Tory MEPs oppose LGBTI and Women’s rights (again)

Labour Party

A version of this piece was originally posted on LabourList last week. It was co-authored by myself and Michael Cashman MEP.

Tory MEPs showed their ugly side again last week – the anti-women, anti-choice, anti-LGBT dimension to the party which David Cameron tries so hard to shield from public view. They packed in behind UKIP to oppose a range of progressive measures on sexual and reproductive rights, health services and education, and the combating of sexual orientation and gender discrimination.

The measures were designed to provide adolescent-friendly sexual and reproductive health services which are in accordance with age, maturity and evolving capacities – and which do not discriminate on grounds of gender, marital status, disability, or sexual orientation. They underlined that sexual education should be non-discriminatory towards LGBTI persons, and stressed that sexuality education must fight against stereotypes and prejudices. In addition, the report said countries should facilitate safe and non-judgemental access to STI treatment, and should have effective inclusive health strategies for HIV prevention, removing laws that penalise and stigmatise those living with HIV.

The proposals also called for access to sexual and reproductive healthcare to be non-discriminatory and for women to have the right to choose the size and spacing of their family. They asked for sex education to “include the fight against stereotypes, prejudices and violence against women”, and to “shed light on and denounce discrimination on the grounds of gender and sexual orientation”. They called on national governments to ensure women who become pregnant as a result of rape can have unrestricted access to an abortion with full legal and health safeguards. Moreover, they stressed that coerced sterilisation and female genital mutilation represent breaches of human rights, and called on Member States to abolish any existing laws that allow such medieval practices.

These are measures which most sensible people can surely agree with. They protect women and LGBTI people, and focus on creating healthcare systems which safeguard the needs of young and in some cases vulnerable people in an effective and non-judgemental way.

So, following on from October’s shameful scenes – which saw the Tories siding with far right parties like the BNP – it was vital that  the draft Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights report went through successfully last week.

Yet thanks in part to Tory votes, it was not passed. Instead it was amended and blocked, with nearly 90 recommendations replaced by a watered down resolution. That Conservatives were among those responsible for this shows that the ‘nasty party’ is still alive and well.

At the moment approaches to birth control, contraception, family planning and sex education vary wildly across Europe. This means young LGBTI people and women in many parts of the EU are not given the information or the options necessary to make the best choices. We in the UK have one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Europe – something which has a knock-on effect for our economy and for the wellbeing of our young people – so this is not an issue we can afford to treat lightly.

One need only look at Finland, where sex education and emergency contraception helped drastically reduce unwanted pregnancies, to see the value of giving women control over their bodies. The enlightened, liberal values which lie at the heart of the European Union are the same values which argue in favour of women being able to choose and of LGBTI people have the right to exist in a safe and open-minded world.

David Cameron’s MEPs are, yet again, failing to stand up to discrimination, and are instead reinforcing prejudice and patriarchy. As Edite Estrela, the author of the report pointed out, they have won the battle but not the war. In so doing they have put themselves on the wrong side of the LGBTI and women’s rights debate, and on the wrong side of history.

Mark Ferguson

Labour Party

Another change, Alex Smith who has played such an important role in Ed Miliband’s Leadership election campaign has had to pull out of today’s fringe meeting at Labour Party Conference – Blogging for Labour – How Social Media can drive a wedge into the Coalition at Manchester Central – Charter 1, at 6pm.

Alex kindly arranged for his colleague at Labour List, Mark Ferguson to step in for him, thank you Alex. Mark is the acting editor of LabourList,who sends me like many others a daily email with all that is happening in the Labour Party. I recommend subscribing which you can do here. I first met Mark when he was Islington Labour’s borough organiser, where he helped Emily Thornberry to increase her majority in Islington South from under 500 to over 3000 and to double Jeremy Corbyn’s majority in islington North to over 12,000. Superbly his organisation helped Labour to win back Islington council back from the Lib Dems by 35 seats to 13.

