Category Archives: Branch meetings

Andy Burnham – ‘I will reconnect Labour’

Note: Ed Miliband also addressed Brussels Labour on the same evening. For a summary of his meeting, click here.

Andy Burnham, MP for Leigh and former health secretary, was the third leadership candidate to address Brussels Labour. He laid out his vision for the future of the Labour Party and his thoughts on Europe, making his case to be Labour’s next leader.

He started with a bold statement that underlines what he considers to be his unique selling point: “I can give Labour something the Tories don’t have, I can connect to the people who thought Labour wasn’t on their side”. He said Labour did many good things in government, was right to be pro-business and to support job and wealth creation, but slipped up when it appeared anti-union, and seduced by power.

Andy Burnham addresses Brussels Labour

Andy Burnham said that immigration was the biggest issue on the doorstep during the election campaign and that we have to deal with it directly, adding that it was the failure to deal with the knock-on effects of immigration (on housing, benefits, and public services) that was the problem. “People are not xenophobic,” he said, “but we hadn’t helped them deal with change.” He maintained that free movement of labour in Europe should be a priority, especially since it is a two-way street.

Andy pointed out that his own Dad worked abroad when it was tough finding work in the UK. He acknowledged that those in Westminster did not listen to what Labour MEPs were saying about equipping people with the skills and protections to face the reality of a more mobile workplace – for example, through the Directives on agency and posted workers.

Andy made it clear that he did not just want to talk to the Labour heartlands, and that Labour needs to be credible in opposition. However, it is important to oppose cuts to the future jobs fund, the reduction in university places, and cuts to the Sheffield forge masters. He pointed out that the LibDems had campaigned for cuts to be delayed until the recovery was secured, so he argued that there is not a democratic mandate for cutting the budget now, as the coalition is set on doing (and as demonstrated the following day in the emergency budget).

Andy Burnham said that it is important to make a positive case for Europe, and for Labour to be the internationalist force in British politics. He said we to communicate better the successes that have been achieved at the European level – for example, on passenger rights and on mobile roaming charges. He admitted that the proper case for a Europe that improves the lives of ordinary people had not yet been made – and yet it could be, with good news on tackling bankers’ bonuses and on workers’ protection. Now is the time to point out that by isolating themselves, and aligning themselves with the far right-wing in the European Parliament, the Tories have lost their influence. In contrast, he said, Labour should come together with the wider Labour family, including the unions and sister parties, to make a progressive case for fair politics. Continue reading

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Fighting for fairness: Ed Miliband makes his case for the leadership

Ed Miliband speaks to Brussels Labour

Ed Miliband spoke to Brussels Labour Party members, without notes, for over twenty minutes, setting out his vision for the Labour party under his leadership.

In a clear, well-structured speech, he set out five key elements:

Firstly, the need for a different concept of the political economy: Ed believes that Labour’s reliance on the free market and free distribution did not take us far enough, and more effort is needed to tackle equality and the gap between ‘rich’ and ‘poor’.

As an example he said that the banks that were recently ‘nationalised’ could be put into ‘mutual’ ownership – rather than just selling back to the private sector.

Secondly, the need for further reform of the state: further reform of the House of Lords and votes at 16, for example, were two initiatives that could make the state more democratic.

The third element was the role of the state in people’s lives. The need to balance intrusion (such as closed-circuit television, which he supports) with freedoms.

For the fourth element he spoke passionately about the importance of people’s lives outside the world of work – free time, community and environment.

Finally, he spoke about foreign policy and the need for values to determine our alliances. As an example, he used the disappointing
Copenhagen climate change talks: Ed believes that on the one hand, the UK had been effective in persuading the US to support climate financing for the poorest countries, but that the lack of a common EU position weakened our influence in the negotiations.

This section was very reminiscent of the 1997 ‘ethical foreign policy’, launched by Robin Cook. Continue reading

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Honesty, authenticity and new politics – David Miliband makes his leadership pitch to Brussels Labour

David Miliband addresses the meeting. For a larger size, click the image.

David Miliband, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, addressed a packed meeting of Brussels Labour this evening to make his pitch for the Labour Party leadership. David offered his vision of the future and of the road back to power for Labour – and outlined the values that would guide his leadership.

