Debating Ryanair´s Calendar on LBC

Labour Party

Further to my last post, last night I debated the Ryanair Calendar´s with Iain Dale  on London´s LBC Radio last night. It lasts 9 minutes – just press to listen here:-

Farewell to Tom Harris – Not Another Thing

Labour Party

I am very sorry to hear that veteran blogger Tom Harris has decided to stop his blog. Tom has been one of the best bloggers of the left and challenged the more established bloggers on the right such as Iain Dale, Conservative Home etc.

Tom said in his closing post, which you can read here, that it had started to take over his life and that he was becoming known as the blogger who was an MP rather than an MP who also blogged. He also said it was impacting on his personal and family life too. I have some sympathy for what he says. Those of us who chose to blog as a way of communicating can make ourselves vulnerable to attacks from all kinds of people. Sometimes it gets personal and you must be robust enough to not get embroiled, but it isn’t always easy, as Tom has found.

I hope he continues in some format – on Twitter or even facebook perhaps. We need more bloggers like Tom on the left. Indeed this year at Labour Party conference I held a fringe event at which we discussed the issue of left wing bloggers and how to help more emerge. We are getting there but I’m afraid we still have more work to do before we will achieve the same recognition that those on the right do. It won’t be long… nevertheless it is a great shame that Tom Harris will no longer contribute to this cause but I wish him all the best.

“More Trouble for Tory Euro Grouping as Kirkhope Launches Takeover Bid” says Iain Dale

Labour Party

I have never before reprinted one of Iain Dale’s posts in its entirety.  However, this story is so good, I thought you may like to see it here. 

“EXCLUSIVE: More Trouble for Tory Euro Grouping as Kirkhope Launches Takeover Bid

Iain Dale 4:36 PM

It seems that the row about the new Conservative grouping in the European Parliament is about to flare up again. Here’s the story so far.

Last week David Cameron held a meeting at Number Ten with the Polish presidential candidate, Jaroslaw Kaczynski and the leader of the Conservatives & Reformist group in the European Parliament, Michal Kaminski. Kaminski was rather surprised to find that the leader of Conservative MEPs, Timothy Kirkhope also turned up. It soon became clear as to why. After Kaczynski left, Cameron told Kaminski that he wanted him and Kirkhope to have a joint chairmanship of the Reformist Group for the next five years. Kaminski was, according to one source, left “gobsmacked”.

Yesterday afternoon Kirkhope reported these events back to the group’s MEP members in Strasburg. One source said there was “uproar”. Another said that “uproar” may be putting it too strongly but “people aren’t very happy – it’s supposed to be a democratic process”.

It’s not just many British (Conservative) MEPs who aren’t very happy. The MEPs of the other 6 countries in the group are none too pleased that they only found out an hour before the meeting. Indeed, the Czechs – important players – have not been consulted at all, I am told.

There are two schools of thought about these events. Conspiracy theorists think David Cameron might want to break up the group, having been embarrassed by all the press coverage over the last year, and thought this was a good way to do it.

The other, and I have to say, more likely explanation is that the whole thing was Kirkhope’s brainwave and that he has tried to bounce himself into the co-chairmanship of the group having stood aside in Kaminski’s favour last year.

The reason I say that is because a source tells me that Cameron’s office is maintaining that they had been assured by Kirhope that the whole thing had been agreed by all parties in Brussels beforehand, and everyone was onside as it would give the group a broader appeal as it tried to attract new members. There is something in that, but it is completely untrue that it had even been floated in Brussels, let alone agreed.

Unfortunately, it is all now beginning to backfire on Brother Kirkhope.

The Czech President is said to be about to phone David Cameron to clarify who said what and to whom and when, although Kirkhope is still maintaining that he had squared off the Czech PM some time ago, but he (the Czech PM) had failed to inform his MEPs.

There is another fly in the ointment for Kirkhope. Under the Reformist’s group’s own rules, there is no provision for a dual leadership. The rules state there has to be a single leader, so it is entirely possible that the group’s MEP members could rule the move ultra vires.

I’ve put this to Number Ten and am awaiting a response.”

