The European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP), the Labour MEPs, held our AGM today. Unsurprsingly it was a subdued affair, with all of us feeling the loss of respected colleagues. All credit to Richard Corbett, Glyn Ford and Neena Gill who all came to the AGM, as they are entitled to do. I know I speak for all the EPLP when I wish them the very best and hope they are given useful and gainful employment.
We did, of course, have one newcomer, Derek Vaughan from Wales. Welcome to Derek – hope you enjoy your time in the European Parliament.
The EPLP Officers are:
Leader Glenis Willmott
Deputy Leader Claude Moraes
Chair Richard Howitt
Whip Brian Simpson
Good luck to all of them. We have not as yet made any decisions about Committee membership or posts in the European Parliament. This will happen when we go back to Brussels towards the end of June.
The meeting was addressed by the new Minister for Europe, Baroness Glenys Kinnock, a former colleague, and the first Europe Minister for a very long time who understands Europe and is qualified to do the Ministerial job.
Harriet Harman followed Glenys and received universal acclamation for her role in the European election campaign and the way she handled the sorry saga of MPs expenses in the media.
We, as Labour MEPs, now have to do the very best job we can in Europe and work hard to take the European message out to the country at large. This is where we start out fight to bring home the relevance and the benefits of Europe to the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. There is no doubt that the European cause has been put back some long way by the results announced on Sunday. But this is no time to give up, and I know all my EPLP colleagues will do their level best for Britain and for the Europe.
Since elections are the very stuff of democracy it ill behoves politicians to complain about them. However, I am angry that the fascist BNP have gained two seats in the European Parliament ousting my hard working, intellectual heavyweight colleague Richard Corbett in Yorks and Humber and preventing the election of the excellent Theresa Griffin in the North West. It is indeed a sad day for this country when racists gain elected office, and something on which we should all reflect.
In particular we need a considered analysis as to why the BNP have gained this foothold, and the steps we should take in future to regain the seats lost to them for the democratic political mainstream. Since I don’t believe the British people are basically racist and that the overwhelming majority of the voters are decent and fairminded, ousting the BNP by democratic means is definitely achievable. We should define our strategy sooner rather than later to prevent the racists and fascists gaining further momentum.
As well as Richard Corbett, sad farewells to Glyn Ford and Neena Gill. Both were good colleagues and will be sadly missed. It is unfortunate that elections are lost as well as won, and although all of us who put ourselves forward for elected office know that things will go down as well as up, it doesn’t make losing any easier. My sincere wishes for the future to Richard, Glyn and Neena. I’m sure all of us Labour MEPs fortunate enough to be returned to the European Parliament are thinking of you.
Just a final word about London. The Labour result in the capital was significantly better than most other parts of the country. My thanks to everyone who voted Labour, to Ken Clark, the London Labour Party Regional Director, all the staff at the London Labour Regional Office and to those many Labour Party members who worked so hard campaigning to return Labour MEPs. It may not have been a great result, but we can be proud in London that we bucked the national trend and maintained our share of the vote at virtually the same level as at the last European elections in 2004.