Honeyball’s Weekly Round-up

Labour Party

David Cameron has had over four years to ensure he has placed leading female Tory MPs in senior positions within his cabinet but has left it until now to actually do anything about it.

So it was absolutely right when Labour’s shadow homes secretary, Yevette Cooper, said that it was just a ‘last minute worry’ for David Cameron, and that he had shown to have a real blind spot over women and that he was doing too little too late. He has, of course, just three women in a cabinet of 27 people. This is woeful and frankly not good enough.

It is quite clear that Cameron is, with less than a year to go, quite worried about how the lack of women in his cabinet will look to the electorate. As Cooper said, if he was in anyway serious about having women in his cabinet he would have invited them four years ago.

Meanwhile, The Tories also showed their lack of regard for women when senior figures within the party dismissed plans by Nicky Morgan, the party’s spokesperson on women that it would look at and consider its position on all women shortlists following the next election.

Senior sources were revealed to have downplayed her plans and said: “It was categorically not going happen”. It’s disappointing when any political party shows it has a lack of interest in encouraging women to participate in the political process, but it’s especially disappointing when the party is also supposed to be running the country. Just 16% of Conservative MPs are women, this is compared to 33%for Labour. And still just 22% of people in the House of Commons are women.

At the same time as we discuss the issue of female representation domestically, Jean-Claude Juncker has been criticised for failing to encourage women to commissioner posts. He said last week he would do all he can to encourage more women to the positions. It’s quite easy to say these things, but (as I asked last week) what actually is he doing to make this happen?

Juncker will announce his full line up of commissioners next month but he will surely be concerned if only a handful of these are women.

Labour to Put Women’s Safety at Centre Stage

Labour Party

Women’s safety is at the heart of Labour’s agenda, the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, told Jane Martinson in the Guardian as she discussed plans to introduce a watchdog for women’s safety.

If elected Labour will appoint a commissioner to improve women’s safety, promising to “put violence against women and girls at the heart of its crime-tackling agenda,” which would be something akin to the children’s commissioner.

The remit of the watchdog would focus on the traditionally difficult to identify and prosecute crimes such as female genital mutilation and forced marriage.

Cooper said this government has let women down and this is absolutely right.

Signalling she is serious about the proposals Cooper said that a Labour Government would also introduce a violence against women and girls bill in its first Queen’s speech.

I have said before women must feel safe in the knowledge that they will be taken seriously if they report crimes made against them. It’s scandalous that conviction rates remain so low and that still, two women a week are killed by partners or former partners. Announcements like this indicate how a Labour government can really make an impact, precisely because it will take issues like these so seriously and really develop robust ways to address them.

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

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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.       


UK Government embarassing U-turn over European arrest warrant

Labour Party

It was an embarrassing climb down for the Home Secretary, Theresa May, yesterday who was forced to agree that Britain should remain a participant in the European arrest warrant scheme.

She had made promises to change British law so that the European arrest warrant could not be used to extradite UK nationals over what she said were ‘trivial or dubious charges.’

But she confirmed in a statement to Parliament, to the heckling of some of her own back bench euro sceptic MPS, that the fast track arrest warrant was among 35 EU criminal justice measures the government was seeking to retain.

Another embarrassing U-turn for the government and yet again the coalition government failed to understand the political significance of making such a move had it pursued it further. It also illustrated how the coalition is prepared to put politics above the interests of the country.

Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, responded by saying many of the measures May “is seeking permanently to opt out of have been replaced already, did not operate anymore or had never been used, while others were just agreements to cooperate.”

If this is May’s way to seek repatriation of powers then it couldn’t be a worse strategy mainly, but not only, because this specific piece of legislation a serious policy on crime and justice. This is an important power and is not a game- something Yvette Cooper reiterated when responding to May’s announcement.

I’ve said it before and I repeat it here, some significant crimes have been resolved swiftly in the United Kingdom as a result of the European arrest warrant. For example, we were able to catch and bring to justice the 7/7 terrorists as a result of this; an indication alone of how useful it is and therefore how important it is to protect.

