Congratulations to Poland’s Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski

Labour Party

You may have seen this article in yesterday’s times by Poland’s Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski.

A veteran of the Solidarity generation, Mr Sikorski ticks, in his own words, “every box required to be a lifelong member of the Eurosceptic club”. He is even acknowledged by his heroine Margaret Thatcher in her book “Statecraft”.

Yet he believes in the modern European project and emphasises that Poland will do its utmost to make it succeed.

Mr Sikorski is, of course, in the European mainstream. This is yet another example of just how isolated the British Conservatives find themselves.

Mr Sikorski goes much further in his article, busting seven myths about the EU regularly peddled in Britain.

Myth 1 – Britain’s trade with the EU is less important than its trade with the rest of the world.

In fact half of UK exports go to the EU. Until recently Britain traded more with Ireland than Brazil, India and China put together. In 2011 the UK trade deficit with China was £19.7 billion. Between 2003 and 2011 Britain’s exports to Poland increased threefold.

Myth 2 – The EU forces Britain to adopt laws on human rights that are contrary to the British tradition

In fact these rulings come from the European Court of Human Rights, which is not part of the EU but part of the Council of Europe, originally set up by the UK and pre-dates the EU.

Myth 3 – The UK is bankrupting itself by funding Europe

In fact, the EU budget is a mere one per cent of the GDP of all EU member states. The UK’s annual net contribution to the EU is £8 – 9 billion a year, similar to that of France and less than Germany. It equates to just £150 a year for each person in Britain. Moreover, UK companies have benefitted enormously from EU cohesion fund investments in Central and Eastern Europe. These are new markets for this country. The British Government estimates that every household “earns” between £1,500 and £3,500 from the single market – between five to fifteen times the UK’s budget contribution.

Myth 4 – The UK is drowning in EU bureaucracy

In fact there are 33,000 people working for the European Commission compared with 82,000 at HM Revenue and Customs. Spain has nearly three million bureaucrats.

Myth 5 – Britain is being taken over by EU legislation

In fact EU Directives are not imposed on high from Brussels. British elected representatives and officials in the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers approve and sign off EU legislation.

Myth 6 – The European Commission is a hotbed of socialism

In fact there are many examples of the EU helping to dismantle monopolies and maintaining competition regulations, for example the Open Sky and the subsidies to business.

Myth 7 – The EU stops hardworking Britons working longer hours than feckless continentals

In fact the average Pole works 40.5 hours a week, the average Spaniard 38.1 and the average across the EU is 37.2. In the UK we are slightly under the EU average at 36.2 hours a week.

Mr Sikorski has given us valuable information on the reality rather of the EU rather than the fantasies we hear all the time. Maybe we are also seeing the beginning of a more mature and sensible attitude to the European Union by some of those sections of the British media who have in the past been somewhat economical with the truth about our membership.

Excellent Result in Glasgow North-East

Labour Party

The result in Glasgow North-East can only be interpreted as a massive endorsement for the Government – there is quite simply no other way of looking at it.  Just in case you missed it, here is the actual result:

Labour – 12,231 votes (59.39%)

SNP – 4,120 votes (20%)

Tory – 1,075 votes (5.22%)

BNP – 1,013 votes (4.92%)

Solidarity – 794 votes (3.86%)

Lib Dems – 474 votes (2.30%)

Total votes cast – 20,595

Voter turnout – 32.97%

Although I didn’t manage to get to Glasgow, I did do a couple of stints at telephoning canvassing from London.  It always looked as if we would do well, as indeed we have done.

There is, however, one downside – the turnout.  Despite the well documented fact that turnouts in by-elections are notoriously low, 33 per cent is poor.  I gather from BBC Women’s Hour today that the number of women participating was much lower than that for men.

This is deeply troubling.  Our democracy requires engagement and women will only really make inroads in terms of improving their lives if they take part in the political process.  I hope the Labour Party will now undertake a serious analysis as to why the turnout among women in Glasgow North-East was so low.  We need some answers so that women in future are more encouraged to go out and vote.