Tag Archives: Glenis Willmott

Underrepresentation of women in the Labour Party

Throughout my 5 decades of activism with the Labour Party women have always been underrepresented. Now though this is more glaring. Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP is First Minister of Scotland. Arlene Foster of the DUP heads the Northern Irish government. Conservative Theresa May is Prime Minister. Caroline Lucas jointly leads the Green Party. Leanne Wood leads Plaid Cymru. Diane James leads UKIP. It was brilliant to see Sadiq Khan elected Mayor of London and Marvin Rees Mayor of Bristol. I was disappointed that our recent Mayoral selections resulted in a full slate of men. Sion Simon in the West Midlands, Steve Rotheram in Liverpool and Andy Burnham have served and will serve Labour well.

The pattern though is clear with  a few notable exceptions. Kezia Dugdale leads Scottish Labour. In Europe we have a majority of female MEPs lead for many years by Glenis Willmott. I am delighted Glenis has been elected Chair of Labour’s National Executive as she will ensure that Labour addresses gender underrepresentation. Her record in this is unsurpassed. Glenis will also be a vital voice on Europe and Brexit at the heart of the Labour Party.

Yesterday I discussed this problem on Sky News with Adam Boulton, Ivana Bartoletti and Sonia Sodha. You can watch our debate below.

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The Tory-led Coalition goes against Tory MEPs on food labelling

 The British government today went against their own Tory MEPs and decided to recommend the ‘traffic light’ system for food labelling to retailers and manufacturers in the UK.

It is tragic and to our great shame that obesity rates are higher in Britain than anywhere else in Europe. One of the ways to help tackle this very serious problem is to make sure that consumers have clear and honest nutritional labelling which enables them to make healthier choices when they do their shopping.

The ‘traffic light’ labelling system colour codes the information making it easier for consumers to assess and compare products at a glance. This should help all of us make more informed decisions about what we eat.

Labour Leader in the European Parliament, Glenis Willmott, who introduced the new system, commented, “It’s just a shame that the Tory MEPs weren’t so constructive when food labelling laws were being discussed in the European Parliament. I put forward proposals for traffic light labelling to be used on all processed foods, but these were vociferously opposed by Tory MEPs.”

Glenis also made a commitment to continue to push for red, amber and green ‘traffic lights’ on all processed foods sold in the EU.  Glenis is absolutely right in believing that some of the big multi-national food companies will only change their ways when they are told that in order to sell their food in the world’s biggest trading bloc, they have to be honest about what is in it.

Although it is the case that Glenis Willmott was unsuccessful in getting mandatory traffic light labelling for all processed foods agreed by the European Parliament, I understand that the European Commission made a commitment to revisiting the idea in the near future.

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Labour MEPs lambast European Parliament funding for the BNP

To their utter shame, the committee which oversees European Parliament business recently agreed that an alliance of seven European extreme right wing political parties (including the British BNP, the French Front National and Hungary’s Jobbik) would qualify for €289,266 of EU money.

The Bureau of the European Parliament took this decision on what they considered to be the appropriate interpretation of the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, specifically the activities and legal situation of the political groups. The relevant paragraph states that European Parliament political groups shall carry out their duties as part of the activities of the Union. The political groups shall be provided with a secretariat on the basis of the establishment plan of the Secretariat, with administrative facilities and with the appropriations entered for that purpose in Parliament’s budget.

In what was a very narrow and quite disgraceful reading of the European Parliament rules, the Bureau took the view that the newly formed extreme right group, the Alliance of European Nationalist Movements, qualified for funding in the same way as the other mainstream political groups.

However, the Bureau completely failed to take on board the very essence of the European Union, the values on which the EU is founded. Just to recap, these are respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights. These values are common to the Member States and the societies of the Member States are characterised by pluralism, tolerance, justice, solidarity and non-discrimination.

When the possibility that the European Parliament may fund extreme parties such as the BNP is given just a short moment’s thought, it becomes clear that such funding is a non-starter. The BNP and other extreme parties quite clearly contravene the EU’s fundamental values. Indeed the BNP’s political programme and campaigning is against equality and respect for human rights, to name but two of the values mentioned above while there is no way they respect pluralism, tolerance and non-discrimination.

Labour MEPs never accepted the inevitability of BNP funding. The European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP) went into action forming alliances with like-minded MEPs to halt the current payment and stop any payments in the future if this was democratically possible.

After a passionate appeal to Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament (equivalent of the Speaker), he assured EPLP Leader, Glenis Willmott, last Wednesday that he would check whether any initial payment to this ultra-right alliance could be reimbursed on legal grounds.

Furthermore, agreement has now been reached across the political spectrum of European Parliament political groupings (the Greens, the Liberals, the Centre Right as well as the Socialist and Democrat Group where Labour sits) that a “committee of wise persons from outside the European Parliament” will be set up under the European Parliament’s rules to see whether this new pan-European alliance conforms to European values.