Thank you Iain for breaking this story.  I’m sure my Labour and Socialist and Democrat Group colleagues will follow it with interest.

The Internet comes to the Rescue over Free Speech

Labour Party

Trafigura-logoFree speech, a supposedly inalienable right locked into our DNA, is under increasing threat from our respectable establishment, notably large corporations and notorious legal firms.  Fortunately that great leveller, the internet, has come to our salvation.

 I find it both amazing and disturbing that the British oil trading firm Trafigura and their lawyers Carter-Ruck were able to ride roughshod over the cherished principle of parliamentary privilege by obtaining an injunction to prevent the Guardian reporting a Parliamentary Question tabled by Labour MP Paul Farrelly.Paul Farrelly

Fortunately, the strong arm of this particular version of the law was unable to control Twitter and the blogosphere and the story is now in the public domain.  While I largely agree with Iain Dale that the story would have come out without the online pressure, it would undoubtedly have taken longer and therefore have had less impact.

The injunction, one of a growing number of “super-injunctions” under which commercial corporations claim the right to keep secret the fact that they have been to court, was taken out to prevent disclosures about the real nature of some of Trafigura’s activity.  We now know that Paul Farrelly wanted to ask about the toxic oil Trafigura dumped in the Ivory Coast, west Africa, in 2006 making thousands of people ill, an episode the organisation obviously wanted to keep under wraps.

This is, indeed, a shameful story.  A large corporation does something harmful and immoral to a large number of extremely poor and vulnerable people.  An MP finds some information about what has gone on and seeks to raise it in Parliament.  The corporation then hires a law firm to close the issue down.

Fortunately those who wished to keep their vile actions secret have been exposed and parliamentary privilege remains intact.  However, free speech is not conditional; now that it has been restored in this particular instance we must make sure it always remains a central part of our DNA.


bloging, Labour Party, Poll, Women's Rights

In a shameless bid for recognition of my blog, please do vote for the Honeyball Buzz in the Total Politics Poll if you have enjoyed reading it this year.


The Total Politics Blog Poll 2009

The Total Politics Blog Poll 2009

To do this you need to rank a list of ten blogs and send it off in an email to You must vote for 10 blogs.

Other than the Honeyball Buzz, if you’re stuck for inspiration I’ll be listing over the weekend my top ten votes and why I like them. Of course you can’t vote for yourself!

I would very much like to see  more women on the Best Blog  list to encourage other women to get involved in the online political debate.

One small health warning – the poll is being hosted by Iain Dale so it does tend to have a right wing bias.


Labour Party

I too would like to take up Iain Dale’s suggestion and share my memories of 7/7.  It’s unusual to know exactly where you were at a given time, but we all remember the wheres and whens on that terrible day.

I was, in fact, in Strasbourg at a plenary session of the European Parliament from 4 July until the afternoon of 7 July 2005.  The drama had been high the day before the bombings as London had won the Olympic bid, news of which came through during our voting session.  The Brits, and especilally the London Labour MEPs, showed our huge delight by jumping up and down in the Chamber, much to the chagrin of the defeated French.  6 July was, indeed, a red letter day, and I still have a press cutting of London’s victory on my office wall.

Yet it all changed so rapidly.  We knew about the bombings as soon as they took place and remained glued to the television for the rest of the day.  It was especially poingnant, not to say worrying, for me as I live in Bloomsbury not far from Tavistock Square.

The next question was, inevitably, will British MEPs, especially those from London, be able to get home?  The Air France flight to Gatwick on which I was booked did in fact make it on time and the Gatwick Express was running to Victoria where I pitched up at about nine o’clock at night.  Amazingly there were taxis so I gratefully got into one.  The cabbie dropped me at the British Museum as he couldn’t get any further as the roads around my flat were cordoned off.  It was the absolute silence which hit me as I got out of the cab, and will remain with me for ever.  Great Russell street was completely deserted, not a soul in sight, a thriving hub turned into a ghost town.

I walked the short distance home behind the police tapes which marked off the site of the Tavistock Square bombing.  For the first and only time in my life I had some inkling of what it’s  like to be a victim of terrorism, albeit from a safe distance and after the event.


