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.

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