Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

Earlier this week I wrote how Boris Johnson is working hard to show (convince maybe) the Tory Party that he can lead them. Last week he did this by revealing plans to appease the Eurosceptic while not upsetting those happy with the current policy.

The Mayor of London said in an interview with the Times that he would prefer a “minimalist EU stripped down to the single market.”

In my blog I explained: “What this really means is that the social and employment legislation associated with the single market – health and safety at work, maternity rights and much more, will go. This is what the Tories really want. Rights for people at work are, as we know, anathema to many Tories.”

As I stated it’s difficult to see how the EU would agree to such a deal.

Indeed France has already indicated that it’s beginning to lose patience with the UK, after the Governor of the Bank of France said that he wants London stripped of its status as Europe’s financial capital.

Noyer said: ““Most of the euro business should be done inside the euro area. It’s linked to the capacity of the central bank to provide liquidity and ensure oversight of its own currency.”

You can read more on Mr Noyer’s call here.

The government must be careful what it wishes for, Cameron must be measured and as I’ve said all along he needs to be mindful that even attempting to renegotiate powers is not in any way an easy process.

You can read my blog from earlier in the week with more thoughts on this, here.

Jackie Ashley’s article in yesterday’s Observer, suggested that older women are the “nation’s great untapped resource.” She cited Labour as taking the lead in tapping into skills and experience which otherwise go to waste, and she warns the other parties ignore this demographic at their peril.

She explores how the baby boomer generation who enjoyed much greater freedom are now finding that they are ‘sandwich carers’, responsible for children as well as parents.

This week she will be part of an inaugural meeting of a new panel set up by Harriet Harman and Yvette Cooper; ‘The Older Women’s Commission’ will attempt to change attitudes towards older women. It’s an enormous task but this is an interesting idea for a task force which will undoubtedly come up with some innovative and exciting ideas about how we can tackle this issue. Read her article here.

Finally, congratulations to Harriet Harman who last week celebrated 30 years as a Member of Parliament.

The Conservative Party remains deeply divided on Europe

Labour Party

The Conservatives are all over the place on Europe. Yesterday’s Guardian was a veritable treasure trove of Tory tangle.

Writing about the views expressed over the weekend by Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne, the excellent Jackie Ashley saw through their carefully crafted comments. Cameron has said on a number of occasions that the Eurozone needs a deeper structure with further political integration. Meanwhile Osborne pointed out in the Sunday Telegraph that Britain is heavily dependent on what goes on in the Eurozone.

This much is true. However, every time David Cameron has demanded, in his very own imperious style, that the Eurozone sorts itself out, he has also made it abundantly clear that the UK could not be part of the arrangements he espouses for others. Jackie Ashley is absolutely right when she says that David Cameron is effectively advocating a super-state which leaves Britain in grave danger of being overshadowed with little control over our political, as well as our economic, affairs.

Meanwhile the über-Eurosceptic think tank Open Europe has just come out saying that Britain’s exit from the European Union would pose “unpredictable political and economic risks”. This is certainly a turn up for the books and will, I hope, be taken seriously by those who support Open Europe’s general point of view.

So we have the Prime Minister and the Chancellor advocating a European super-state without Britain which, by virtue of its size and clout, will inevitably overshadow its much smaller neighbour, the UK. At the same time an influential strand of anti-EU thought is warning that Britain would be better not leaving the Union.

As if this weren’t enough, in the same edition of the Guardian George Eustice, Conservative MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle and former press secretary to David Cameron, is still fighting the repatriation of powers corner. He maintains. “We can do better that just leave the EU. With the right approach, we could change it.”

Although superficially appealing, I find the Eustice line deeply hypocritical. As I have said many times on this blog, changing the EU, in other words repatriating powers from Brussels to London, is not a runner. Such a change would need the agreement of all 26 other member states – a huge task. The scale of what Eustice thinks possible can be seen if the question is put the other way; why indeed should the rest of the EU allow Britain to cherry pick?

Eustice’s plan is quite simply not feasible. If it were tried in any serious fashion, it would surely lead to Britain leaving the EU, probably slowly and probably without a referendum. The Eustice idea that powers can be repatriated is really the worst of all worlds presented as reasonable and desirable.

Cameron, Osborne, Open Europe and George Eustice do not, of course, represent the views hard-line Tories who want nothing less that immediate withdrawal from the EU. Daniel Hannan MEP has recently repeated his mad idea that Britain should transform itself into Norway or Switzerland, while Douglas Carswell and Bill Cash rarely let up on their hatred of all things EU.