Lords Committee slams May’s repatriation plans

Labour Party


The House of Lords EU committee said ministers have “failed to make a convincing case to repatriate powers.” That was their verdict after the government presented plans to opt out of 130 European Union Police and Criminal Justice measures. Their claim is that staying in would weaken the UK’s ability to fight crime – but in reality the opposite is true.

The most powerful part of the measures is the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) which came into force in 2004 and it has meant It can take as little as 14-17 days to extradite a suspect in some cases. And in cases where there are objections to an extradition it could take up to a year to resolve; now it can be sorted in approximately 48 days.

The effect of the EAW  is best illustrated by the rapid extradition of  those wanted in connection with the attempted London bombings in 2005 following the 7/7 bombings, a point made before on this blog.

Why then, the Government wish to out of such an important, package is to put it mildly, bewildering. They believe the UK does not need to be bound by them – but rather it can negotiate itself back into individual measures where it is in the national interest to do so.

But as the House of Lords Committee said, this is not a convincing argument and any opt out would include leaving the EAW. But other important measures will also be lost such as the speed with which DNA profiles and fingerprints are shared, along with joint work in several areas like terrorism, human trafficking and football hooliganism.

By opting out of these measures and attempting to re-join or ‘cherry pick’ those which it wishes to be part of is irresponsible, it will be an expensive exercise – to change something which is already effective, not to say an extremely complicated process.

Here is the summary of the committee, it sums it up completely:: “In light of the evidence we have received, we conclude that the government have not made a convincing case for exercising the opt-out and that opting out would have significant adverse negative repercussions for the internal security of the UK and the administration of criminal justice in the UK, as well as reducing its influence over this area of EU policy.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper called this a “shameful dereliction” of Theresa May’s duty in an attempt to appease Conservative Eurosceptics.

And there was a typically weak response from Liberal Democrat cabinet minister Danny Alexander who said: “I am are clear that any final package will have to ensure the UK’s continued participation in all the key measures which are important for public safety.”



Who should carry the greatest burden? Not those with the broadest shoulders, apparently

Labour Party

In my round up yesterday I discussed the changes to child benefit which came into effect on the 6 January. The Labour Party has now released figures compiled from the shadow equalities office-Yvette Cooper- which show the extent of these cuts. One of the most significant things to note is that the vast majority of those affected by the cuts will be women. In fact two-thirds of those affected overall by the 1% benefit and tax credit freeze are women. On average, 98% of those hit by Monday’s child benefit change are women.

Welfare spending will be voted on today, with the Government insisting that welfare payments must be cut in order to bring the country’s debt under control. But 4.6 mn women who receive child tax credit directly will be hit by this directly this includes 2.5 million working women and more than a million women who care for children while their partners work.

The poorest are penalised the most as low-paid new mothers on £12,000 a year will lose £1,300 during pregnancy and the baby’s first year via cuts to maternity pay, pregnancy support and tax credits. They will be hit by a further £422 cuts to child benefit at the same time.

Speaking to the Guardian yesterday, Yvette Cooper said: “Once again women are bearing the brunt of David Cameron’s damaging policies and paying the price for this government’s economic failure. George Osborne and David Cameron came up with real cuts to tax credits as a political stunt, whilst giving millionaires a tax cut. The shocking truth is that working women are paying the price of these Tory boys’ political games.”

Even influential and right wing think-tanks believe the removal of child benefit is an irresponsible change and labelled the move as ‘incompetent’. The Institute of Economic Affairs called it “probably the single most incompetent change to the benefits system since the second world war”.

In an interview for BBC news this morning, Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “At a time when you are cutting taxes for the richest in society and you penalise the most vulnerable and those who go out to work-those people doing the right thing, the ‘strivers’ that Mr Cameron says he stands for, it absolutely doesn’t add up, it’s the wrong thing to do.”

And that’s the point surely, whether you are working or not, it is both the most vulnerable and ordinary working people who will be most affected. I’ve heard Cameron use the term ‘those with the broadest shoulders should carry the greatest burden,’ but it was clearly an utterly meaningless remark in this instance because he never had any intention of the richest bearing the burden of anything, but it will be the most vulnerable who will bear the greatest burden.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

Earlier this week I wrote how Boris Johnson is working hard to show (convince maybe) the Tory Party that he can lead them. Last week he did this by revealing plans to appease the Eurosceptic while not upsetting those happy with the current policy.

