Let’s Hold Our Party Conference in London, the Green Alternative

Labour Party
Excel Centre East London

Possible Venue for a London Labour Party Conference

 I have had a good week at Brighton – a guest house that has been a delight with attentive service from the owners, wonderful sunny weather, a chance to meet friends old and new, plus time for constructive work.

Labour Party  Conference at Brighton always has the best attendance from London, partly because a lot of Labour Party members can come down by car or train for just a day or two.  I met day trippers from Hounslow, Newham and Southwark during this week.  Conversely next year in Manchester attendance from London will not be quite so good, whereas Scottish representation will be higher. That’s, of course, the advantage of taking Conference around the country.

Yet this rotation does not include all the potential venues, places with enough hotel accommodation and high level conference facilities.   There is an obvious city that is discriminated against: London.    I don’t just say that because I represent the greatest city in the world.  Holding Labour Party Conference in London, probably at the Excel centre in East London, would have many benefits.

London wins hands down on environmental grounds, a matter of concern to the Labour Party on which the Labour Government has taken positive action.  

London is the nation’s transport hub so it could be accessed far more easily than any of the current venues.  It is within commuting distance for more than half the population of the country.  Since London has the best transport links of any UK town or city, far fewer people would travel by car or plane.  Also as the national media is based in London, there would be no need for them to travel, no extra payments for employees staying away from home, fewer hotel bills.

London’s transport system is often criticised, yet it has superb infrastructure and would cope easily with the influx of people arriving for Labour Party Conference – fewer than go to a match at Arsenal each week.

We’d still be a fair way away from having a carbon neutral Conference, but having it in London would be a big step in the right direction.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, London would be cheaper for many delegates.  London, South East, and East Anglian delegates could commute on a daily basis. Many people from the Midlands and some from Wales and even as far away as Yorkshire could commute. A weekly season ticket would be cheaper than five nights’ accommodation in the vast majority of cases.

For women the ability to commute and still be able to be home in the evening for childcare, would be another valuable option and would help increase attendance.

There’s another plus though. Many, many more people have friends or family in or around London they could stay with.  Few of us have family near Bournemouth for example.  Probably half the population of the country know somebody they could stay with in London.  London also has far more  hotels than Labour’s traditional venues, so people would be spared the need to commute in as they did this week from Eastbourne, Seaford, Crawley and elsewhere.

 We would also be in a better position to encourage extra visitors to attend the Conference. Many visitors, whether they be from charities, embassies or industry, come for only one day and try to pack in lots of meetings. Given that many organisations in both the public and private sectors have their headquarters in London, the Labour Party Conference may well receive more visitors. It would also be a lot easier for members of the public to come to the Conference should they so wish.

I must of course declare an interest.  I am all in favour of holding Conference where I can pop there in half an hour on the Central Line. There are those who oppose more events in London. I ask them to argue why once every three or four years Labour should not have its annual conference in the city with the best green credentials – London.

Live blog from Labour Movement for Europe Fringe meeting

Labour Party

lme 001Climate change is the defining issue of the 21st century along with the battle against global poverty.  So it was with a mix of interest in the subject and sadness about the results of the European Elections last June that I went to the Labour Movement for Europe (LME) fringe meeting at the Royal Albion Hotel in Brighton this lunchtime.

Chaired by former MEP Richard Corbett, one of the select band who have kept the LME going over the years, we discussed the Copenhagen targets on climate change, including the contribution made by Gordon Brown. Glenys Kinnock spoke first, and was as passionate and lucid as ever; she is an excellent Minister for Europe respected by all of us.

It is regrettable that President Obama has shown very little commitment to climate change and  no firm commitment on levels of finance.  On the other hand the European Union has promised a  20 per cent cut in greenhouse emmisiions by 2020, and the  EU will up this if the Copenhagen discussions come up with higher targets.  The money for this must be new money – Gordon Brown in very clear on this.  Europe must also act together.

