Two Brussels Labour executive members running in the local elections; Jo Wood in the City of Brussels, and Keir Fitch in Etterbeek. Though neither won a seat, they both ran great campaigns and we would like to thank everyone who showed up to support them.
We were pleased to see PS win in the City of Brussels with Philippe Close as mayor However, for the rest of Brussels and Belgium we need to ensure that the PS and SP.A stay strong, particularly in the approach to the European elections. On the left, the greens made gains, whilst the far-right, though far from a successful night, did win the commune of Ninove.
On 27th September, the city of Brussels honoured the memory of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, by naming a square beside the Ancienne Belgique music venue she often visited in the years she lived here, as Place Jo Cox, in a formal ceremony.
We heard from different speakers during the ceremony, including Jeremy Corbyn, and Jo Cox’s sister, who gave an incredibly moving speech to those gathered.
Also speaking was Richard Corbett, leader of UK Labour MEPs, which was fitting as Jo Cox spent various campaigns for ActionAid UK, an international development charity, focusing primarily on fighting poverty and tax avoidance by multi-national companies.
He said to those gathered, “All of us were very touched when we heard of the decision of the City of Brussels to name this square after Jo Cox. The gesture will live on for many years, reminding us of the values she stood for, and of her time in Brussels, in the European Parliament. Many of us remember how enthusiastic and lively she was, and the commitment she gave to everything she did. It was a privilege to work in the vicinity of her, let alone closely with her. I think for many of us, not just in our political family, but of course, especially in our political family, our hearts were torn apart when we heard the terrible news that day, just a few days before we voted in that terrible referendum in which she was campaigning to remain part of our European Union. But we must take courage. We must live up to the values that she stood for, live up to the principles that she lived by. We must fight on for the politics that we believe in, which will make our society a better place. We must create a better world, where people all take to their hearts the words of Jo that are so widely remembered, “we have more in common than that which divides us.”
I was lucky enough to be one of two Brussels Labour members who were elected by Labour International as delegates to this year’s Labour Party Conference. While Brexit was a big issue at conference last year, it was nothing compared to this year, held just six months before the UK is scheduled to leave the EU. Although Conference heard a range of motions, the Brexit one undoubtedly caused a stir. From a delegate meeting to agree on the exact wording of a motion for a public vote on Brexit after so many CLPs submitted motions concerning this, to Keir Starmer telling Conference that he believed Remain should be an option in any public vote, it was clear that nobody was happy with the costly, chaotic Brexit Theresa May is trying to force upon the country.
The Brussels Labour event at Conference, Where Next for Labour in Europe, was well attended, and it was an opportunity to hear from a range of speakers we do not always have the chance to see speak. Alongside Richard Corbett and Clare Moody, we heard from Rupa Huq, Brendan Howlin and Olivia Bailey, and I was able to talk to members of the Labour party from the UK about what Brussels Labour does.
Walking to the conference venue, I was greeted by various anti-Brexit groups formed by people of varying positions on the political compass. As I flicked through the conference guide, I realized it was going to be quite a task to attend all the Brexit fringe events, not least because there were multiple ones happening at the same time. I think this really showed the urgency Labour party members feel regarding Brexit.
Although it was difficult to do so, I was pleased I managed to find time to attend some fringe eventsgreat opportunity to reignite passion for certain topics and discover and get involved in great campaigns and initiatives. I heard Luciana Berger MP and others speak about mental health and local governments, as well as Stella Creasy and others talk about violence against women activists. Overall, conference was a great opportunity and I would thoroughly recommend the experience to anyone that hasn’t been and encourage those who have to go again. When I went this year, I really expected it to be the last conference before Brexit, but with Labour passing a motion calling for a general election or a people’s vote, and with the events of the past few weeks, I’m not so sure.
Just in time for the Council summit when the UK was supposed to
have found a solution on the Irish border, Brussels Labour heard from its very
own Paul Hagan. We heard not just about the impact of Brexit on the border in Ireland,
both in relation to goods and the Common Travel Area, but also on how it has
affected the Republic of Ireland. It was fascinating to hear the process, and a
good reminder that politicians still aren’t talking about this as much as they
should be.The meeting came just as
revelations came out about possible
collusion between DUP, the Leave campaign and Cambridge Analytica.
