Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

It was encouraging to hear that the numbers of women on corporate boards has crept up again. However, we are only talking of a minimal increase of one per cent, but at least it’s heading in the right direction and it’s happened less than a year since the last figures were published.

So, the percentage of women on corporate boards in the European Union now sits at 18.6%, up from 17.8% in 2013, the European Commission figures revealed.

Although an increase is encouraging, this remains far short of the 40% target set by the commission. In addition just over 3% of Europe’s biggest companies have a female CEO. This is a poor figure and needs improving quickly which is why I believe there is a real need for quotas for women sitting on company boards. Three per cent is woeful and shows that there is still so much to do in order to make real impact at a corporate level.

The Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft, revealed in his latest poll that Labour will win in Lib Dem target seats. He also said that Labour is on course for a comfortable majority. There will be an abundance of polls between now and the general election next year, but The Labour Party is right to remain cautious because despite the election being a mere eight months away we still have a lot of work to do; not least fighting off UKIP in their target seats. Indeed we mustn’t lose sight of the real threat they pose and we must be vigilant in dealing with this. To ignore them would be dangerous.

We only have to look across the water to France and the municipal elections to see how well UKIP could do here in the UK. The far-right Front National (FN) won its first seats in the upper chamber over the weekend elections, marking a shift in the political map of France.

Anne Penkith in The Guardian writes, “scored a historic victory in elections to the French senate on Sunday, winning its first ever seats in the upper chamber as the ruling Socialists and their left wing allies lost their majority to right wing parties.” If the FN are starting to gain seats in France there’s no reason to think UKIP couldn’t pose a similar threat in the UK.

Farage aligns with far right group to form a new bloc

Labour Party

I have written an article for New Statesman online analysing Nigel Farage’s attempts to set up a new political bloc (Europe of Freedom and Democracy) in the European Parliament.

I explain how he has in the past tried to appear principled about not accepting membership from those who have previously been members of the National Front or BNP, and suggested this was a reason not to align with Le Pen.

Nevertheless he has invited a group founded by white supremacists, the Swedish Democrats, into his new bloc. “Not only is it hugely hypocritical but it also shows the lengths to which Farage is prepared to go in order to ensure he gets to lead a group within the European Parliament,” I said in my piece. You can read the article in full here.

Marine Le Pen loses immunity as MEP

Labour Party

The far right leader Marine Le Pen has had her right to immunity from prosecution removed following a vote in the European Parliament yesterday.

She will now face prosecution after she compared Muslims praying in the street to the Nazi occupation of France during a National Front (FN) rally in the French city of Lyon in 2010.

The far right leader of the FN, Le Pen, was accused of ‘incitement to hatred and discrimination’ in 2011 when the chief prosecutor’s office in Lyon opened a case against the MEP.

In the speech she made at the rally, which was broadcast by French media, she said that first France had seen “more and more veils”, then “more and more burkas” and “after that came prayers in the streets… I’m sorry, but some people are very fond of talking about the Second World War and about the occupation, so let’s talk about occupation, because that is what is happening here… There are no tanks, no soldiers, but it is still an occupation, and it weighs on people”.

Responding to the vote yesterday, I told the BBC: “Quite rightly, Marine Le Pen will now face prosecution following today’s vote. It’s taken a long time, but she must now defend her actions in a French court and follow the proper legal procedure which almost nobody else in France has immunity from. She is not above reproach.”

Immunity from prosecution means MEPs are effectively covered from any opinions they express within the parliament and this is written into the European Parliaments rules.

However, the rules clearly state that “immunity cannot be claimed when a member is found in the act of committing an offence and shall not prevent the European Parliament from exercising its right to waive the immunity of one of its members”.


Far Right, Labour Party

I posted a status on Facebook recently about leaving a queue because I found myself next to Jean Marie Le Pen MEP, the French National Front Party leader, and had a number of supportive comments. How to deal with a fascist in Parliament?

I am always disappointed to see how warmly some of the staff greet and attend to Mr. Le Pen. Not the black staff of course. Sadly, the National Front poll relatively strongly in the Strasbourg area. Some local people are happy to take the economic benefits of a number of European institutions, with the Council of Europe also meeting here. Yet perversely a xenophobic view of the world provides support for the far-right.

Once I had an important guest and I took them to one of the Parliament’s restaurants. I did not have a booking and it was heaving. The only place we could sit was at a large table of 8. The waitress apologised but offered us to share. The reason these were the only free seats, was that on the other side of the table sat Mr. Le Pen. My guest was as keen as me to decline the offer, and we found a bar with a far better atmosphere, if a far more limited selection of food. Others before me and afterwards declined this unpleasant invitation. Gentle courteous shunning.

On other occasions I have seen the restaurant full, but for the few seats free on Le pen’s table.

Another small way to make one’s point is to never share a lift with Mr. Le Pen. So often he is alone, or with just his assistant in a lift that could easily take 10, you would think he had a problem with wind all the time. Who knows, perhaps he does? I never get that close to find out!