The Mayor of London said in an interview with the Times that he would prefer a “minimalist EU stripped down to the single market.”

In my blog I explained: “What this really means is that the social and employment legislation associated with the single market – health and safety at work, maternity rights and much more, will go. This is what the Tories really want. Rights for people at work are, as we know, anathema to many Tories.”

As I stated it’s difficult to see how the EU would agree to such a deal.

Indeed France has already indicated that it’s beginning to lose patience with the UK, after the Governor of the Bank of France said that he wants London stripped of its status as Europe’s financial capital.

Noyer said: ““Most of the euro business should be done inside the euro area. It’s linked to the capacity of the central bank to provide liquidity and ensure oversight of its own currency.”

You can read more on Mr Noyer’s call here.

The government must be careful what it wishes for, Cameron must be measured and as I’ve said all along he needs to be mindful that even attempting to renegotiate powers is not in any way an easy process.

You can read my blog from earlier in the week with more thoughts on this, here.

Jackie Ashley’s article in yesterday’s Observer, suggested that older women are the “nation’s great untapped resource.” She cited Labour as taking the lead in tapping into skills and experience which otherwise go to waste, and she warns the other parties ignore this demographic at their peril.

She explores how the baby boomer generation who enjoyed much greater freedom are now finding that they are ‘sandwich carers’, responsible for children as well as parents.

This week she will be part of an inaugural meeting of a new panel set up by Harriet Harman and Yvette Cooper; ‘The Older Women’s Commission’ will attempt to change attitudes towards older women. It’s an enormous task but this is an interesting idea for a task force which will undoubtedly come up with some innovative and exciting ideas about how we can tackle this issue. Read her article here.

Finally, congratulations to Harriet Harman who last week celebrated 30 years as a Member of Parliament.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. So it was apt to be reminded of some of the figures relating to domestic violence. Yesterday’s Sunday Mirror carried an exclusive story which revealed “victims of domestic violence make one in five of all 999 calls to police in some areas.”

The article called this a hidden crime which affects over a million women each year. Of course it is not always and exclusively women who are affected by this crime but nevertheless funding has been cut which is essential to helping support victims of domestic violence across the UK.

The article revealed the area with the highest proportion of domestic violence reports was Merseyside, where they made up 21% of all emergency calls. In both West Mercia and Lancashire the figure was more than 18%.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper called for action on the problem, saying a new organisation should be set up to tackle domestic violence. She also said ministers haven’t helped and have compounded the problem by slashing funding to refuges.

She told the Sunday Mirror’s Vincent Moss: “This is a hidden emergency for over a million women every year who call out for urgent help but are not ­properly heard,” she added. You can read the full story here.

Meanwhile on the question of Europe, yesterday’s Observer had a well written piece by Andrew Rawnsley who warned those who are rushing to remove us from Europe not to wish too hard.

This is something I’m often asked about and I think it’s important to remember that in order to have a say in Europe, a strong and influential voice we must not deny ourselves representation a the top table. We must be there to negotiate on trade, borders and security and all the things which affect us as a nation.

Rawnsley’ s article said that Tony Blair is to make an “important intervention”, this Wednesday where he will tell a business audience that “the case for Europe is no longer principally about maintaining peace on this continent but about projecting power in the world. Out of the EU, Britain will be denied representation at the top table when Europe negotiates – on trade, for example – with America and China,” he is expected to say.

Rawnsley concludes that those who are calling for us to leave Europe are not influential in comparison to those who are gunning for us to stay in Europe. He says: “So on the fundamental question, in or out, here is the line-up of forces. On the side of remaining in the European Union: the Lib Dems, the Labour Party, an important number of senior conservatives, the vast majority of business and the vast majority of trades unions.

“On the side of leaving: a lot of Tories, a few noisy newspapers, hardly any businesses and hardly any trades unionists. That is why I say the ‘outists’e are unwise to toast victory before the battle has even been properly joined.” You can read his article in full here.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-up

Labour Party

A petrol crisis emerged last week in the UK which was entirely of the coalition government’s own making.

