A peoples vote is essential to avoid and ‘Armageddon’

Labour Party

A Government report published over the weekend reveals a doomsday scenario if a no deal Brexit is drawn up. It states that Britain could be hit with food and medicine shortages within two weeks of leaving the EU if a Brexit deal isn’t reached.

The civil service paper speculates on three different scenarios which it categorizes into three possibilities 1. Mild, 2. Severe and 3. Armageddon. Either way none of it sounds hugely promising. Worse still is that it’s not even the so-called ‘Armageddon’ scenario which could plunge the UK into metaphorical darkness.

Indeed, The Sunday Times revealed that its source said even the second scenario will lead to serious consequences for the UK: “In the second worst scenario, not even the worst, the port of Dover will collapse on day one. The supermarkets in Cornwall and Scotland will run out of food within a couple of days, and hospitals will run out of medicines within two weeks.”

The source added that “the RAF would be needed to transport emergency medicine to the far corners of the UK and warned that the country would also quickly run out of petrol.” It is deeply concerning to read let alone considering it could be a reality.

A people’s vote on the outcome of the deal is not only sensible but essential to give legitimacy to whatever the final agreement is.

And I am not alone with this view. I was pleased to see an open letter from 18 London MP’s to Jeremy Corbyn calling for a people’s vote on the deal Theresa May will bring back from the EU.

The letter, published in the Independent, calls on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to push for a referendum on the deal.

The letter states: “It cannot be right that 650 MPs decide on whether to accept the deal…that’s why we think it’s essential that there is a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal, so that 65 million people can have their voices heard as well.” The emergence of a deal is still far from clear, and there is an increasing possibility that there may be no deal at all.

This scenario as we have seen from the above will to lead to significant problems. These concerns have been raised by civil servants and therefore cannot be dismissed as “project fear” by David Davis and his team.

Ending violence against women

Labour Party

The Independent newspaper, today published results of a survey by the campaign group for sex workers which seeks to end violence against sex workers. The survey by National Ugly Mug (NUM) revealed approximately 96% of those surveyed said people should not be criminalised for buying sex from a consulting adult. A further 82% declared hey would feel less safe if such legislation was introduced.

Their concern is that criminalising the purchaser of sex will make clients more apprehensive therefore making the sex worker more vulnerable.

However, the Independent’s own editorial pointed out that prostitution is a dangerous business. As regular readers to my blog will be only to aware I have campaigned for some time about the need to reform legislation with regard to the treatment of sex workers.

Almost nobody begins a career as a sex worker through choice. As such these women remain vulnerable and legislators should seek the best way to protect them. I favour the Nordic model of prostitution which criminalises the purchaser rather than the seller of sex.

Increasingly we are realising that many sex workers in this country have been forced into carrying out the role and are in fact victims of trafficking so we have a duty to protect these women too.

Recently I wrote about a pilot project in an area of Leeds which had designated a zone for sex workers to work without fear of prosecution. The results of this laissez faire attitude were alarming, despite the murder of a sex worker within the zone it was deemed a success. Incredibly other police forces have signalled that they are considering replicating the model.

Sex workers need to be supported, criminalising them does not work and the burden of responsibly should be placed on those men who seek to use sex workers.
You can read the Independent’s editorial here.


Women bear the brunt of rising unemployment and the Eurozone is not to blame

Labour Party

Women represent 80 per cent of the 710,000 public sector workers due to be made redundant over the next five years. As the Con-Dem cuts begin to bite, figures from the Office for National Statistics show the total unemployment rate rising to 8.4 per cent, the highest level in 16 years, with 2.67 million people out of work. The ONS also tell us that the female jobless rate rose by 33,000 in the three months to the end of December while the number of men out of work went up by 16,000 over the same period.

