Brighton Conference Round Up

Labour Party

The Labour Party Women’s Conference held on Saturday was probably the best attended I have experienced in over thirty years. With over 1000 women it was well-informed and lively. It was really heart-warming to see so many Labour women coming together, and goes to show that feminism is alive and well.

Key speakers Harriet Harman and Yvette Cooper told the audience that Labour is the Party for women. The Tories don’t care and the Lib-Dems can’t deliver. In my own contribution from the floor I made sure delegates knew about UKIP’s sexist and racist attitudes plus the fact that they do not have one single woman MEP.

In the afternoon we had an amazing session with Melissa Benn and the feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez chaired by all-time favourite Bonnie Greer. Melissa, whose book on bringing up daughters has just been published, is well known to Labour women while Caroline Criado-Perez spoke eloquently about the online abuse she received following her campaign to get women onto British banknotes.

On Saturday evening I was at the London Labour reception catching up with many old friends including Gareth Thomas, Martin and Sara Linton and Parvez Ahmed

IMG_9523IMG_9525 IMG_9527IMG_9529

On Sunday afternoon we had the first official photos of our Labour MEP team for the 2014 elections. Here’s a behind the scenes shot as we prepared with Ivana Bartoletti, Claude Moraes, Kamaljeet Jandu, Sanchia Alasia, Seb Dance, and Lucy Anderson.

On Sunday evening I held my usual dinner for London Conference delegates, which is becoming quite a tradition. We very lucky this time to have as our guest speaker Bob Mulholland from California, a Democrat campaign strategist and a super delegate voting for Hillary Clinton. Bob gave a great speech, very up front and very entertaining. Politics is certainly different in the USA.



Bob’s key message is that you have to win in order to have any power to bring about change. That’s a message we have to hang on to for the European and local elections on 22 May next year. We must win both these elections so that Labour can take the concrete action this country so desperately needs. These elections are also the last time people go to the polls before the 2015 general election. A strong result on May 22 will therefore have a big impact on getting Ed Miliband into 10 Downing Street.

Earlier in the week, meanwhile, I was pleased to see J.K. Rowling criticise the stigma attached to single mothers. Best-selling author Rowling, who drafted the first Harry Potter book as a lone parent struggling to find work, describes her “slowly evaporating sense of self-esteem”. “Assumptions [are] made about your morals, your motives for bringing your child into the world or your fitness to raise that child,” she says.

Before coming into politics I managed Gingerbread – the single parent support charity of which Rowling is now President. I have seen firsthand how difficult and isolating raising a child alone can be – and how it changes the way you are perceived and treated.

One of the most pernicious consequences of austerity is an increase in this kind of stigmatisation. Words like ‘chav’ or ‘scrounger’ have become commonplace, as have stereotypes about single mums. The Conservatives – with their attacks on benefits claimants and attempts to promote marriage through the tax system – wilfully play into this. As a result mothers are now more likely than ever to be “defined” by their single parent status. To help break this cycle it is vital that Rowling and other success stories continue to speak out.

Sadly not a lot seems to have changed since I was Chief Executive of Gingerbread in the early 1990s.       


Brent Central Labour Party’s Fundraiser

Labour Party


Yesterday evening I had an excellent meal at the Bombay Dreams restaurant/nightclub in Wembley.  I thoroughly recommend Bombay Dreams – it’s the place to go if you are ever in the area.

The occasion was a fundraiser for Brent Central Labour Party and the re-election campaign for local MP Dawn Butler.  Guest speaker  Harriet Harman gave a powerful and inspiring exposition on current political events.

One passage from her speech is worth highlighting.  Harriet talked warmly about Dawn Butler’s work acknowledged widely as she is the current woman MP of the year.  Harriet mentioned that there are two million black women in the UK.  With only Diane Abbott and Dawn that means they represent 1 million black women each.  It is a sad failing of the opposition parties that only Labour has black women MPs.

The Liberal Democrats have a shockingly bad record on this and there is not even a hint of any black or ethnic minority candidate getting a sniff of a safe or currently held seat.  Do have a look at the Operation Black Vote blog if you want to see how Labour continues to lead the way.




Thanks to Dawn’s work on sickle cell I had the opportunity to meet Dr Asaah Nkohkwo, Director of the Sickle Cell Society.  He enjoyed the entertainment provided by the dancers Future showing the local talent in Brent. I also had the chance to catch up with my former colleague Robert Evans who was honoured for his work as a MEP for Brent until the last election by being placed on the top table. It is typical of Robert that he still remains actively supporting and working for the Labour Party.

My last picture shows me

 with Parvez Ahmed, an old friend who has consistently supported the work of London’s Labour MEPs. Parvez is Chair of the Brent Bengali Community Centre. The restaurant was packed and everybody had a great time.

My thanks to Karin Barrett and all the organisers for all their hard work in putting together a fantastic evening. 


Labour Party

Image011Organised for the community press, we  had a fantastic Bengali launch of the European election campaign on Thursday.  Parvez Ahmed, owner of the Shamrat restaurant in Kilburn High Road, put on an event to be proud of, providing lunch for 70 – 80 people.  Thanks to Parvez for all his work and commitment to Labour, which goes back many years.  I remeber Parvez putting on a similar event during the European election campaign in 2004 and I know he has done very many other things for the Labour Party over time.

Following an introduction to the Euro campaign by Baroness Delith Morgan, who I have known for many years as we were both involved in children’s charities in our past lives, we were treated to the star of the show – a presentation to my colleague and friend, retiring MEP Robert Evans.  The Bengali community had organised a trophy plaque with a beautiful inscription thanking him for all the work he has done for them.  Congratulations Robert and very well deserved.Image010

The event was attended by a star-studded cast – local MPs Glenda Jackson and Dawn Butler, local councillors including  Lena Ahmed, Euro MPs and candidates Claude Moraes, Anne Fairweather, Raj Jethwa, Abdul Asad as well as what seemed like the whole of the Bengali media.

I enjoyed the curry very much.  Congratulations also to the chef!