Visit by Joan Burton, Irish Labour Party deputy leader

Our comrades in the Irish Labour Party would like to invite Brussels Labour members to two meetings with Joan Burton TD, Irish Minister for Social Protection & Labour Deputy Leader, this Friday, 17 February:

“Ireland’s Future in a Changing Europe, Developing a Mutual Understanding”

Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) Brussels Branch
Permanent Representation of Ireland, Rue Froissart 50, 1040 EtterbeekFrom 12.45-14:00 – Snack lunch is provided but pre-registration essential via email to the IIEA.

Meeting with the Irish Labour Party Brussels & friends

Place de Londres, 13 Place de Londres, 1050 Ixelles – map
Meeting starts at 18:00

Guest blog from Julian Priestley: Opening a New Front in France

The election campaign now well and truly underway in France probably matters more directly to us in Britain than the razzmatazz of the American elections in November (providing of course that the more gruesome Republican candidates are weeded out in the primaries).

François Hollande may not have been the first choice for many socialists – his very ‘ordinariness’ places charisma outside his range; his programme is cautiously social democratic, not transformative; other more exciting contenders have – how can we put it delicately? – fallen by the wayside. But he was the democratic choice of three million Socialist party members and sympathisers in an open primary which gave the Left a game-changing kick-off in the campaign.

His assured performance at the rally at Le Bourget in late January, addressing 25,000 supporters (that’s ten times the size of the Sheffield rally and without the gaffes), on TV and in a programme which rightly places all the emphasis on jobs and growth have given him a head-start. In the French presidential and legislative elections in April and May of this year Europe’s Left has its first chance of re-gaining power in a major EU member state since 2004.

This matters. First it means that at the top table in Europe there will be at least one significance voice opposed to the technocratic imposition of continent-wide austerity which is the mantra of the currently all-powerful centre-right. Hollande is committed to re-negotiate the ‘Fiscal Pact’ to be agreed in principle by 25 member states in March.

The French socialists do not reject budgetary discipline but want, quite reasonably to avoid arbitrary straight-jackets being imposed on member states without any accompanying measures for growth, and without adequate parliamentary safeguards. And their party has started working out a coordinated economic programme with German social democrats in the fairly confident expectation that ‘Merkozy’ will be seen by 2013 as a kind of historical aberration. Continue reading

Brussels Labour’s 40th anniversary – help us celebrate!

2013 marks the fortieth year of the UK’s membership of the EU, and it marks 40 years of Brussels Labour.

At the start of 1973, a group of enthusiasts formed what was then called the British Labour Group (BLG) to bring together Labour Party members and supporters in Brussels. The driving force was Alan Forrest (at the time an official at the ICFTU), who became the first Chair. Right from the start, the BLG attracted high level speakers: on 29 March 1973, George Thomson, the first British Labour Commissioner, spoke on ‘Socialism, Internationalism and the Common Market’. And over the years, the Party headquarters came to acknowledge the value of Brussels Labour (though it took some twenty-five years of campaigning to get formal recognition).

We plan to mark this milestone through a number of interlinked strands, including:

  • a project to capture the memories of those forty years through the voices of Brussels Labour members and others;
  • a series of events throughout the year; and
  • a gala dinner (as we did for the 25th and the 30th anniversaries).

We will associate the Party, including our MEPs, in these activities, as well as other sister parties notably from the other countries – Ireland and Denmark – which joined the EU in 1973.

Work is now starting on these three different strands so if you would like to get involved, please let Belinda Pyke know. The intention is to complete the first strand this year so it can be launched at the start of 2013 and we need help in particular:

  • to identify contact current and former members/office holders/speakers (including in the UK);
  • to interview, to photograph, to edit contributions; and
  • to turn all this into an online presentation, maybe also in printed form, linked to narrative about history of BL and also about development of UK and/or Labour Party attitude to the EU.

We will report regularly to branch meetings and in Germinal on the preparations for Brussels Labour’s 40th.

Belinda Pyke

belinda.pyke(AT)skynet.be