Such a disproportionate rise in women’s unemployment is a scandal in itself. It’s made even worse by the fact that the public sector is the only broad sector of the economy in which women are over-represented. The one place where women did well is being cut back. That is a separate scandal for which the Government should be held to account.
This evidence only goes to show that David Cameron and his Cabinet of millionaires simply do not care about women. While they may, according to a No 10 document leaked last year and referred to in the Independent this morning, intellectually understand that Cameron’s Government is “seen as having hit women, or their interests, disproportionately”, they clearly do not intend to do anything to rectify this state of affairs.
It’s the same old, same old. Remember, this is the Government that brought you repatriation of EU powers back to the UK and couldn’t deliver, tried to “veto” an EU treaty then gave in, and now is unable (and probably unwilling) to take any measures to improve the position of women.
Moreover, Cameron, Osborne and co are consistently dishonest about why these attacks on women are taking place. TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber put it very well in today’s Mirror: “The international economy has had an impact on the UK, but many of our problems are home grown and that’s why our jobs figures have been worse.” So Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne, do not continue your cheap attempts to scapegoat the Euro, and please no more blaming the last Labour Government. The dogmatic austerity measures are your very own Conservative policies, and are proving deeply damaging.

As Anna Bird of the Fawcett Society has said in several newspapers this morning, “These new [unemployment] figures must act as a wake-up call to Government. We’re in a time of crisis. Cuts are threatening women’s equality as jobs dry up, benefits are slashed and vital public services disappear.”

The Guardian should not have accepted Ryanair sexist adverts

Labour Party

I am disappointed that the Guardian and the Independent accepted advertisements from Ryanair deemed sexist by the Advertising Standards Authority. I very much take the view that both these left-leaning titles should have been more careful about the advertising they allow on their pages. While I accept that times are hard, it is still important not to compromise for the sake of advertising revenue.

Two UK newspaper adverts for budget airline Ryanair have been banned after complaints from readers that they were sexist and objectified women. Having received 17 complaints, the ASA said they were likely to cause offence.

The ASA are absolutely right, and are to be congratulated for their stance. They have been very clear that these adverts must not appear again.

The adverts showed women posing in bra and pants with the headline “Red Hot Fares & Crew! One way from £9.99”.

The advertising watchdog found the women’s appearance, stance and gaze – together with the headline – would be seen as linking female cabin crew with sexually suggestive behaviour and breached the advertising practice code. “We considered that the ads were likely to cause widespread offence, when displayed in a national newspaper,” it said.

The airline had the brass neck to say the adverts promoted its cabin crew charity calendar and used images taken directly from it. This is the very same calendar I have attacked on many occasions on this blog. I have even debated the calendar with Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour. The calendar in its entirety is sexist and objectifies women.

Ryanair has, of course, been reprimanded by the ASA on a number of occasions over the years. The Guardian and Independent should, however, know better. I say this as a Guardian reader for over 40 years who has always enjoyed and respected its renowned women’s pages.

David Cameron’s stance on the European Court of Human Rights would make Winston Churchill turn in his grave

Labour Party

In what seems like a follow-up to his stupidly short-sighted refusal to join all 26 other EU leaders in signing up to treaty change at the summit in Brussels on 9 December last year, David Cameron is again displaying his ignorance on European matters.

 Cameron now wants to reform the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which is, incidentally, nothing to do with the European Union. While there is probably no institution on this earth which would not benefit from some kind of sensible reform, Cameron’s attack on the ECHR is undoubtedly motivated by a desire to appease the feral Eurosceptic Tories who not only make up much of the Parliamentary Conservative Party but were also instrumental in electing Cameron as Party Leader.

 Cameron obviously knows little about ECHR. In yesterday’s Independent Sir Nicholas Bratza, the British judge who heads up the Court, put forward a sterling defence of its long and distinguished record, citing, amongst other things, the judgements which allowed the media to challenge restrictions on reporting the Thalidomide case and ensured child criminals were not charged in adult courts.

 David Cameron’s attitude to the ECHR becomes even more dislocated when the history of British cases tried in the Court is examined. Over the past 12 months Britain only lost eight of the 955 applications sent to the ECHR. This fact alone makes a complete mockery of David Cameron’s accusation that the ECHR “meddles” in internal UK matters.

Maybe Cameron should look hard at the two cases he believes did constitute interference – allowing prisoners to vote and the ruling that the radical cleric Abu Qatada cannot be returned to Jordan. I believe prisoners have basic human rights, the franchise being one of them. In the case of Abu Qatada, the ECHR would not allow the deportation of a man who would be tried by the Jordanians using evidence gained by torture.