At the meeting we also passed a motion reaffirming Labour’s six
tests for a Brexit deal and the decision of part conference in 2016 to gain
approval for the final settlement through Parliament, and potentially through a
general election or referendum. The motion also calls for our branch delegates
to party conference to vote in line with these goals.
Brussels Labour were part of the over 100,000 strong rally in London demanding
a People’s Vote. Rather than asking to redo the referendum, the People’s Vote
UK campaign focuses on making sure the public get a final say on the Brexit
When the UK voted in 2016, all that was on the table was in or
out. Yet there was no discussion of what voting out would look like. Some did
so to fund the NHS, a promise broken a day after the campaign. Some believed we
would stay in the Single Market and Customs Union, which the UK government has
now said we will leave.
All these decisions will have a huge impact on the UK for decades
to come. It’s time the people got a real say on their future, once the terms
are known. This is why our members joined the demonstration to call for a
John Howarth became an MEP in June last year, after the snap general election saw the departure of Anneliese Dodds to Westminster. In our April meeting, we heard about John’s experiences so far from an MEP, including the strange feeling of coming to Brussels knowing your time is limited. Nevertheless, John has been incredibly active since taking up his post, making the most of the opportunity of being in the European Parliament before we leave. We’re also lucky that he’s another MEP who is not afraid to call out the pitfalls of Brexit. As we creep ever closer to March 2019, it’s crucial that people like him are speaking out, and Brussels Labour looks forward to hearing more from him
The theme for this month’s LGBT History Month has been ‘mapping the world’, and LGBT Britons resident in the UK enjoy a whole gamut of rights that they would struggle to have in many countries worldwide. Of course, this is in part due to changes in political culture and society, but this is also due to work and campaigning by the Labour Party and trade unions.
Bar same-sex marriage, all major developments in LGBT rights have taken place under Labour Governments.
Harold Wilson’s Labour Government passed the first major development, the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which decriminalised homosexual acts in private between two men.
Despite the reticence to repeal the Thatcherite Section 28 (Labour only begun legislative proceedings to repeal the act in 2000, eventually achieving it in 2003), the 1997-2010 Labour Governments introduced and passed a whole corpus of LGBT legislation.
This included the bringing forward of the age of consent for homosexual men and women in line with heterosexual sex; the ending of the ban on LGBT people serving in the armed forces; the extension of adoption rights to LGBT individuals and couples; the ending of discrimination against gay or lesbian partners for immigration purposes; the banning of discrimination in the workplace with the introduction of the Employment Equality Regulations; the creation of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, giving LGBT people statutory body protection; the introduction of homophobia as a hate crime and increased sentencing for homophobic hate crimes; the creation and implementation of the Gender Recognition Act… I could go on.
Lots done. But lots still to do.
Whilst better than any other major party, Labour needs to do more to increase LGBT representation in the party, and be mindful of increasing LGBT diversity. Most LGBT representatives are white, cis, and non-disabled, and the party needs to have initiatives that encourage more people outside of these groups to stand as candidates.
Once they do stand, we need to make sure that they are welcomed and included.
Research by the Fabian Society found that just 11% of local CLPs have an LGBT officer, and LGBT people are still presented with challenges that are not commonly encountered by many of their straight counterparts, especially when having an online presence. Labour needs to become more responsive in calling out, investigating, and even suspending ‘keyboard warriors’ members who abuse Labour LGBT representatives and members. The furore around the election of Lily Madigan, a trans woman elected the women’s officer for the Rochester and Strood CLP, provoking a GoFundMe page entitled ‘Keep All-Women Shortlists Female!’ has shown that the Labour Party still needs to make massive strides forward for all members of the LGBT community. Corbyn unequivocally stating on Andrew Marr that trans women are women is, of course, a start, but we still need to do more.
Mealy-mouthed responses, like those seen following the homophobic abuse of Angela Eagle during the 2016 Labour Party leadership election, are not enough.
I look forward to the next Labour Government continuing the progress of previous Labour governments in giving LGBT people more rights, whenever that may be.
John Fitzmaurice Lecture | Britain and Europe : What Next?
We are delighted to welcome Sir Jonathan Faull to give the Annual John Fitzmaurice Lecture When: 21 February | Doors open 19:00 | Speeches start 19:30 Where : Press Club, Rue Froissart 95
For logistical reasons, please register here.