I am sure we all agree with Glenis Willmott when she said, “The BNP cause violence and hatred wherever they go. The tolerant don’t always have to tolerate the intolerant. We’ve worked together so this is not just a socialist alliance against the far right, all parties across the spectrum are agreeing with us. The budgets committee of the European Parliament are not happy for this money to go through either. We’re happy to debate and fight our corner with anyone who disagrees with us, but we can only argue with democrats.”

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Everywoman Safe Everywhere

Since the Tory cuts began, women have been seen to bear the greatest impact in every area of life. One area of growing concern for me is the negative effect of the cuts on women’s safety. 

The safety of women across the country is increasingly at risk. It is at risk because of reductions in police numbers, as seen in my London constituency, and it is at risk because councils are cutting back on street lights in an effort to save money.

It is also at risk because organisations which support women to leave abusive relationships or jobs in which they are sexually exploited and abused have lost their funding. These are organisations like the Derby Women’s Centre which is currently under threat of closure as a result of cuts to its funding. My colleague Glenis Willmott, MEP for the East Midlands and Labour’s  Leader in Europe, spoke out against the cuts to its funding yesterday.

A number of women’s refuges and other specialist organisations which offer a safe space for women who have been abused are also suffering as a result of the cuts. Such organisations provide crucial support to victims of domestic violence, women who have been trafficked and the homeless. Last year I spoke a lot about the Poppy Project and the cuts to its funding. The Poppy project is an excellent organisation which provides support to survivors of trafficking.

For some of the most vulnerable women, like those who have recently left abusive relationships, access to a crisis loan can be an important resource. This is especially true if a woman has had to leave behind her possessions when escaping her abuser. This type of emergency loan can assist her in starting to rebuild her life.

Recent welfare reform proposals shift the control of such crisis funds to already stretched local authorities with no checks to ensure the funding is spent on providing crisis support.

They also rather ludicrously suggest that councils could provide support in kind rather than money to people who apply for crisis funds. Women who have taken the brave move of leaving abusive partners should not have to suffer the lack of autonomy and indignity associated with receiving food parcels.

A coalition of 20 charities, including Banardo’s and Women’s Aid, has called for the ring-fencing of funds to provide crisis loans in a letter to the Guardian last weekend. You can read the letter here.

In response to the ever increasing impact of Tory cuts on women’s safety, the Labour Party is carrying out a Public Consultation.

The Consultation was opened shortly before the Christmas break but I felt given the hectic holiday period it might be a good idea to revisit it with you now we are in the New Year.

The findings from the Consultation will be used get a clearer picture of the cumulative impact of tory decision making and to develop legislative measures that could be used to make women safer. It will also be used as an opportunity to consult on Labour’s proposals for a new Personal Safety Bill.

The consultation is chaired by Vera Baird QC who will be supported by Kate Green MP (Shadow Minister for Equalities) and Stella Creasy MP (Shadow Minister for Crime Prevention).

If you would like to find out more about the consultation or take part, please visit the Everywoman Safe Everywhere website. Together we can make Britain a safer place for women.

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British Rebate in Jeopardy thanks to David Cameron

Joseph Daul, leader of the European People’s Party (EPP), has just told the European Parliament that the rebate Britain receives from the EU must be put into question following David Cameron’s veto last week.

David Cameron has certainly not fought for our national interest. Not content with isolating us in Europe thereby endangering Britain’s trade within the EU single market, his actions are threatening our cherished rebate first won by his heroine Margaret Thatcher.

Since Cameron consistently tells us he wants Britain to remain in the EU, the only conclusion to be drawn from his disastrous veto on Friday morning is that, far from being good for our country, it is very much against the national interest.

As EPP Leader Joseph Daul carries a lot of clout. The EPP is the largest political group in the European Parliament. The Tories ignominiously left it to set up shop with what Nick Clegg described at the time as “a bunch of nutters” and in so doing threw away whatever influence in the European Parliament they may have had.

After Mr. Daul had spoken, Guy Verhofstadt, Leader of the EuroParl Liberal Group said in English: “Mr. Cameron, if you do not sit at the table you find yourself on the menu.”

Martin Schulz, Leader of the European Parliament’s socialists, said that it was bankers in the City of London who had caused the crisis.

Britain is now a laughing stock. It is an open secret Cameron failed to properly use the British foreign office during pre-summit negotiations. They are the Rolls Royce of foreign diplomats, they are ours and yet our Prime Minister failed to put their expertise at the disposal of the British Government.

As Glenis Willmott, Leader of the Labour MEPs in the European Parliament said, “Cameron might think he is Churchill. In fact, never in the history of negotiations with our European partners was so much sacrificed for so few by so many.”

Thanks to David Cameron and the feral Eurosceptic Tories on whom he relies to stay in office, if not in power, when British financial interests are discussed by our EU partners, we will not be at the table to defend our national interest.

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EPLP Leader addresses Labour Party Conference

Yesterday Glenis Willmott, Leader of the Labour MEPs, gave this inspiring and thoughtful speech to the Labour Party Conference.

Conference, it has not been an easy 12 months in Brussels.

Bad news from Europe has been a constant feature of the daily news bulletins.