Prisoners voting rights and the Abu Qatada case transported the feral Tory right into a state of apoplexy. This is the real reason Cameron is turning his attention to the European Court of Human Rights. Winston Churchill, who played a key role in establishing the Court, would surely turn in his grave if he knew the levels to which the modern Conservative Party has sunk.

David Cameron is displaying the same breathtaking level of ignorance about the ECHR as he has already done on the European Union. While I am prepared to concede there may be a case for reasonable reform of the ECHR based on proper evidence, this does not appear to be the way Cameron is looking at the issue.

David Cameron is also going it alone again. He either does not understand, or does not wish to understand, that European institutions are made up of many countries, 47 in the case of the Council of Europe which oversees the European Court of Human Rights. I believe that as a lone voice, albeit as the one currently holding the Council of Europe presidency, calling for reform, Cameron will almost certainly fail. To be successful, he will need to build alliances, something he does not seem to have done and may not be able to achieve during the six month presidency.

This is all very reminiscent of the debacle on 9 December. Cameron left the Brussels summit with nothing. We know he did not circulate the British demands to the other summit members until the night before rather than two weeks earlier which is the usual practice to allow time for discussion negotiation. We have also heard that Cameron did not involve the UK Permanent Representation to the EU in the preparation for the summit, an extraordinary dereliction of duty which lends weight to the argument that Cameron did not take the summit seriously.

 David Cameron is treating the EU and now the ECHR with utter contempt in order to buy off the rebellious hordes on his backbenches. He is merely engaging in superficial posturing. I very much doubt if push were to come to shove he would actually take Britain out of the ECHR, largely because there would be a huge body of informed opinion against such a move.       

 What I personally want to see from the Prime Minister is honesty. The UK has been in the EU for nearly 40 years and the ECHR even longer. These institutions are part of the very fabric of our society and also have a lot of good in them. Britain is never going to come out of either, so let’s stop kidding ourselves.

I’m Proud to be a Europhile

Labour Party

In yesterday’s Independent their columnist Mary-Ann Sieghart asked ‘Where have all the Europhiles gone?’ I have always been a Europhile, it is why I enjoy being a MEP so much. Here’s my response which the Independent published today:

‘Ms Sieghart asserts that the crisis in the UK would have been worse had we   joined the euro but offers no evidence to support this. The UK had to   contribute significant amounts to bail out Ireland and will certainly be   contributing more in the future through the IMF and other channels for   Greece.

If we look at the course of our economy over the past couple of years, it is   difficult to see that there would have been significant difference for us   had we been a part of the eurozone; our economies are too integrated and   dependent to be anything but deeply affected by events in the eurozone.

Since 2008 the interest rates set by the Bank of England and the ECB have been   very similar. As is naturally the case in economies that are so mutually   dependent, not only have we suffered the same problems over the past few   years, we have also come to broadly similar solutions. Any notion that   refusal to join the euro somehow made the nature of our economy different   from that of Europe is misguided; it simply made interaction that bit more   complicated.

Ms Seighart also mentions that in 2003 the UK was still considered the third   most influential country in the EU. I wonder if that still stands today. Due   to our own disinterested stance, it often feels we are not leading, but   being led. Perhaps we would have had more say in the negotiations over   bailouts, which will directly affect us, if we had joined the euro 10 years   ago when we had the chance. Instead we’re paying the bill while Germany and   France are managing the project.’

Cameron and Osborne should support Gordon Brown to lead the IMF

Labour Party

I find David Cameron’s rejection of Gordon Brown’s bid to lead the IMF quite appalling. I always thought the Conservatives claimed to be patriotic, until recently singing “Land of Hope and Glory” at their annual conference. We now know they do not put Britain first, living up to Winston Churchill’s damning condemnation of a former Tory Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, whom he accused of putting party before country.

Since many believe Gordon Brown has excellent credentials for the IMF post, Cameron and Osborne’s attitude comes not from a desire to support the best candidate, but rather from narrow party advantage.