Following irresponsible comments by cabinet office minister Francis Maude suggested that people should store petrol in jerry cans (in preparation for an impending strike, which for the time being does not look set to happen).

This was further compounded a day or so later by energy minister, Lib Dem Ed Davey who told the public, in an interview for the BBC, but also here on the Telegraph, that people should ensure their petrol tanks are slightly more full than usual, maybe two thirds full instead of the average one third full.

These unhelpful comments were going to cause equal amounts of unrest and inevitably it lead to further panic buying.

As Labour’s shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, rightly pointed out at the end of Andrew Marr’s breakfast show on Sunday (1 April), the government was seeking to make a political point and it couldn’t have chosen a more irresponsible way of doing so. It created a national panic and had to go to lengths to address the situation it had created.

Health Secretary, Andrew Lansely, offered a weak defense yesterday during Sky News’ Dermot Murnaghan programme, which you can read about here in the Telegraph.

Meanwhile Cooper also appeared in print, only this time discussing serious policy issues in yesterday’s Sunday Mirror.

She unveiled plans which would ensure the Police are forced to respond to every single complaint about anti-social behaviour within 24 hours under plans unveiled by Labour.
This is a far tougher stance than moves planned by Home ¬Secretary Theresa May. Her plans, which will be launched in a trial later this summer, will only work when five ¬different residents make a complaint, only then will police and councils are forced to act.

Cooper condemned this move in her article as ‘crazy’ the Tory plan to force at least five neighbours to complain about anti-social behaviour before any action is taken and vows ¬Labour’s response would be much tougher.
She also criticises the government’s decision to get rid of ASBO’s a successful way of targeting anti-social behaviour which was set up under the last Labour government. You can read her article in yesterday’s Sunday Mirror here.

Last week I reported on The House of Lords Constitution Committee has just produced a report which warned targets may be required in order to encourage more women and ethnic minority judges in the same was as quotas for company boards is under consultation. The aim, of course, is to better reflect society, and the aim is to do this in the next five years. You can read more on my blog here.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

‘The Human Rights Act should be axed’, said Theresa May this weekend. It has according to the home Secretary caused problems for the Home office.

The Act which enshrines the European Convention on Human Rights in to UK law, could go as early as next year if the Act is replaced by a Bill of Rights.

Somewhat unsurprisingly Cameron supported his Home Secretary, and -following his comments on the Andrew Marr show this morning- the only hold-up preventing it from going through so quickly is because of an agreement with the coalition.

It’s a reckless move and is well summed up by the head of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, who said:’ only a “pretty nasty party” would promote human rights in the Middle East while scrapping them at home.’ You can read more on this here.

It will be another busy week for the political commentators and sketch writers as they move their machines from Liverpool to Manchester and tell the world about the Conservatives big ideas.

Already we are aware of some of the big plans: Cameron has (apparently) pledged to build more affordable housing for example, but what is coming across clearer than any message which he actually intends to get across, is the disarray the party is in over its stance on Europe. Cameron seems unable to contain divisions over the EU and I suspect it will play out this week at conference quite vociferously.

Last week was of course the Labour Party conference where ED Miliband gave something of an impassioned speech. I hope to hear much more of this and as I said on BBC News last week when I was interviewed by the political correspondent Norman Smith, the Conservatives are in disarray over the economy- and this is beginning to be reflected in the opinion polls.

Also during Labour conference last week, Yvette Cooper told delegates that Cameron’s ‘sexism’ is driving away women, claims Labour. The shadow home secretary suggested the coalition was increasingly out of touch with women and the issues that matter to them.

She also told the Labour conference in Liverpool that Mr Cameron’s public persona was increasingly putting off female voters.

What do you expect when your Prime Minister dismisses many female MPs who question him, very publically, during PMQs and in exceptionally patronising ways? We all remember Labour MP Angela Eagle, being told to “Calm down, dear”, and then there was the attack on one of his own members only last month (the MP Nadine Dorries)…whatever next dear? You can read the story in full here.