We are witnessing the most significant decline in British influence in Europe for a generation

Labour Party

Today, our Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander, will tell the Parti Socialiste, our sister party in France, that over the period of this Conservative-Liberal Democrat government, we have witnessed “the most significant decline in British influence in Europe for a generation”.

He stressed that “no country that seeks to play a leading part in the modern world could contemplate walking away from the world’s largest single market, or to cut itself off from some of its closest allies”. He will also say that “our place at Europe’s top table has made the UK stronger, more secure, and more prosperous”, and that “Labour believes that the UK will stand taller in Washington, Beijing, Moscow and Delhi – when we stand firmly at the heart of the EU”.

This is exactly the kind of engagement the UK really needs in Brussels, not the kind of intransigence that has caused grumblings of discontent from our European partners. Continued opt-outs from cross-border criminal prosecutions and investigations, opposing capping banker’s bonuses, failing to condemn rape in marriage, have made even the normally stoic Angela Merkel despair of David Cameron. We need instead a government with a policy to be an integral part of the European Union, to represent the UK’s best interests not by simply throwing the toys out of the pram when a proposal is made and refusing to play, but constructively negotiating to find a better solution for everyone.

The Labour Party has a clear plan to review, repair and reset our relations with our neighbours. We must take our advice from those in the field; the ambassadors, experts and civil servants, and not be held hostage by the irrational ideologies of a Eurosceptic fringe in the Conservative Party and UKIP.


The IMF warns slower pace of deficit reduction may be necessary

Labour Party

It’s finally happening. The International Monetary Fund, hardly a bastion of leftie thinking, has advised the Tory-led coalition, specifically George Osborne, that a slower pace of deficit reduction would be necessary if the British economy continued to grow less rapidly than expected.

This warning came as a result of the IMF cutting its growth forecast for theUKfor the third time in nine months.

The IMF said it was reducing its forecast for theUKto 1.1% this year – down from 1.5% in June, 1.7% in April and 2% at the start of the year. It also predicted a more sluggish recovery in 2012, with activity expanding by 1.6% against the 2.3% it was talking about just three months ago.

Economists at the IMF are of the view that only an improvement inBritain’s trade performance will prevent the economy returning to recession this year. Domestic demand is expected to contract by 0.5%, the weakest of any country in the G7.

Whatever happened to the Tory idea that private enterprise would pick up the slack following the cuts in public spending? Private initiative is clearly sadly lacking, which just goes to show how infantile, flawed and downright ridiculous the government’s “strategy” actually is.

It’s stupid and it’s also tragic for those many people at the sharp end of what the Tory-led coalition is doing.  Many people are losing their jobs and our National Health Service is already beginning to show the effects of Tory cuts.

Yet it need not be as bad as this. Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, quoted in today’s Guardian said: “These are deeply concerning forecasts for both theUK and world economy. Our chancellor and political leaders inEurope need to wake up to the scale of the problem and finally realise that we need economic growth and more people in work to really get deficits down.”

Meanwhile a Treasury spokesperson stressed that the government has no intention of backtracking on a deficit-reduction plan.

So the government intends to continue with its appalling policies. More people will suffer. It’s Thatcher all over again. Thatcher’s cuts were ideologically driven, and I believe the same in true for Osborne and Cameron. Best not to be anything less than a millionaire in Con-Dem land.

Liberal Democrats discomfited by the most right wing budget since Margaret Thatcher

Labour Party

Business Secretary Vince Cable, according to Harriet Harman, has gone from ‘national treasure’ to the ‘Treasury poodle’. Referring to both Mr Cable and his beleaguered Lib-Dem Coalition colleagues, Harriet told the House of Commons that while the Labour Party fought to support jobs for people, the Lib-Dems sought to secure jobs for themselves.

Harriet is, of course, right.  By any stretch of the imagination, yesterday’s budget, the most right-wing since the Thatcher Government, demonstrated just how hollow the Lib- Dems election campaign pledges have turned out to be.