Before a group of around 60 Labour members and supporters, David began by thanking Labour members for their hard work in the general election. Without the resolve, drive, and hard work of ordinary members, Labour would have faced a ‘wipeout’ on the scale of the 1983 General Election defeat. The media and money were stacked in the Tories’ favour; however, conversations on the doorstep saved several seats for Labour, such as Birmingham Edgbaston, where Gisela Stuart was narrowly returned.

David said he took heart from the successful local campaign, and said it highlighted the need for Labour to engage again in the “politics of community organisation”. We won 400 council seats on 6 May; we have a base upon which to build. But we need to make sure that we don’t need to lose again – as in 1959 and 1992 – to win again.

To get back to winning ways, David Miliband outlined the need for Labour to do three things: be honest, be authentic, and to change the way we do politics.

We need to be honest about why we lost, he said. We had the second worst result since the 1930s. We had a ‘Southern Disaster’ that went beyond the ‘Southern Discomfort’ described by Giles Radice after the 1992 defeat. We polled only 16% in the South-East, and were almost wiped out. Although we lost a similar number of percentage points in some northern seats, we had a comfortable cushion, and held on. In the South, this was not the case. The leadership let down the membership, and we forced people to vote Tory – without forcing the Tories to win the argument.

We need to be authentic in what we believe, and how we say it. No more triangulation; instead, we need to find the authentic voice that Gordon Brown found in the last week of the General Election campaign. We need to show our passion about education, about tackling climate change, about devolving power not only to local councils, but to people, and about having a compassionate international policy – all points backed up with examples of action by David in his time in government. He argued that we need to reform, and not just invest in, our public services. And he defended the war in Afghanistan as a “war of necessity” to build a secure society in and future for that country.

We also need to change the way we work. Labour was a successful political machine in the 1990s, but it was a machine based on discipline. This worked when we were winning, but sowed the seeds of destruction that grew up when times got tough. We need to get back to community-based organisation, he said, invoking the success of Barack Obama. Labour has a tradition of ‘people before programmes’, and we need to re-discover it. He pledged that his party would be open – and cited a hustings that we went to in Coventry, where one-third of the 250 people present were not party members. By the end of the meeting, Labour had 50 new members. We need to involve our supporters, as well as our members, to grow the party and make it successful and appealing. Continue reading

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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.

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Brussels Labour events in January, February and March

The next Brussels Labour event will be on Wednesday 27 January from 19.30 at Arthur’s, 26 Rue de Treves.

Our guest speaker will be Jason Anderson, WWF Brussels Head of Energy and Climate, speaking on ‘What next after Copenhagen?’

For future events, we hope to have a joint social evening in February with sister parties. We are planning a crash course on online campaigning, with Jon Worth as our tutor.

And the AGM is scheduled for Wednesday 24 March. Further details all these events will be shown here once they are firm.

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2009 highlights

We were very pleased to welcome UK Trade Commissioner Baronness Cathy Ashton to speak at our meeting on November 10.

The annual John Fitzmaurice Leture was given on 14 October at the Centre by ETUC President John Monks. A full report will appear in Germinal, but click here for the text of his speech.

Brussels Labour again hosted a fringe meeting with EPLP at Labour Party conference.  Chaired by Brussels Labour honorary President Lord Kinnock, on the subject of “Trade and Aid – European responses to global poverty”, it should be a fascinating debate.  Speakers were European Commissioner for Trade, Cathy Ashton, Europe Minister Glennys Kinnock and Michael Cashman MEP – or three peers and a queer, in Michael’s memorable description of the panel!

September 9.  We had a speaker from the Irish Labour Party on the forthcomming Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

June 2 – we welcomed Labour’s new MEP, Derek Vaughan, as speaker.  He gave his thoughts on the election campaign, and his hopes for his first term.

May 27 – European Election campaign leafletting

April 29 – Joint hustings with Brussels Liberal and Conservative associations – Brussels Labour was ably represented by Richard Corbett MEP

The Brussels Labour Exec was invited to a brief private meeting with Harriet Harmann whilst she was over to meet the EPLP in February – read more here

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