Me addressing the first meeting of the S&D group in my new role as coordinator.

The elections for political group co-ordinators on the European Parliament Committees is continuing.  Today it was my turn.  This afternoon I had the great pleasure and privilege of being elected as the Coordinator for the S&D (Socialists and Democrats) Group for the Culture and Education Committee.  The S&D group met before the main committee meeting where I was formally elected, following which I gave a short speech of thanks before we moved on to discuss possible events the Group could run, as well as our involvement in the committee. 

I’m very much looking forward to engaging on issues including education, sport and the arts in Europe.  As I have said before, the Co-ordinator’s position is an important one.  In the case of the S&D Group it is close to the House Minority Leader in the United States.

The Culture and Education Committee has a full programme for the next few months.  Amongst other things, there will be legislation on volunteering across the EU, a legislative Opinion on sexual abuse and child pornography, a report on setting up a European digital library for important government documents and an Opinion on internet governance.  Members of the Committee are also planning to discuss culture and education issues in some detail with the Swedish Presidency.

In terms of S&D Group activity on the Culture and Education Committee, I am pleased to report that there will be a delegation to London to discuss the Olympics and visit the site.  We are also intending to hold a seminar in Brussels on the European initiatives concerning further and higher education – the Copenhagen and Bologna Processes. 

Discussing the various issues the culture committee will be dealing with this parliament.

Discussing the various issues the culture committee will be dealing with this parliament.



Labour Party

The shenanigins within the new Tory inspired Group of Conservatives and Reformists (the group set up by the Tories to get away from the more moderate centre-right European People’s Party) appears to have reached new heights.  The only candidate they put forward for one of the 14 positions of European Parliament Vice-President was defeated in a vote late yesterday evening.  Once Michal Tomasz Kaminski of the ultra right homophobic Law and Justice Party (who are one of the members of the Group of Conservatives and Reformists) went down, the way was clear for the 14 successful candidates – five EPP, five Socialists and Democrats (S&D), two ALDE, one Green plus the unexpected election of Edward McMillan-Scott as an independent.           

McMillan-Scott is, of course, a British Conservative and a Vice-President of the European Parliament during the last Parliament.  He either didn’t get support from the Conservative and Reformists (C&R) Group to stand as Vice-President or he can’t bear the new Group and decided to do his own thing.  In any event he was successful, consigning the candidate from the Law and Justice Party, the same Party that banned gay rights marches while in power in Poland, to the scrapheap of European Parliament history.

Protests against the banning of gay rights marches under the Polish Law and Democrarcy Party

Protests against the banning of gay rights marches under the Polish Law and Democracy Party

The woeful showing by the C&R Group in these elections demonstrates what will be a recurring  problem for them.  The new Group is entirely driven by the British Conservatives who form the overwhelming majority of the C&R Group.  Howver, in order to form a political group under European Parliament rules there needs to be at least 25 MEPs from seven member states.  It’s this latter ruling which causes the Tories difficulty.  There are, in fact, only political parties from seven member states in the C&R Group – the absolute minimum.  This effectively means any one of the smaller parties can call the tune by threatening to walk out and destroy the C&R  if their demands are not met.  Considering the Tories are allied with some unseemly bedfellows, including the Belgian Lijst Dedeker with its links to the Vlams Belang (the Belgian equivalent of the BNP) it would appear that the Tories have put themselves in a whole heap of the proverbial.   

And finally, the good news.  45% of the new European Parliament are women and six out of the 14 Vice-Presidents are women.  I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing the figures for the House of Commons were as positive.