable and prosperous future, that those on the UK political right want to turn their back on the continent.

Eurosceptics will mock the comparison, arguing that Britain is an affluent world power whereas the Ukraine is a post-USSR satellite state. But they underestimate the extent to which our wealth and global influence come because of – rather than despite – the fact we are in Europe. I will be making this case tomorrow evening at an ‘EU In or Out’ debate at One Birdcage Walk in Westminster.

This week also saw London Mayor Boris Johnson spark outrage by claiming, in a speech commemorating Margaret Thatcher, that fighting inequality was “impossible” because “16% of our species have an IQ below 85”. He added, using language which verged on social Darwinism, that “The harder you shake the pack the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top”.

Although couched in Johnson’s usual crowd-pleasing terms the comments went down badly, both in the room and among politicians. Nick Clegg called The Mayor’s words “unpleasant, careless elitism”.

Johnson is a florid and often frivolous character, who uses eccentricity to beguile voters who would otherwise find his views repellent. As someone from a privileged background, who is set on extending the inequalities from which he has profited, he is the very opposite of what a city like London, with its jarring poverty and wealth, is in need of.

Finally, as I wrote in my round-up last month, we are now into the part of the year where women effectively cease to be paid. It is an outrage that the gender pay gap still exists. As Labour’s spokesperson for women in Europe I am determined that the EU leads from the front in the fight to eliminate it. This week I set out my ideas about how we can make this happen, and from now on I will be producing regular bulletins on what the EU is doing to end workplace inequality for women.

1 Comment

Filed under Labour Party

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Boris Johnson received something of a battering on the Andrew Marr show this weekend (you can watch the full interview here).

Eddie Mair, standing in for Marr who is recovering from a stroke, quizzed Johnson about the “sandpapering” of quotes as a Times journalist, failing to deny that he lied to the party leader at the time, Michael Howard, about an extramarital affair and conceding that he had humoured an old friend when he asked for a phone number of someone he intended to beat.

Johnson also said the UK economy benefited from the influx of “skilled workers around the world” but this led to a “real indignation” among UK workers.

The interview, which originally was supposed to promote the BBC documentary on Johnson that is on tonight, is rather painful to watch, but does say rather a lot about the man who is currently mayor of London.

I would rather have seen Johnson being taken to task for some of his failures as Mayor though, rather than problems that are already out in the open. He did admit there was a lack of planning ahead of the financing of the Olympic Stadium in Stratford but said the deal to allow West Ham United to play at the venue would help provide £10m a year to the taxpayer.

Johnson has also singularly failed to encourage housing development in London, leading to a growing housing shortage and massively increased rent. The figures, showing the situation towards the end of last year, may indicate that the long-predicted “displacement effect” of capping and cutting local housing allowance – the form of housing benefit paid to tenants housed by private landlords – has been occurring, with households being obliged to relocate from the heart of the capital to its cheaper suburbs.

The overall number of claimants in Greater London as a whole has gone up sharply in the period concerned, reflecting the very a high rate of rent increases in the capital compared with incomes.

I think Johnson may have got a taste of what putting himself forward to be leader of party might be like.  Thus far he has managed to charm and bluff his way through, but some of the sheen definitely came off him yesterday

Comments Off on Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Filed under Labour Party

Tory Boris Johnson blatantly disregards Londoners’ fears

There was a fiery exchange in the chamber of the London Assembly yesterday after Mayor Boris Johnson was accused of political bias and astonishing ignorance as he announced the latest round of cuts to London fire services.

The mayor was questioned about how much exactly was to be saved by reducing the number of fire engines, a perfectly reasonable question asked by Labour’s Andrew Dismore as the closure of 12 fire stations and loss of 18 fire engines happens across the capital.

However, he was clearly on the defensive when scrutinised by the Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee in City Hall because when asked to give a precise figure of how much would be saved by cutting the number of engines Johnson snapped: “I won’t take repeated ignoratio elenchi from you! I’ve given you the answer! put that in your pipe and smoke it!”

The news site London Loves Business, further reported the Mayor told Dismore, who was merely doing his job by holding the mayor to account, “to go and find out about it himself”.

This blatant disregard Johnson has for political process and for those trying to hold him to account could not be more apparent than in this episode. Quite rightly Labour AM John Biggs told the mayor he should know the answer: ““It’s your budget, you have your fingerprints on it. You own it.”

He even refused to confirm with the committee, when asked about the Metropolitan Police Service’s new targets on Police numbers, who had advised him of aiming for such a target and jokingly said: “I get advice on these things from reputable people… and some disreputable people I’m sure!” Of course none of this is a joke. Ensuring adequate fire services are available across London is hugely important.

