Brighton Conference Round Up

Labour Party

The Labour Party Women’s Conference held on Saturday was probably the best attended I have experienced in over thirty years. With over 1000 women it was well-informed and lively. It was really heart-warming to see so many Labour women coming together, and goes to show that feminism is alive and well.

Key speakers Harriet Harman and Yvette Cooper told the audience that Labour is the Party for women. The Tories don’t care and the Lib-Dems can’t deliver. In my own contribution from the floor I made sure delegates knew about UKIP’s sexist and racist attitudes plus the fact that they do not have one single woman MEP.

In the afternoon we had an amazing session with Melissa Benn and the feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez chaired by all-time favourite Bonnie Greer. Melissa, whose book on bringing up daughters has just been published, is well known to Labour women while Caroline Criado-Perez spoke eloquently about the online abuse she received following her campaign to get women onto British banknotes.

On Saturday evening I was at the London Labour reception catching up with many old friends including Gareth Thomas, Martin and Sara Linton and Parvez Ahmed

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On Sunday afternoon we had the first official photos of our Labour MEP team for the 2014 elections. Here’s a behind the scenes shot as we prepared with Ivana Bartoletti, Claude Moraes, Kamaljeet Jandu, Sanchia Alasia, Seb Dance, and Lucy Anderson.

On Sunday evening I held my usual dinner for London Conference delegates, which is becoming quite a tradition. We very lucky this time to have as our guest speaker Bob Mulholland from California, a Democrat campaign strategist and a super delegate voting for Hillary Clinton. Bob gave a great speech, very up front and very entertaining. Politics is certainly different in the USA.



Bob’s key message is that you have to win in order to have any power to bring about change. That’s a message we have to hang on to for the European and local elections on 22 May next year. We must win both these elections so that Labour can take the concrete action this country so desperately needs. These elections are also the last time people go to the polls before the 2015 general election. A strong result on May 22 will therefore have a big impact on getting Ed Miliband into 10 Downing Street.

Earlier in the week, meanwhile, I was pleased to see J.K. Rowling criticise the stigma attached to single mothers. Best-selling author Rowling, who drafted the first Harry Potter book as a lone parent struggling to find work, describes her “slowly evaporating sense of self-esteem”. “Assumptions [are] made about your morals, your motives for bringing your child into the world or your fitness to raise that child,” she says.

Before coming into politics I managed Gingerbread – the single parent support charity of which Rowling is now President. I have seen firsthand how difficult and isolating raising a child alone can be – and how it changes the way you are perceived and treated.

One of the most pernicious consequences of austerity is an increase in this kind of stigmatisation. Words like ‘chav’ or ‘scrounger’ have become commonplace, as have stereotypes about single mums. The Conservatives – with their attacks on benefits claimants and attempts to promote marriage through the tax system – wilfully play into this. As a result mothers are now more likely than ever to be “defined” by their single parent status. To help break this cycle it is vital that Rowling and other success stories continue to speak out.

Sadly not a lot seems to have changed since I was Chief Executive of Gingerbread in the early 1990s.       


Hackney Labour in Brussels

Labour Party

Earlier this week I was delighted to welcome a visiting group of members of Hackney Labour Party to Brussels. The European Parliamentary Labour Party’s Secretary General Giampi Alhadeff (pictured by the plants) is a Hackney resident and he had been the driving force behind the intensive visit to the European Parliament to meet MEPs and Parliamentary officers.

As the pictures show we had an enjoyable meal. There were speeches from Stoke Newington Councillor Rita Krishna, who is Hackney’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services; former councillor John Hudson from Hackney South Labour Party and Giampi Alhadeff. Giampi had organised an excellent programme of meetings as sevral of those at the dinner told me.

Regrettably my London Labour MEP colleague Claude Moraes was unable to join us. Claude is unwell and everybody at the dinner wished him a speedy recovery from his current illness. Claude is a Hackney resident so it was particularly unfortunate that he missed our dinner.


Labour Party

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.


Labour Party

Contrary to expectations Bank Holiday Monday was hot with bright sunshine all day.  Where better to go than East Ham High Street for a Labour Party street stall and canvass  True red Labour Newham did not disappoint.  About 50 members of the local Labour Party turned out to help us distribute leaflets, including Newham’s Executive Mayor, Sir Robin Wales.  Also present were Councillor Unmesh Desai who organised the campaign day, Deputy Mayor Cllr Christine Bowden and other Council Members.

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It was good to see so many councillors present as, in addition to Euro leaflets, we were handing out information on free school meals.  Newham Council has just introduced free school meals in all primary schools in the borough, one of only two Councils in England to do this,

We were all pleased to see the Labour Party General Secretary Ray Collins, and the Director of the London Labour Party, Ken Clark.  Euro MPs and candidates Claude Moraes and Anne Fairweather were also in East Ham enjoying the weather as was my old friend, ex-MEP and Newham resident Anita Pollack.

Very many thanks to everyone who worked so hard on Bank Holiday Monday.  I know we can always rely on Newham.


Labour Party

Image011Organised for the community press, we  had a fantastic Bengali launch of the European election campaign on Thursday.  Parvez Ahmed, owner of the Shamrat restaurant in Kilburn High Road, put on an event to be proud of, providing lunch for 70 – 80 people.  Thanks to Parvez for all his work and commitment to Labour, which goes back many years.  I remeber Parvez putting on a similar event during the European election campaign in 2004 and I know he has done very many other things for the Labour Party over time.

Following an introduction to the Euro campaign by Baroness Delith Morgan, who I have known for many years as we were both involved in children’s charities in our past lives, we were treated to the star of the show – a presentation to my colleague and friend, retiring MEP Robert Evans.  The Bengali community had organised a trophy plaque with a beautiful inscription thanking him for all the work he has done for them.  Congratulations Robert and very well deserved.Image010

The event was attended by a star-studded cast – local MPs Glenda Jackson and Dawn Butler, local councillors including  Lena Ahmed, Euro MPs and candidates Claude Moraes, Anne Fairweather, Raj Jethwa, Abdul Asad as well as what seemed like the whole of the Bengali media.

I enjoyed the curry very much.  Congratulations also to the chef!