Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

The website Netmums (not to be confused with Mumsnet) asked their users what their attitudes towards feminism are and the majority felt that it was an old-fashioned word with little relevance to their lives.  This has led to articles in the Observer and the Independent asking whether or not feminism is dead.  Needless to say, both have concluded that it certainly isn’t.

It’s a strange question, especially when it seems every day there is a new story that demonstrates how the fight for gender equality is far from over.

The week began with the news that research conducted by the industry body Women in Journalism has shown that the front pages of British newspapers are dominated by sexist stereotypes, humiliating photographs of women and male bylines.

It transpites that male journalists wrote 78% of all front-page articles and men accounted for 84% of those mentioned or quoted in lead pieces, according to analysis of nine national newspapers, Monday to Saturday, over the course of four weeks.

The only females to be regularly pictured in the period were the Duchess of Cambridge; her sister, Pippa Middleton, and the crime victim Madeleine McCann. The three males most likely to be photographed were Simon Cowell, whose biography was published that month; Nicolas Sarkozy, who was fighting an election, and Prince William.

We then were treated to a pretty interesting demonstration of Romeny’s real feelings on gender equality in the second round of presidential debates this week as well.

It says something when a man trying to become the next president of the United States can make such a spectacular gaffe when talking about employing women, but Mitt Romney did just that this week.  As governor of Massachusetts, he explained: “We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said: ‘Can you help us find folks?’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.”  And this was supposed to show people his feminist credentials.

Instead, he managed to conjure an image confirming every feminist’s worst fears about a Romney presidency; that he views women’s rights in the workplace as so much business admin, to be punched and filed and popped on a shelf. Worse still, it was irrelevant to the question he’d actually been asked, about pay inequality. And, according to several fact-checkers, untrue. He didn’t ask for the binders full of women. The list was compiled before he even took office. It wasn’t just a gaffe: it was a Freudian slip, a filibuster and a falsehood.

It also wasn’t even the daftest part of his answer. That would have to be this bizarre promise: “We’re going to have to have employers in the new economy, in the economy I’m going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they’re going to be anxious to hire women.”

So anxious, they’ll hire women. Subtext: so desperate, they’ll hire anyone. Even women.

Again, not only is it stupid, but it’s addressing a question no one has asked. The problem is that women are paid less for the same jobs, not that the labour market isn’t flooded enough for employers to take a charitable gamble on them.

Romney’s attempt to paint himself as a feminist only proved he doesn’t know what the word means. That’s why whole binders full of women won’t be voting for him.

Britian would be a political pygmy without the EU

Labour Party

Britain is at present sleep walking into political pygmy land without even realising where the country is heading. The euro crisis has provoked the ultimate challenge not only to the future of the European Union but also to that of the United Kingdom. As the EU possibly gears itself up to take hard decisions about further fiscal integration, with the inevitable consequence of further political co-operation, the UK would do well to consider its long-term future.

Britain’s decision not to join the euro in the late 1990s was undoubtedly based on sound economic criteria. Unfortunately most UK commentators on both economics and politics remain smugly sure that the current sovereign debt crisis in the euro zone vindicates the decision not to join the single currency. Few, including David Cameron’s coalition government, are, however, giving any thought to the future political realities of Britain’s current position.

The euro zone’s only realistic response to the Greek crisis and the looming chasm in Spain is to think beyond monetary union. In an incredible leader on 20 May, the Sunday Timescame out in favour of a united states of Europe, referring to Robert Mundell, a Nobel prize-winning economist, who set out the conditions under which a single European currency could function – fiscal union, wage flexibility and the ability of people to move between states to find work.

While the Mundell scenario is, I am sure, too much for Europe’s present leaders, the Economist this week came up with a far more acceptable proposal for greater financial and fiscal control at EU level. Although the end result of such moves would not be political integration as it is generally understood, it would inevitably give the EU more power and more political clout.  

It is my firm belief that moves towards further political integration, at least for the 17 EU member states in the euro will be the long-term outcome of the euro zone crisis. The 17 may increase to 22, 23 or even 24 since joining the euro was a condition of EU accession in 2004. Were this to happen, the two-speed EU model, often touted as the answer to Britain’s semi-detached position towards the European Union, simply will not work.

The British people, our government and our media need to be made aware of the consequences of Britain being outside a further integrated European Union.

The world is currently, and always has been, divided into power blocks, generally based on some recognised common interest. Once the euro zone crisis metamorphoses into a stronger European Union there will be four such blocks – the United States of America, China, India and, of course, the European Union. (I have excluded Russia as its future remains unpredictable).

Britain needs to take on board what it will mean for us if we were to position ourselves outside a European Union which is politically stronger with more integrated fiscal and financial arrangements. The only possible conclusion is that further European integration without the UK will isolate us in the wider world. If Britain wants to get anywhere near the position we held in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when Britannia really did rule the waves, we have to be a real leader in the European Union. There is quite simply no other way.

Therefore, in order to remain at the global top table, Britain needs to take some very tough decisions. If we remain detached from the EU and let the European political project develop without us, we will no longer be one of the world’s leading political powers. We will not have that crucial “x” factor, the sense of being a world leader with the pride that goes with it. Our only hope of achieving something resembling our old imperial confidence is to be at the heart of Europe both politically as well as economically.

The European Union, the bold phoenix to emerge from the ashes of the Second World War, is one of the most visionary political projects in modern times. The EU’s success has been to unite a continent fractured and constantly at war since the fall of the Roman Empire. Remarkably, this twentieth century coming together was voluntary rather than enforced by brutal power. It is now time to move the EU forward with Britain playing a vital role at the heart of Europe.