Monday, July 20, 2009

Not in my Name

Last week saw the fascist BNP shamefully take up their seats in the European Parliament. Together with Labour MEPs, I welcomed to Strasbourg GMB members and the 'Hope not Hate' campaign who were here to present a petition against the BNP called 'Not in my Name' -

Already the BNP has been making waves, with Nick Griffin suggesting the EU's immigration policy should consist of sinking immigrants' boats. He also betrayed his misogyny in calling my good friend and colleague Glenys Kinnock, the new Europe Minister, a "political prostitute". As an MEP and tireless campaigner Glenys has done so much for the people of Wales and to address the problem of poverty in the developing world.

The BNP claim to represent Britain but they do not. It is Labour MEPs who will stand up for British people and will do so with tolerance, respect for diversity and with a politics of inclusion, not division. I am determined to make sure that the BNP's stay in the European parliament is short lived.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Things are beginning to take shape

It's been an interesting week here in Strasbourg. We have been meeting to decide on the constitution of the new European Parliament and who gets the influential positions and membership of the Parliament's legislative committees.

For me, as leader of Labour MEPs it is the culmination of weeks of work, which began after the European elections, to get the very best possible outcome in terms of influence for our reduced group of Labour MEPs.

I believe I have done just that - we have a strong candidate for the Chair of the influential legislative Transport Committee, the highest-ranking vice-president of our European political group (Socialists & Democrats), as well as a strong presence, including a vice-chair, on the Economic and Monetary Affairs legislative committee - of vital importance given the huge reforms to our continental and global financial regulatory system which are now necessary in the wake of the global financial crisis. We will also be strongly represented on the influential Environment Committee at this most important time for tackling climate change and environmental pollution.

Our priorities are clear, we need to provide a strong voice where it matters most, on the important issues of today - global problems which can only be solved by European and global cooperation. I'm proud that Labour MEPs will be able to play such an influential role in shaping these vital decisions. Despite our reduced numbers we have retained our influence.

This contrasts remarkably with David Cameron's bedraggled Tory MEPs who don't know whether they are coming or going. Their influence, just at this crucial time, has plummeted. Their self-enforced exile from the mainstream centre-right grouping in the European Parliament (the EPP) means they have will have none of the key posts or allies necessary to build up support for their position. They are in disarray, with their most senior MEP, Edward McMillan-Scott leaving them and taking with him the only senior post they could have hoped to gain - that of Vice-President of the European Parliament. He stood for it as an independent candidate, and won the support of MEPs, eliminating the Tory group's own candidate in the process! And as if that wasn't bad enough, the disaster-prone Tories couldn't even win the chairmanship of the new parliamentary grouping they formed with the Polish and Czech right - that went to a Pole! In fact their whole group looks to be in danger of collapse - it would take just two MEPs to walk out for that to happen - a move that would see Conservative MEPs sitting alongside the likes of the BNP and the French Front National as non-attached MEPs.

The upshot is that the Tories, despite their superior numbers, have lost their influence due to a rash promise made by David Cameron back in 2005 in order to win the leadership of the Conservatives. While you might think that as leader of Labour MEPs I wouldn't be shedding too many tears, it does mean that on key issues of national interest, Britain's voice in the European Parliament will be under-represented and that is bad news for all of us.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A good day for mobile phone users

Two mobile phone-related pieces of good news today.

The first is a small, albeit important example this week of how common sense can prevail and how common rules can be beneficial and cost-saving.

The largest mobile phone manufacturers in Europe have "voluntarily" agreed to a universal standard phone charger , putting an end to the folly (both environmental and financial) of having different sized chargers for different makes and even different models of phone. I know I have accumulated a wide array of different sized chargers over the years which I no longer use and I imagine most other people are the same. To read some of the articles in the press today you would not know that this was in fact negotiated by the European Commission and the agreement was only possible due to the implicit threat of EU legislation should the manufacturers fail to agree.

The second piece of good news is that from today (July 1) legislation passed by the European Parliament means that mobile phone roaming charges within the EU will be reduced even further. The maximum cost of making a call when abroad in another EU country will be 39p a minute (€0.43) and the price of a text message will be capped at 9p (€0.11). Additionally data charges for e-mails and internet use on mobile phones should go down. Although no cap on the consumer price was set, the wholesale price (from mobile phone company to mobile phone company) will be capped at 85p (€1) for 1MB of data and this saving should be passed on to the consumer.

Not bad for a day's work!