• The lighter side of Parliament

    Aside from the serious work that goes on, most parliaments also have their amusing and quirky side. Perusing the bookshop at Westminster, you find plenty of books with anecdotes and tales of the lighter side of politics and some of the more colourful characters who have inhabited the building. The European Parliament too has its share of yarns and […]

  • A constructive agenda for Europe

    Had a productive weekend in Milton Keynes at Labour’s National Policy Forum. This is the body which does the detailed drafting of Labour Party policy, for submission to Labour Party conference for final approval. Of course, this year is particularly important, with the general election being only ten months away — so much of the work done this weekend will […]

  • Dishonourable exception

    In a democracy, people who want to change or undermine the system have the option to gather support and stand for election within that system — but they then have to decide what to do if they’re elected within the very system they want to break up. If you’re elected to a parliament of which you […]

  • Hill for Commissioner?

    After a good deal of speculation, David Cameron has unexpectedly nominated a little-known peer, Lord Hill, as Britain’s next European Commissioner. This is a bizarre choice. Following his car-crash of a negotiating strategy over Juncker’s nomination, Cameron desperately needs to claw back some British influence and credibility in the eyes of neighbouring countries by securing […]

  • Remembering Srebrenica

    This weekend, I spoke at two commemorations of the Srebrenica massacre — one in Leeds (at the Makkah Masjid mosque) and one in Bradford (at the town hall) — marking the 19th anniversary of the cold-blooded massacre of over 8000 Muslims in the Bosnian civil war. I visited Srebrenica three years ago. Like others in […]

  • UK universities report on EU benefits

    British universities are represented in many arenas by Universities UK. One of their current campaigns is to spread the word about the value that UK universities, and through it our world-leading research and higher education generally, gain from British membership of the EU. A few highlights: The UK does disproportionately well in securing EU research funding, which stimulates […]

  • Leeds Bradford airport

    Travelling regularly again between Brussels and Yorkshire has enabled to renew my acquaintance with Leeds Bradford airport. The changes over the last five years are striking — though not all to the good! For a start, it’s now impossible to drop someone off by car, or pick them up, without paying a parking charge — […]

  • The war behind the smokescreen

    David Cameron claims that the Conservative party has united behind his much-vaunted ‘renegotiate and decide‘ agenda for Britain in Europe. But, behind the scenes, forces are marshalling for position ready for a battle of epic proportions — a battle whose opening skirmishes are taking place right now. Pro-European Tories are being ruthlessly hunted down by hardline eurosceptics. Some have withdrawn from […]

  • Yorkshire Sculpture Park

    Post-Tour, Yorkshire wows with sculpture

    It was a pleasant change from parliamentary discussions about committee chairs when I had the pleasure of hearing Peter Murray, founding director of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, speak at the European Land Art Network yesterday. This EU-funded project brings together the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and others which display art in a natural setting or use nature as part of art. […]

  • The point of democracy

    I predicted yesterday that UKIP would start bleating when their group’s candidates for a committee chair didn’t receive support from other political groups in the European Parliament. On Twitter, they are now claiming this breaks “EU rules” and that democracy requires them to be given a committee chair! So let’s get something straight. There is […]

  • Who gets what?

    Today in Brussels, Parliament’s new committees meet for the first time to formally elect their chairs and vice-chairs. Traditionally, before we proceed to elect our important posts at the start of a term, the main political groups try to reach an agreement allocating these posts to candidates from each group in proportion to the size […]

  • The first week in Parliament

    The arrival of new and old MEPs in Strasbourg for the first European Parliament session has been described as feeling like the first week of a new school year — with new pupils (sorry, Members) getting lost, sorting out who gets which room (sorry, office), finding out who will be in which class (sorry, committee) […]