All in all, there are at least four Conservative positions on the EU represented in this short blog post. The Tories are well and truly divided on what is fast becoming one of the current defining issues. It is becoming ever clearer that the Conservative Party has not resolved its internal divisions, and there has always been general agreement that a split party is not good for the health of the government.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

Last week’s UK news was somewhat dominated by the coalition government’s Budget. We were ‘treated’ to a few leaks before it was announced but it was only following the full reading that the full impact really reached us.

George Osborne announced, as predicted, a cut to the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p, obviously to help those who need it the most- the wealthiest in society. And Labour leader, Ed Miliband addressed this head on and rightly had the front bench ‘squirming’ as Peter McHugh in his political sketch for the New Statesman said.

McHugh said: ‘He was on even better form as he demonstrated that cutting the top rate from 50p to 45p was five times better news for us – and not the rich who would be clobbered anyway by a crackdown on tax dodging.

You can read his full analysis here.

Jackie Ashley predicted the Budget would be bad news for women, and said it had to be closely scrutinised by the usual prisms such as class and gender. Gender is important because, as she rightly pointed out, policy is rarely gender neutral, and if last week’s Budget is anything to go by then we see how detrimental it was to women. You can read her full article here.

Yesterday’s Observer broke down the Budget bit by bit and asked two commentators their views. It’s really worth reading this article as it puts much of last week’s rhetoric into perspective.

On gender, one of the commentators – Gavin Kelly, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, a think-tank focusing on low-to-middle earners and former deputy chief of staff to Gordon Brown said that it was important to close the gender pay gap within the next decade.Closing that gap over the next 10 years represents a rare opportunity to spread prosperity.’

He added: ‘This will only happen if there are more quality part-time jobs and a major expansion in affordable and flexible childcare. It will also mean more equal sharing of caring responsibilities between genders. Closing the gap means change for men as well as women.’

You can read the full article here.



Bring Back Feminism

Labour Party

 Two stories in the news today, both in the Guardian, caught my eye. The first was the news that pro-choice groups are now retaliating against the gains made by anti-abortion campaigners. The second was an excellent piece by Jackie Ashley on the debate over the sexualisation of young girls.

Recent developments in the political minefield of abortion rights have been, I believe, deeply concerning. Not only are anti-abortion groups such as Life being invited to have their say on government policy but there are proposals being made within the Conservative Party to both limit the time frame within which a woman may have an abortion and also to force women to undergo counselling should they chose to seek one.

Why are these proposals so appalling? Well, in terms of the reduction of time limits, the number of abortions that are undertaken in the later weeks is actually a miniscule proportion of all abortions carried out. Undergoing a late-term abortion is a horrendous experience that no woman would take lightly and would only be done in the most extreme circumstances. The women who choose to have late-term abortions are often the most vulnerable, women who have been abused or who are unaware of their pregnancy, have very controlling families or find out their child has a severe disability.

I also oppose plans to force women who wish to have a termination to undergo counselling. This is not to say that I think counselling in itself a bad thing. Indeed, if a woman wishes to have counselling for what can be a traumatising experience it should absolutely be provided. But forcing a woman to undergo counselling simply sends out the message that this decision is not hers alone, society has a say, and society disapproves.

Surprisingly, on the subject of the sexualisation of young girls the Conservative Right and Feminist Left find themselves in uneasy agreement, albeit for divergent reasons. The Right, headed by the likes of Nadine Dorries, oppose the sexualisation of young girls because they believe sex to be nasty and dirty and the sexualisation of young girls to be something nasty and dirty happening to children.

Many of us on the Left, however, oppose the selling of padded bras for seven year olds and make up and stilettos as toys for different reasons. This is because, as Jackie Ashley says, these girls “are being groomed – not by pervy old men hanging over computer keyboards, but by today’s ideology-free, value-free consumer culture, which tells them they’re sexually hot or they’re nothing”. The sexualisation and commodification of women is a false empowerment. What kind of freedom is the freedom to take your clothes off or get silicone enhanced breasts? Men don’t feel obliged to undergo cosmetic surgery and grueling beauty routines in order to look “acceptable” within society. Women need to realise that they have simply swapped one form of slavery and societal control for another.

Although the Left and Right agree that there should be something done, it is still for fundamentally different reasons. This is why the Left should not simply sit back and let the religious Right fight this battle. A feminist voice should be heard. This is not only because a lot of the other things these groups have to say about women, such as abortion rights, is poisonous and regressive, but because you can’t change society just by banning things. In order to enact real and lasting change you need to address the way both men and women think about these issues.