Mark was brought up in the North-East, before studying Social and Political Science at Robinson College Cambridge, where he was elected President of Cambridge University Students’ Union (CUSU). . He has appeared on the BBC News Channel, BBC Radio 5 and has been interviewed for Channel 4 news. I am pleased he will be joining the panel this evening.

About the Speakers at my Fringe Meeting – Alex Smith

Labour Party

Today’s featured speaker at my fringe meeting at Labour Party Conference is Alex Smith, Editor of top Labour blog LabourList. I am very pleased indeed that Alex agreed to speak at my meeting.  As the editor of a blog which takes a wide range of contributions he will have a different perspective from those of us who produce solo efforts.

Alex has written on politics and web campaigning in both Britain and the United States for Progress, Compass, the Fabians and Total Politics magazine Progressive London, the Government Gazette and House Magazine. He has, in addition, spoken at events for organisations including Progressive London, Compass, Progress, Republic, the Fabians and the BBC College of Journalism.

Alex also has international experience, having spent 2007-2008 in the United States, working in New York and volunteering on the Obama campaign in Brooklyn. He later devised and directed the independent, grassroots organisation Drive for Obama.

At home in London Alex is a co-founder of the Latimer Project and a governor at Holloway School.

Alex is currently on sabbatical from LabourList, and is working as Director of Online Communications and Campaigns for Ed Miliband’s campaign for the Labour leadership.

My fringe meeting is on Monday 27 September at 6.00pm at Manchester Central, Charter 1 in the secure zone.  The other speakers are Tom Harris MP, Jessica Asato and Councillor John Gray from the London Borough of Newham.

About the Speakers at my Fringe Meeting – Tom Harris MP

Labour Party

During the next few days I thought I would give a brief pen-portrait of each of the speakers at my fringe meeting at Labour Party Conference, How Social Media can drive a Wedge into the Coalition.  First off is Tom Harris MP.

With his lively mix of political commentary and personal anecdote, it’s not surprising that Tom Harris, MP for Glasgow South, has established himself as a firm favourite in the ever-expanding blogosphere.  His blog, “And another thing…”, has, in recent years, accumulated a whole host of awards, along with more that 50,000 viewings a month.

This popularity is, in part, a reflection of Tom’s writing style; a former journalist, he writes eloquently, enlivening even the duller policy issues. Perhaps more significant, however, is his willingness  to challenge received wisdom and offer a distinctive personal perspective, informed by his Scottish roots and long history of Labour Party involvement. Tom’s nine years in Parliament give him that all-important insider’s insight whilst, having grown up on a Ayrshire council estate and experienced unemployment and deprivation first hand, he is able to offer an outlook that is sometimes missing from mainstream media.

So, if you haven’t already had a look at Tom’s entertaining offerings, read his blog now at:

My fringe meeting is on Monday 27 September at 6.00pm in Manchester Central, Charter 1.  The other speakers are Alex Smith, editor of LabourList, Jessica Asato who is running David Miliband’s social media campaign and UNISON activist, Councillor John Gray from the London Borough of Newham.


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.


blog, internet, Labour Party, Online media

Thought I would share with my readers John Prescott’s wonderful video that I saw at the LabourList Bloggers’ Breakfast this morning. It was a light hearted message to Peter Mandelson, who was present at the meeting!


bloging, Labour Party

logolabourlist5After my posting on how LabourList could be improved I met Derek Draper. I am pleased he has taken on board several of my suggestions. The contributors are wider and my suggestion for Ann Black’s NEC report to be published has been incorporated. Here is the first one.

Day by day as in any launch things are getting better. They are screening more and more Labour blogs. I still think it is a bit too top heavy and more grassroots contributors would be great. Derek asked me to tell all aspiring bloggers please just get on and submit pieces.

The navigation on Iphones/Blackberries still leaves a lot to be desired. To go to an article you have to scroll through dozens of contributors visages for no good reason. It is still in beta and I hope this will be addressed before the full launch next week.

I will be taking Derek at his word and submitting pieces and I hope other Labour Party supporters will do so to.