A mere 50 days ago the Deputy PM (Nick Clegg) denounced the public expenditure cuts favoured by the Tory Party in their general election campaign. Yet in yesterday’s budget the Lib-Dems showed support for virtually everything they had fought so hard against. It was difficult to watch, both in terms of content and the reactions of the junior members of the Coalition.

While the Chancellor told us to brace ourselves for a series of cuts and VAT hikes, I watched closely at how uncomfortable Deputy PM, Nick Clegg, and Treasury Secretary, Danny Alexander, looked despite being perfectly positioned either side of their Conservative Chancellor.

In contrast, I have not seen a performance as good as the one given by Harriet Harman for a very long time. She spoke with great passion and directed her reaction to the Budget not at the Conservatives, or the Con Lib-Dem coalition, but at the Liberal Democrats themselves. ‘How could they let down everyone who voted for them – how could they let the Tories so exploit them?’ she bellowed to the chamber. This budget she said was driven by ideology rather than economics.

In questioning quite how the Lib Dems could approve decisions they did not support less than two months ago Harriet exposed the fragility of the Con-Dem coalition.  In this budget the Lib-Dems have had to swallow almost everything they have always fought against. It begs the huge question, “will they be able to deliver their MPs and activists a second time?”

David Miliband for Labour Leader

Labour Party

I am supporting David Miliband for Leader of the Labour Party.  As an MEP I can make a supporting nomination and will vote in the MPs section of the electoral college.

David has the right experience to lead the Labour Party at the present time.  As a former Foreign Secretary he understands  government at the highest level.  Since our task is to win the next election so that we can get rid of the Tories (and the Lib-Dems if they last that long) and govern according to Labour values, it is of the utmost importance to have a leader with first-hand knowledge of governing the country.  David is, I believe, the best candidate to take us to victory next time.

As a MEP I have met with the candidates, seen them give speeches, worked with them on policy and have had a chance to assess their qualities (I’m pictured here with David at a Westminster North CLP fundraiser). Labour is fortunate that we have several talented candidates, and for me David Miliand is the most able. We must also not forget that the Labour Party is the selectorate and we need a Leader who can relate to the wider electorate. On the doorsteps from my campaigning experience David is widely admired and respected by people. Of all those standing he is the one who voters have given me the most positive feedback about. I think it is important the Labour Party selects a candidate who relates well to the electorate.

One of the other main reasons I will vote for David is that rights for women is one of the key planks of his campaign.  He is committed to  looking at the issues preventing women from entering politics and break down those barriers so that women see it as a job for them, a job which suits their lifestyle and their ambitions.  He also admits that  the long hours culture of the Commons and the adversarial, combative style of Westminster politics are often off-putting as well as the relentless scrutiny of family circumstances which many women are not prepared to expose to the public glare.

It’s up to the women in the Party to build on David’s clear commitment to women’s rights.  The next Labour Government should put women at the forefront of its policy programme.  We must be aiming for improvements in childcare and maternity and paternity leave and pay, to name but a few key matters, especially since many of the gains made for women will be eroded under the Con-Lib-Dem Coalition.

In the absence of a credible woman who will get the requisite number of nominations to stand as Labour Leader, David Miliband is the candidate who will do the most for women.

As many of you will know, I did not support the war in Iraq and was vocal at the time in my opposition.  However, I believe we should now move on from this stain on our record and look to the future.  David Miliband is the man for the future, the person I believe will be our next leader.

I am pleased that the contest so far appears to be friendly, conducted on the basis of reasoned argument.  This must continue.  We must, at all costs, avoid a return to the internecine strife of the 1980s which kept us out of power for 18 years.  Once the Con-Dems honeymoon is over and their public expenditure cuts realy start to bite, I believe people will return to Labour, a Labour Party with David Miliband at its head.