ELECTION '09, Labour Party
Bet you never thought you’d find me in a photo with ace Tory blogger Iain Dale!  Especially in the light of some of the things I have said about him on this blog.  Well here it is, the two of us in amicable conversation at the launch of votematch, a fun way to get into conversation about politics and may be even into full blown political activity. 

iain Dale at the busy Apple Store which hosted the Votematch event.
Iain Dale at the busy Apple Store which hosted the Votematch event.
With Chuka Umunna, Labour's candidate in Streatham at the next election.
With Chuka Umunna, Labour’s candidate in Streatham at the next election.

Votematch is being promoted by Unlock Democarcy (the old Charter 88) to bring more people into the wider political arena.  Peter Facey, Unlock Democracy’s Director, has done an excellent job.

Votematch is a great idea.  It was good to see so many people at the launch yesterday evening at the Apple store in Regent Street.  It was also heartening to see another Labour face among the throng – Chuka Umunna, PPC in Streatham.

PS  I unfortunately missed Stephen Fry who was due to attend as guest of honour.  Can’t win them all!   

With Peter Facey Director of Unlock Democracy

With Peter Facey Director of Unlock Democracy


Labour Party

So Derek Draper has now resigned as Editor of LabourList passing the mantle of Labour blogging to his deputy Alex Smith.

Derek Draper

Derek Draper

In his resignation statement Draper admits that his position following the Damian McBride affair was untenable, and that he felt he could no longer continue in his position on LabourList.

LabourList was, and still is, a real opportunity for Labour and left-wing bloggers to challenge the seeming hegemony of the right in the blogosphere. We need more people out there blogging for the progressive cause and not let political blogging be dominated by the likes of Iain Dale, Conservative Home and the appalling Guido Fawkes.

Labour also needs to widen the scope of its blogging. The leaders in the political arena – Iain Dale,Guido Fawkes and our very own Tom Harris – are very Westminster focused. Richard Corbett, my MEP colleague from York and Humber, and I blog on Europe and I try to bring a feminist dimension to my posts. The excellent Luke Akehurst (I wish him all the best for a full recovery from his illness) tells us about local government. These are all good, but only Tom Harris competes with the Tories on viewing numbers.

We now need to move left leaning blogging forward to take in more subjects and reflect more opinions. LabourList can do this. Good luck to Alex Smith.


Euro Election

Iain Dale yesterday demanded that European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, mind his own business.  Barroso’s crime?  He regretted the Tories leaving the European People’s Party, Barroso’s on political home.

The Tories’ decision is very curious.  The EPP is the largest political group in the European Parliament.  Both Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy lead parties in the EPP, and it has huge influence on the world stage.  Through the EPP Cameron and Co have access to the kind of political clout I would have thought they would be very anxious to exploit.

Clearly not.  The Tories have chosen to throw it all away.  Their proposed new political group, which incidentally do not yet exist, appear to comprise a rag bag of right wing parties all of which have little credibility outside their own member states.

The new group, which is likely to be called the European Conservatives, may (or may not) attract members from the Polish Law and Justice party, the governing party in Poland, the Czech Civic Democrats and other political parties from the Baltic states and beyond.

Law and Justice, which was co-founded by Polish president Lech Kaczynski, is noted for its extreme views.  Last November, Artur Gorski, an MP with Law and Justice, was ordered to apologise for comments he made describing Barack Obama’s election as “the end of the civilisation of the white man”.

The Tories Euroscepticism really has got the better of them.  Giving up Merkel and Sarkozy, allying with a party opposed to President Obama are not sound political judgements.

This is about more than Europe.  Would you want such a bunch of stupid white men to lead your country?


Labour Party

I have always enjoyed Tom Harris MP’s blog. I was delighted that the first person to put up  a new style Honeyball Buzz link button was Tom, many thanks. Sometimes we think very similarly, Tom’s post  last week on Boris Johnson was very similar to mine highlighting Iain Dale’s partisan spinning.

Following my campaign on Ryanair’s sexist calendars, I’m amused by this story from Tom on Ryanair staff totally losing the plot, click here, the comments are as good as the story.