Sp.a conference

by Belinda Pyke, Chair, Brussels Labour

Sp.a, the Flemish socialist party, held its annual conference in mid-October in Brussels. Frazer Clarke and I took part in the programme for international visitors on behalf of the Labour Party. The Party’s international secretary, Said El-Khadraoui MEP, greeted visitors and chaired the opening session, a panel on social democracy in Europe. The other panellists were René Cuperus from the Dutch socialists (and an unsuccessful candidate in the EP elections) and Javier Moreno, MEP between 2004 and 2009 and now Secretary General of the Global Progressive Forum.

The central question for the discussion was why, despite some political successes in recent national elections (notably around the edges of Europe – Greece, Norway, Portugal…), the overall results for socialists were still poor – cf the EP election results – so how can socialists become once again the biggest political force in Europe. Not surprisingly there were no clear answers, and the discussion swung between the pessimism of Cuperus (whose thesis is that socialism is threatened by a pan-European populist revolt to which Christian Democrat parties are seen as offering a more stable solution: see his recent article) and the optimism of Moreno who pointed to the basis for the PSOE success ( a leader, a programme, a plan to mobilise the voters – and a record of delivery once in government). Their views differed too as to whether the EU was an obstacle (Cuperus seeing it as inherently technocratic and illiberal) and Moreno arguing more for the opportunities it presents if underpinned by a clear social democratic vision. He gave the example of the financial crisis and the Forum’s recently launched campaign on financial reform.

The afternoon was devoted to workshops. One of these, on family policy, included a speaker from the UK, Kate Green from the Child Poverty Action Group, who reported on the development of family-related policy under Labour. She described the impact of the minimum wage and of the childcare strategy pointing out that, however, the focus on work as a way out of poverty had meant that greater attention was being given to the quantity of jobs and not enough to their quality. She noted too that there can be contradictions between policies for children and those which support greater labour market participation, citing the example of pressure on lone mothers to return to work yet incentives for mothers in couples to stay longer out of the labour market. In her view, there is an opportunity for a new debate on the left on all these issues especially at a time of recession.

Standing in the Brussels regional elections

by Yonnec Poulet

Running in the 2009 regional elections in Brussels was a fascinating experience. It was my second campaign, having run for the regional elections in 1999. The elections took place in the context of the financial crisis and its hard impact on the daily life of citizens. My campaign therefore focused on social issues and on how to improve the lives of residents of Brussels. Despite being a rich area and the capital of Europe, Brussels faces serious social problems with high levels of inequality.

The PS promoted projects such as employment (especially for young people, as it abnormally high in Brussels), housing renovations, greater mobility, and better infrastructures for youth. With such initiatives, significant improvements can be made in Brussels. We want Brussels to remain affordable for everyone and to ensure a high quality of life. Thanks to the actions of the Socialists, in governments for many years, we succeeded in renovating many of the poorer neighbourhoods and create new housing. A lot remains to be done, however, so were we campaigning energetically to promote our values and our project. Continue reading Standing in the Brussels regional elections

German SPD after the federal elections

by Dr. Frank Michlik, LL.M (Cantab.), Member of the Executive Committee of the SPD Brussels

On 27 September 2009 federal elections were held in Germany. The results for the four parties which will be represented in the Bundestag (Federal Parliament) were as follows:

CDU/CSU: 33.8%
SPD: 23.0%
FDP: 14.6%
Die Linke: 11.9%
Grüne: 10.7%

The CDU/CSU will form a coalition with the Liberals (FDP) for the next German government. The SPD lost 11.2% of votes compared with the last federal elections in 2005 and more than 50% of the absolute votes compared with the 1998 elections (20.2 Mio in 1998, 10.0 Mio in 2009). The worst result for the Social Democrats in a federal election in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany has brought an end to the grand coalition between CDU/CSU and SPD.

These are the mere facts, but what are the reasons and what does the future look like for the SPD in Germany? Continue reading German SPD after the federal elections

General election campaigning

With the General Election now set for 6 May, we are full swing into campaigning mode. Check back here regularly for details of campaigning events and how to help back in the UK.

Remember, we are planning two UK Campaiging weekends.

The first will be on 17-18 April to help in a London constituency on Saturday pm and Sunday am. You will need to make your own transport and accomodation arrangements, though there may be some seats available by car.

The second weekend will be in Hastings and Rye, 1-2 May. Here, we will share car transport. Again, you will need to arrange accomodation, but we can give you details of a Labour-friendly hotel.

Please let the secretary know (secretary@brusselslabour.org) if you will join us for either weekend.

More details on Hasting campaigning:

James Royston, who works in the EPLP office, is Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Bexhill & Battle and is currently in the UK campaigning. Bexhill & Battle is twinned with next-door Hastings & Rye, a key marginal seat, and James will be campaigning in both seats.

If you are interested in helping out further, beyond the 1-2 May weekend, please get in touch with James directly at jwroyston@gmail.com or on +44 7926 660 950.

James and the team will be out canvassing every day in both constituencies, and there will be lots that needs doing for anyone not comfortable with door-knocking, so any help is greatly appreciated! Both constituencies are close to Ashford Eurostar station (1h40 from Brussels but not all trains stop in Ashford) and James should be able to help set up accommodation too.