This Tory-led government would, indeed, find it difficult to blame Gordon Brown for Britain’s economic crisis while at the same time putting him forward for a high-level international economic job. If they came out for Brown, Cameron and Osborne may just have to admit that the global economic crisis had something to do with the parlous state of our economy. Since every Tory and coalition spokesperson has taken all possible opportunities to blame the last Labour government for our economic misfortune, the Tories would lose a major plank of their attack strategy were they to allow this particular rug to be pulled from under their feet.   

Quite simply this Conservative-led coalition prefers to support Christine Lagarde, the French Finance Minister rather than a former Labour Prime Minister in order to be able to attack Labour’s economic record. Gordon Brown is one of us, i.e. British, and should, I firmly believe, be our candidate for the IMF top job. There are times when country comes before party and this is one of them.

I completely agree with James Wolfensohn, former Director of the World Bank, quoted in the “Independent” today following his article in the “Evening Standard”, who said “Gordon Brown has proved that he has the leadership skills, the vision and the determination to bring the world together”. Gordon Brown has also been endorsed by Lord Skidelsky, a cross-bench peer and economic historian, not to mention Labour MP Tom Watson.

Closure of the Women’s National Commission

Labour Party

I was going to write a post about the closure of the Women’s National Commission but this letter in today’s Independent captures my thoughts:

“A vital voice for women silenced

Regarding the Women’s National Commission (WNC), the Commons Public Administration Committee’s assessment of the quango cull (“MPs say bonfire of the quangos is a damp squib“, 7 January) is right on target.

For more than 40 years, the WNC brought the voices of women from across the nations to government on issues of violence against women. Through it, women’s groups big and small were able to bring their expertise to engage positively with Government.

Its abolition now leaves a void, insofar as the Government has not developed any meaningful plans for achieving its stated goal of greater transparency, accountability and engagement with women.

We have heard a vague idea about using more social media. However, a few tweets will not replace the expert consultation and representation brought through the WNC. The WNC was the embodiment of the Big Society at negligible cost. We continue to wish to engage, but by dissolving the WNC the Government has made this task harder, more costly and inevitably less representative.

We agree with the chair of the committee that the whole process was rushed and not thought through properly. It is not too late for the Government to admit its mistake and reinstate the WNC.”

Jacqueline Hunt

Equality Now

Davina James-Hanman

Against Violence & Abuse

Moira Dustin

LSE Gender Institute

Holly Dustin

End Violence Against Women

Naana Otoo-Oyortey

The Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development

Dr Aisha Gill

Roehampton University

Heather Harvey

Eaves Housing for Women.

Claudia da Silva, Richard Chipping

The London Centre for Personal Safety

Annette Lawson

The National Alliance of Women’s Organisations

Lynda Dearlove

Women@thewell / Sisters of Mercy

Vivienne Hayes

Women’s Resource Centre

Ed Balls for Shadow Chancellor

Labour Party

Good to see that Geoffrey Robinson, one of Ed Balls most prominent supporters, has endorsed David Miliband as second choice in the Labour Leadership election in this article in the Independent today.

Since we are reliably informed that Ed Balls knew Geoffrey Robinson was going to go public with this endorsement, I think it’s reasonable to assume that Ed (Balls) agrees with Geoffrey.  In other words, supporters of Ed Balls should put David Miliband as their second choice.   

As ballot papers go out to Labour Party members today, it’s becoming ever clearer that second preferences will count.  So, if you are one of those who absolutely must vote for Balls as number one, please do follow his wishes and put David Miliband as two.

Geoffrey Robinson also makes a strong pitch for Ed Balls to be Shadow Chancellor.

There is no doubt that Ed Balls is head and shoulders above any other possibility for this key role, so important in shaping future Labour policy and leading us to general election victory.  It was, after all, Ed Balls who devised the five tests for joining the Euro, for which he must be given credit, even though I personally was disappointed that the five tests kept Britain out of the Euro in the early years of Tony Blair’s government.

I met all the Leadership candidates on separate occasions when they came to talk to the EPLP during what has proved to be a very lengthy campaign .  Ed Balls demonstrated a strong intelligence and unrivalled grasp of economics, pointing to the obvious conclusion that he is the ideal person to be Shadow Chancellor.  Even his legendary toughness would, I believe, be an asset in the job.