We held our meeting in May on the first Wednesday after the European elections, giving us an obvious topic of discussion. Rather than invite in external speakers, we decided to use the expertise already present in our executive committee, with Frazer Clarke and David Earnshaw giving an overview of the elections and taking questions from members.
It was easy for many of us to feel pessimistic about the elections. Although many excellent Labour MEPs were elected, including one new face, there was almost an equal number who sadly lost their seats.
Meanwhile, both the Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats successfully portrayed this vote as a proxy second referendum, with themselves as the parties of Leave and Remain respectively. Despite the issue of a second referendum not being an EU competence, this was still a successful strategy for these elections, with the Brexit Party winning 29 seats, and the Liberal Democrats 15.
However, things look more positive for us at European level. The Socialists and Democrats remain the second largest party, with 154 MEPs. At the time of the meeting, it also still seemed possible that Frans Timmermans could be nominated as the next Commission President.
Unfortunately, since the meeting, the outlook has changed. Last week, the European Council not only chose not to nominate Timmermans as the next Commission President, but decided against nominating any of the lead candidates of the political groups. Instead, they nominated Ursula von der Leyen, German defense minister, for the top job.
This decision has been presented as a victory for either Macron or for Orban, depending on your source. However, whoever engineered this, the rest of the council approved it, save for Angela Merkel, who abstained. This could cause difficulties for the lead candidate process in the next elections. Of course, it is not a done deal; the European Parliament will decide whether to approve von der Leyen later this month.
In this meeting, we also discussed a branch submission to the National Policy Forum. The discussion was led by Jos Gallacher, who is the Labour International CLP representative on the National Policy Forum. Jos proposed a submission to the economy, business and trade commission, which is currently consulting on democratic public ownership.
There were lots of excellent ideas from members in the meeting. If you’d like to find out more about the National Policy Forum or this particular submission, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the executive committee.