Labour politicians attempted to have a serious debate, tried to hold the mayor to account and asked searching questions, but they were dismissed, chided and seemingly sneered at by the Mayor who, based on what I’ve read on the London Loves Business site (you can read it here too), didn’t seem to take it at all seriously.

1 Comment

Filed under Labour Party

Boris Johnson’s bid to lead the Conservative Party gathers momentum

You have to feel sorry for the beleaguered David Cameron. Caught between a rampant Boris Johnson on one flank and his Eurosceptic wing on the other, Cameron clearly doesn’t know which way to turn.

Today’s Times reports that Cameron may urge the public in a referendum to support the looser relationship with Brussels he hopes to negotiate. However, Cameron is prepared apparently to give the country the chance to say no to such a deal. Such a result would effectively be seen as a vote to leave the European Union.

Although David Cameron has not, as yet, made his well trailed speech on EU membership, he is obviously going in only one direction – a referendum which may well signal Britain’s exit from the EU.

Yet before we get there, the Prime Minister will have to negotiate with the EU this much hyped change in Britain’s status. He seeks to take us from the heart to the periphery getting rid of what he and the Tory Party see as troublesome regulations on the way.

There is one extremely serious flaw in this approach which is obvious yet almost virtually ignored, namely that the EU may well not play ball. The idea that powers can be “repatriated” from Brussels to London is at present purely a Conservative Party construct. Although Germany may be making some helpful noises, there are those who would be glad to see the back of Britain.

While it is true that we are a contributor country to the EU budget that does not necessarily mean there will be unanimous agreement to go along with the Tory demands and negotiate in the way David Cameron envisages. There are, as we all know, very many ways to conduct EU negotiations and since it will be 26 member states against Britain, I would hazard a guess that David Cameron is not in a very strong position.

Enter both Christian Noyer and Boris Johnson. Mr Noyer, Governor of the Bank of France, makes it clear in today’s Telegraph that he wants London stripped of its status as Europe’s financial hub, saying, “Most of the euro business should be done inside the euro area. It’s linked to the capacity of the central bank to provide liquidity and ensure oversight of its own currency.” 

“We’re not against some business being done in London, but the bulk of the business should be under our control. That’s the consequence of the choice by the UK to remain outside the euro area.”

Meanwhile Boris Johnson, according to the Times, would prefer a minimalist EU stripped down to the single market. What this really means is that the social and employment legislation associated with the single market – health and safety at work, maternity rights and much more, will go. This is what the Tories really want. Rights for people at work are, as we know, anathema to many Tories.

Withdrawing from one side of the single market while keeping the part the Conservatives see as good for the British economy may just not be a runner. It’s difficult to see how and why the rest of the EU would allow the UK such power without responsibility.

David Cameron has a long way to go to realise his dream of the EU allowing the UK to become semi-detached on its own terms rather than those of the EU as a whole. What is more, the CBI, Britain’s foremost business organisation, want Britain to stay in the EU. Cameron is, indeed, between a rock and a hard place, digging an ever deeper hole for himself.

Comments Off on Boris Johnson’s bid to lead the Conservative Party gathers momentum

Filed under Labour Party

London’s air is the worst in Europe while the Government delays action

London has the worst air of any European capital. Despite this, the Conservative-led Coalition doesn’t plan to comply with air quality standards in legislation since 1999, set to be met by 2010, until a staggering 2025, according to the BBC.

Something needs to be done urgently in London. Air pollution cuts life expectancy in Britain by a massive eight months. The main culprit is the pollutant N02 which comes mainly from vehicles.

The Government’s refusal to act is quite simply not acceptable. Ministers know that air pollution is the second biggest public health threat after smoking. It costs the UK an estimated £20 billion a year, more than twice the amount for obesity.

N02 affects long-term health. According to the BBC, experts giving evidence to the Environment Committee, EFRA, said the health of Olympic athletes visiting over the summer should not be harmed as long as the UK avoids a heat-induced smog episode.

I find it extraordinary that there is such a huge unwillingness to tackle pollution in London. The situation is obviously very bad indeed. There is even a chance that the showcase Olympics may suffer. Those of us who live in the capital are at serious risk.

What is more, the financial cost of pollution is huge. Cleaning up are act would not only save lives, it would also save money. Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman and London Mayor Boris Johnson will, I hope, take note, though the previous track record of both these Conservatives does not give us much cause for hope.

By coming down heavily on the UK Government’s inaction, the European Commission is doing us all a massive favour. Londoner’s should be thankful that there is at least one institution which is concerned about their health.

1 Comment

Filed under Labour Party