Labour Party conference
Brussels Labour, Labour International, and anyone with an interest in European politics came away revitalised and optimistic about Labour’s commitment to internationalism, and its prospects for the 2014 European elections. The European events themselves were lively, well attended, and set out the pro-European case very well.
Brussels Labour’s fringe, co-hosted with the Labour Movement for Europe, was a case in point. Over 150 of the party faithful battled across Manchester through thirst-quenching rain on Sunday lunchtime to hear a well-informed debate “Europe – moving beyond austerity onto plan B.” It was a particular pleasure to see former Brussels Labour Treasurer, Emma Reynolds MP, now Shadow Minister for Europe, speaking against the backdrop of our very own Brussels Labour banner.
Brussels Labour’s Honorary President Neill Kinnock chaired the event, and was as surprised as anyone that the first intervention from the floor was from Tim Montgomerie of the influential ConservativeHome website. I suppose he would be hard-pressed now to find 150 pro-Europeans in the whole Conservative party, never mind at one of their fringe events.
At the EPLP reception, the star turn was supposed to be Eddie Izzard, and I imagine that many of the 900 people crowding the room were there for him and Ed Miliband. But the biggest cheer of the evening was for S&D Group Leader Hannes Swoboda MEP, when he said “we need a strong Labour, in a strong Britain, in a strong Europe.”
It was great to see Axelle Lemaire as one of the speakers at the Labour International and EPLP breakfast fringe , where again it was standing room only. Axelle represents overseas voters in the French parliament, and many of us would like the UK to give us similar representation.
One theme that came across from all European events want that the UK is just about the only country which sees the EU not in terms of whether it should move left or right (and move on from Camerkozy austerity) but only whether we should be in or out. Glenis Willmott MEP’s plenary speech argued cogently for the Labour to set out a progressive vision for Europe, in particular with initiatives such as the Youth Jobs Guarantee, and although Ed Miliband’s speech as leader was light on detail, he gave a clear commitment to engagement in Europe and internationalism.
This year Labour Party conference will be held in Manchester from 30 September to 4 October.
Based on current membership numbers, Labour International is entitled to send four delegates to conference, one of whom should be a youth delegate (under 27 years old).
Brussels Labour is considering providing some help to support a youth delegate from Brussels Labour to attend conference this year. To be considered, you must have been a member of the Labour Party for at least 12 months, be a member of Labour International, and be able to attend the entire conference.
If you would like to be considered as a delegate to conference, please send an email to the Secretary explaining why you should be considered. The deadline is Tuesday 5 June 2012.
If you would like more information, please contact the Secretary or another member of the Brussels Labour Executive Committee.
You might have thought the first Party conference after we lost power and did so badly in the general election would be a subdued affair tinged with introspection. But the atmosphere at this year’s conference was intense and energetic. Of course it had its moments of drama (especially the leadership election results on the day before conference) but none of these dented the clear sense that the Party is determined to move forward in a confident and united manner.
The media, ever keen to find a negative angle, seemed to be reporting on a different event from the one we attended. Yet the election of the new leader and his messages have accelerated the pace at which people are joining or rejoining Labour.
Much was made about the new generation, but Ed Miliband was at pains to stress that it’s not about age but about attitude. He managed the tricky manoeuvre of breaking with the past while clearly retaining Labour values and acknowledging the considerable achievements of the Labour government.
This year’s Brussels Labour fringe meeting, organised with the EPLP, attracted a record attendance of 250. Chaired by Brussels Labour’s honorary president, Neil Kinnock, the speakers included Emma Reynolds, a former Brussels Labour treasurer and now an MP, who began her intervention with a plug for Brussels Labour. Another speaker, Douglas Alexander MP, commented that Emma is one of the stars of new intake with a brilliant career ahead of her (she is already one of five Labour members on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee). The other speakers were Massimo D’Alema, a former prime minister of Italy, and Richard Howitt MEP.
All speakers stressed the importance for the UK’s own interests of active involvement in a strong EU. At the global level, the G8 has given way to the G20 but there is a real risk that the power relations are being dominated by the G2 of the United States and China: this needs to be turned into a G3, with an active and united EU voice.
Richard Howitt emphasised that a strong common EU foreign policy is vital for British national interests. The new External Action Service had been difficult to set up because of the lack of preparation, but thanks to Cathy Ashton and the EP’s use of its new powers, it was now taking shape. Massimo D’Alema emphasised the potential of the EAS but the need for a strong policy: the mere existence of it was not a guarantee of effective external action.
Douglas Alexander urged that we move on from talking about the reach or otherwise of the EU to understanding the implications of the rise of Asia. China’s role at the Copenhagen climate talks showed the change taking place in the balance of power. We need too to move from a narrative which depends on making the case for the EU by emphasising its role in keeping the peace (important but backward looking) to a forward looking perspective with an emphasis on four key areas where an EU collective approach is vital: climate, security, trade, and poverty.
Emma pointed out that the current government is demonstrating an outdated, imperialist view of the UK’s role in an increasingly multipolar world with a reliance on bilateral rather than multilateral relations. They overestimated their UK’s role in the world and underestimated the EU’s. As she put it, for William Hague, nostalgia is the way to the future.
Belinda Pyke | Chair, Brussels Labour
More conference photos are available at flickr.com/brusselslabour
At this year’s Labour Conference the European Parliamentary Labour Party will have a stronger presence than ever. Along with the Europe Reception held on Saturday evening, at which the EPLP welcomed the new leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, the EPLP has fringe meetings throughout the week, in collaboration with Brussels Labour, the Foundation for European Progressive Studies and the GMB.
The EPLP will also have a brand new stall, brimming with the latest information on Labour’s work in Brussels and Strasbourg.
The EPLP events programme and a schedule of other events at which MEPs are speaking can be found at eurolabour.org.uk and in the files below:
Next Left: Insecurity, fairness and the new social democracy
Monday 27 September, 0800 to 0930 // Lord Mayors Parlour, Manchester Town Hall, 2 Albert Square, Manchester M60 2JT
John Denham MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government,
Dr Alfred Gusenbauer, Former Chancellor of Austria,
Catherine Fieschi, Director of Counterpoint
Sunder Katwala, General Secretary of the Fabian Society
With the support of the Fabian society
European Social Democracy: The Path Back To Power
Monday 27 September, 1230-1430 // Midland Hotel, Alexandra B
Roger Liddle, Policy Network
Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, Party of European Socialists
Claude Moraes MEP, EPLP Deputy Leader
Roland Rudd, Business for New Europe
Rushanara Ali MP
In cooperation with the European Parliamentary Labour Party
The timetable for the leadership election has been announced:
- 24 May: PLP nominations open
- 9 June: PLP nominations close
- 10 June: Supporting nominations open
- 26 July: Close of nominations (hustings will take place from 10 June to 26 July)
- 16 August to 22 September: Ballot of all members
- 8 September: ‘Freeze date’ for new members to participate
- 25 September: Result announced, just before conference
Here is Julian Priestley’s take on the leadership election:
EUROPE TOO MUST BE PART OF LABOUR’S GREAT DEBATE
The more leisurely timetable for electing Labour’s new leader affords the opportunity for a full debate about the party’s future orientation. A few years ago to have suggested that Europe be part of the discussion would have been to invite a reopening of old schisms. But the party has moved on- its rather tepidly pro-European 2010 manifesto provoked no internal schism. More >
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