Glenis lme2 001Willmott was the second speaker with Richard Howitt with his purple tie taking the fouth slot.  Where else would you fiind a platform of two Richards and two Gleni(y)ses?  Is this a metaphor for Europe hedging its bets or maybe an example of European consensus?

Glenis told us how Labour has taken the lead on climate change  and has worked to persuade the other parties to come on board.  The Heads of EU Governents eventually agreed their targets, including 20 per cent of EU energy coming from renewable sources.  This was no thanks to the Tories who would almost certainly not have pursued the climate change agenda.  The Tories have, as we all know, left the mainstream EPP to join a bizarre group of right-wing misfits, including climate change deniers from the Czech Republic.  Tory MEPs do not support measures to deal with climate change when voting in the European Parliament.

And finally, Richard Howitt.  All of us were with Richard when he siad just how much he misses Richard Corbett in the European Parliament.  Along with Glenis Willmott, Richard paid tribute to Linda MacAvan who led for the Socialist Group on the climate change negotiations, making a real impact on our behalf in working to introduce the EU targets.  As the Labour MEP for the East of England, Richard explained how European money had hepled Lowestoft with its water shortage problems, showing how Europe has a concrete effect at local level.

As EPLP Spokesperson on Foreilme2 003gn Affairs, Richard explained how Foreign Affairs is becoming more and more about climate change.  Conflict now is as much about water as oil or security issues.  The European Global Climate Change Alliance working with developing countries shows the way things are moving.   The EU has come into its own over climate change.  Global problems require international solutions.

Cycling for the Planet – Cycling to Brighton

Labour Party

8132_255794045229_618955229_8899409_1291127_n[1]On Saturday I will be taking the train to Labour Party Conference at Brighton.

Michael Situ has told me about the energetic way he and several other fellow Southwark Labour Party cyclists will be making the same  journey. They want to raise awareness and encourage people to use greener modes of transport such as cycling wherever possible. He is raising funds for party campaigning particularly leading up to the  London council election next year. Michael is pictured extracting a contribution from Ed Miliband recently. 

The team will be leaving Camberwell Green early in the morning, aiming to arrive in Brighton in late afternoon time with stops for lunch and refreshments on the way. The route approximates to the official London – Brighton ride,  avoiding the busiest main roads. Apart from getting up Ditching Beacon towards the end, it promises to be an enjoyable challenge. 


Harriet Harman as the Camberwell and Peckham MP is pictured with Mark Williams, Alison McGovern, Charlotte Montague and Michael Situ.

Spaces are still available, and if you would like to join the ride please call Michael on 07789775760. My best wishes to every rider and I hope they get good weather!


energy, Vote
I spent most of this morning in Industry Committee where MEPs were voting on several key pieces of environmental legislation. The reports were on extending the European emissions trading system (known as ETS); on carbon capture and storage (CCS); and on renewable energy.
As the Industry Committee is one of the big legislative committees, I normally get a huge amount of lobbying on most reports – but never more so than on environmental issues.

The votes went well and there was pretty good agreement between many of the political groups. The committee supported keeping the 20% target for renewable energy by 2020 and also adopted strict sustainability criteria for the use of biofuels. The Socialists, Liberals and Greens also won a review clause on the use of renewables – this means an assessment of the impacts of renewable transport fuels on food and feed production before 2014.

The British Tories frequently talk about renegotiating the UK’s membership of the European Union, indeed many Tory MEPs think we should pull out of the EU altogether. If the Tories think we can tackle climate change without any cooperation at EU level, they must be living on another planet. Indeed, this is one of the reasons why the Swedish green party are becoming more pro-European.

These are big, heavyweight reports that will have a real impact on the energy sector and on helping Europe meet its targets towards cutting CO2 emissions. You just have to look at the number of lobbyists and NGOs packing the committee room to see that the decisions MEPs take have a real impact on environmental legislation. If there was nothing at stake, the lobbyists wouldn’t be interested.

These reports have now passed through the committee stage. There will soon be further negotiations between Parliament and the European Commission and Council before a final vote is taken at a full sitting of the Parliament. Don’t expect the lobbyists to go away any time soon!