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.
Brussels Labour is pleased to announce our first Branch meeting of 2018 will be “A Conversation with Vice-President Udo Bullman MEP and Vice-President Josef Weidenholzer MEP of the S&D Group in the European Parliament.”
The meeting will take place on 24 January at FEPS, Rue Montoyer 40, Brussels 1000, and starts at 1930 – we look forward to seeing you there.
Please note the following dates for your diary – more information to follow soon.
Theresa May called her snap General Election last June with the aim of securing a much increased majority, in order to make the task of delivering Brexit much easier from a Parliamentary point of view. Despite a towering lead in the polls, unwavering support from certain newspapers, and claims that Brussels was subverting British democracy, come the morning of 9th June the Prime Minister had lost her majority and her mandate for a hard Brexit.
Clearly, there are many reasons why this happened – a resurgent Labour Party, rising concern over austerity and school funding – but the impact of Brexit on voters’ decision making should not be considered lightly. In January I hosted Best for Britain (a grassroots campaigning organisation challenging the Government on Brexit) so they could present their analysis from hard data on the impact of Brexit tactical voting on last year’s UK General Election. Isabelle de Lichtervelde, Best for Britain’s Director of Research, presented the evidence to a packed room of MEPs, staff, and representatives from the Commission.
Their study came to three conclusions: firstly, that Brexit influenced the election after all (in fact the Brexit related vote was key). Secondly, tactical voting helped in depriving Theresa May of her Commons majority. Thirdly, Remain voters may have been crucial in many of the seats that Labour gained or held on to, even in areas where the majority of people voted Leave in 2016.
Labour did best in constituencies where it was the tactical pro-remain choice against the Conservatives, like in Bristol North West. Conversely, Labour did worst where a different party was the tactical pro-remain choice against the Tories, like in Oxford West and Abdingdon. There was some discussion at the event about the viability of the data: is it correlation rather than causation? Does this match with what people were hearing on the doorstep during the campaign?
One of the intriguing statistics to come out of Isabelle’s presentation were those relating to the makeup of the Labour vote. In every region of Great Britain and in every type of seat – safe or marginal, remain or leave – Remain supporters made up the majority of Labour voters. Even in the most pro-Leave areas, Leave voters made up just a third of Labour voters.
Clearly, this is just one analysis of what happened in the UK last year, but for me the lessons we can learn from this are compelling. Labour would be misguided to think that supporting Brexit would not lead to negative electoral consequences; there is far more to gain from turning against Brexit than giving it our support. It is the right thing to do from a principled point of view, and it is the sensible thing to do electorally.
This exciting instalment includes perspectives on the new leadership of the Labour Party’s delegation in the European Parliament, including biographies of new Labour MEPs taking up seats in the Parliament. Summaries of Brussels Labour meetings and opinion pieces give you plenty to read during the festive season.
An email will be sent round in January confirming the first meeting of 2018.
Until then Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Brussels Labour!