Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Let's not turn our back on Europe

On Monday morning I delivered my speech as Labour’s Leader in Europe to Party Conference.  With Europe in economic crisis I felt it was important to get a strong message across about how we in Britain work with our European neighbours.  Often I’m told that the recent chaos must mean that the EU is somehow broken, that the Eurosceptics were right all along.  And those views are increasingly coming from within our own party.

What is clear is that the supposed remedies to the current turmoil are making things worse, not better.  This is where the real failure in Europe lies; in the hollow ideology being driven by the European Right.  Simply they say we must have less; less investment in the technologies and industries of the future, less opportunities for our young people, less employment and less power for working people.

And it is that ideology which is winning out across the EU, as the Left in Europe is at its lowest ebb since before the Second World War.  As recently as 1999 we were in power, or sharing power, in 12 out of the then 15 EU countries.  Today, despite Helle Thorning Schmidt's great victory in Denmark earlier this month, that figure is just 8 out of the now 27 Member States.  And since the disastrous 2009 elections the Social Democrats in the European Parliament are at their weakest ever.

Part of the explanation for why we are doing so badly may be that the world our grandparents fought for has, in so many ways, been achieved.  Free health care, universal education, and systems of social benefits from cradle to grave are established across Europe.  The social democratic solutions which transformed the last century were forged amid the rubble of European war.  Today we face ruins of a different sort.  Once again social democrats must stand together and rise to the new challenges that Europe faces.  Ed Miliband is right to say we have to re-found Labour here at home, but that must be within the broader context of all of us re-founding social democracy across Europe.

As Europe faces its greatest challenge since 1945, let's not turn our backs.  We must work together with colleagues across the EU, since globally produced problems can only be solved globally.  The answers cannot be for Labour in Britain alone, and in this interconnected world Europe must be part of the solution.  As always the driving force must be our enduring Labour values; solidarity, social justice, the strongest helping the weak; the same values that drove those rebuilding Europe more than 60 years ago.  That is how we will secure the future for generations to come.

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