Just had a good couple of days of meeting people to talk about Europe, and what’s at stake in the elections.
I dropped into the event organised in Wakefield by the excellent Linda McAvan MEP to mark International Women’s Day, at which Labour’s leader in the European Parliament, Glenis Willmott, also spoke. Its remit was much wider than just EU matters, but it’s worth reminding ourselves just how much the EU has done to promote equality. If this election goes well for Labour, we’ll have a majority of women MEPs in our delegation in the European Parliament -â€“ a parliament which itself has a far higher proportion of women than does Westminster.
Trade is also a key issue for the European Union. We conduct international trade negotiations acting as a block, which gives us far more leverage in talks with America, Japan and so on and then would be the case if we were negotiating just as little Britain. The EU is the world’s largest single market -â€“ bigger than the USA â€“- and we have real clout in such negotiations. This means that the EU also matters in terms of securing fair trade, and I was happy to join a public event in Wath-upon-Dearne supporting this.
The Dearne Valley is itself a reminder of how the coalfield communities were treated by the Thatcher government and how the European Union provided a lifeline to them with regional funding, especially the coalfield communities’ RECHAR programme. Europe stepped in when our own national government was unwilling to help.
This is something akin to this at the moment, with the manifest reluctance of the government to apply for the European funding that’s available to help flood-hit areas of the country. They really are letting their anti-European prejudice get in the way of much-needed help for victims of the recent flooding. I’ve seen an amusing spoof reply to the eventual letter sent applying for aid — a good laugh, but let’s not forget the tragedies that lie behind the issue.
I also had the pleasure of speaking to Shipley Constituency Labour Party -â€“ my home constituency. A good discussion among friends before CLP secretary Andy McCormick and I retired for a planning meeting at the lovely Brown Cow in Bingley.
Next day was focused on Hull, a city with strong ties to the continent thanks to the Humber estuary — our export highway pointed at the heart of Europe. After a useful meeting in Diana Johnson MP‘s office and a talk with the local GMB trade union about the situation of ununionised foreign workers in certain places in Hull, I then spoke to a packed meeting of Hull North CLP which attracted people from neighbouring constituencies as well as three Romanian friends from the Romanian Social Democratic party, and the chair of a Polish community organisation in Hull.
I was joined as a speaker in this meeting by Eleanor Tunnicliffe, number 3 in Labour’s team of candidates for the European elections in Yorkshire & Humber. She spoke eloquently and powerfully about international women’s day as well as about EU issues.
Sadly there was no time to visit the most recent migrants to Hull: the five penguins that have recently arrived at The Deep!