First, the deepening financial crisis in Greece.

Then, bailouts for Ireland and Portugal.

And now the wider and still unfolding uncertainty across the entire eurozone.

The implications of this turmoil for the future of the European Union are immense.

And how the EU responds will define the fortunes of our continent for generations to come.

But this is not just an economic and financial crisis.

It is a crisis too for social democracy and a huge challenge for the left, in Britain and across Europe.

I am often asked – does the recent chaos mean that the EU is somehow broken?

Surely, I’m told, this is evidence that the Eurosceptics were right all along?

And Conference, many of these views are increasingly coming from within our own party.

Indeed some of you, here in this hall today, may sympathise with those sentiments.

Well, what is clear is that the EU must change.

There are real and crucial lessons that must be learnt.

Efforts to promote economic cohesion across European economies were just not good enough.

Government financial transparency was pitifully enforced.

Rampant greed was allowed to take precedence over the wider needs of our economy.

But what is also clear is that the supposed remedies to the current turmoil are making things worse, not better.

And friends, this is where the real failure lies.

In the hollow ideology being driven by the European right.

Simply, they say, we must have less;

• less investment in the technologies and industries of the future

• less opportunities for our young people

• less employment

• less power for working people

And not only is the right’s answer to the turmoil not working.

It is also void of any ambition, aspiration or hope for our continent and its people.

So what should our response be to the European crisis?

Conference, the Left across Europe, is at its lowest ebb, since before the Second World War.

As recently as 1999, we were in power, or sharing power, in 12 out of the then 15 EU countries.

Today, despite Helle Thorning Schmidt’s great victory in Denmark that figure is just 8 out of the now 27 countries.

And since the disastrous 2009 elections, the Left in the European Parliament is at its weakest ever.

To paraphrase Harold MacMillan (you see even the quotes are from the right), “We’ve never had it so bad”.

So why are we doing so badly?

Conference, part of the explanation may be that the world our grandparents fought for, has in so many ways, been achieved.

Free health care, universal education, systems of social benefits from cradle to grave, are established across Europe.

Our generation has experienced increased opportunities, wider tolerance and greater freedoms.

Since 1945, social democracy has led the way.

We have achieved great things. But it really doesn’t feel like that.

Partly, because we on the progressive left are never – and must never – be satisfied.

But also because we have failed to move the debate on.

Conference, the social democratic solutions which transformed the last century were forged amid the rubble of European war.

Today we face ruins of a different sort.

But once again, we, as social democrats, must stand together and rise to the new challenges that Europe faces.

It is our duty to meet the growing demand for a different way of organising our societies;

• to rebuild our economies

• to deliver prosperity for the many

• and to address increasing aspirations for fairness and equality

Ed is right to say we have to refound Labour here at home.

But that must be within the broader context of all of us refounding social democracy across Europe.

Answers must come from all parts of our movement and beyond. From trade unions, intellectuals, academics, politicians, activists and single interest groups.

But we also need to learn together with comrades in Denmark, Sweden, Germany and others too.

So as Europe faces its greatest challenge since 1945 let’s not turn our backs.

We must produce a new vision for social democrats, international in scale, since globally produced problems can actually, only be solved, globally.

The answers cannot be for Labour in Britain alone.

In this interconnected world Europe must be part of the solution.

As always the driving force must be our enduring principles, our Labour values, the same values that drove those rebuilding Europe more than 60 years ago, values of

Solidarity

Social justice

Opportunity

The strongest helping the weak

Together, not apart

That is how we will secure the future for generations to come.

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Please vote in the Social Europe Journal ‘What are the most influential left-of-centre European Blogs’

I have been nominated for the Social Europe Journal vote on what are the most influential left-of-centre European blogs.

I am, of course, please to be nominated. It’s always good to be recognised.

The other blogs nominated are:

A Fistful of Euros (www.fistfulofeuros.net)
Åsa Westlund (www.asawestlund.se/blogg)
The Cedar Lounge Revolution (www.cedarlounge.wordpress.com)
Coulisses de Bruxelles (www.bruxelles.blogs.liberation.fr)
Dear Kitty. Some Blog (www.dearkitty.blogsome.com)
Erkan’s Field Diary (www.erkansaka.net)
Glenis Willmott (gleniswillmott.blogspot.com)
Grahnlaw (www.grahnlaw.blogspot.com)
The Honeyball Buzz (www.thehoneyballbuzz.com)
Irish Left Review (www.irishleftreview.org)
The European Citizen (www.theeuropeancitizen.blogspot.com)
European Tribune (www.eurotrib.com)
Eurosocialist (www.eurosocialist.eu)
Jon Worth’s Euroblog (www.jonworth.eu)
Kreisie (www.kreisie.lv)
Nachdenkseiten (www.nachdenkseiten.de)
PES Re:new (www.pes.org/renew)
Social Europe Journal (www.social-europe.eu)

There is quite a small number of nominations as the European left-of-centre blogosphere is still quite small.

You may vote for up to three blogs and the ballot closes on Friday 12 November at 5 pm. You can vote here

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