Glenis Willmott MEP’s speech to Labour Party Annual Conference 2013

Glenis Willmott MEP, Leader of the Labour Party in the European Parliament, in a speech to Labour Party Annual Conference 2013 in Brighton, said:

Conference,

Let’s be honest the last European elections were a disaster. 

We lost almost a third of our MEPs in one of the toughest and most brutal campaigns I can remember.

Seeing Labour’s vote collapse as Nick Griffin and the BNP were elected is something I’ll never forget.

So when people say the next Euro elections should be good for Labour, the pain of that memory keeps my feet firmly on the ground.

So what about now?

Well, more and more, Britain has become fertile territory for the eurosceptics.

With David Cameron and his ministers under threat from UKIP reacting by making up spurious stories like the supposed attack earlier this year on our British rebate by “scheming” Europeans though he knew full well that our rebate had long been agreed.

And did you see what our macho Prime Minister said in Brussels at the time?

He said, and I quote:

“In this town you have to be ready for an ambush at any time and that means lock and load… and have one up the spout, ….and be ready for it.“

David Cameron . . . a disturbing cocktail of John Wayne and…Alan Partridge

The mind boggles…

Conference, he’s out of touch at home and isolated abroad

But conference, I’m getting fed up with it.

Fed up with David Cameron making up pretend fights with Europe.

Fed up with Nigel Farage getting more airtime than Bruce Forsyth.

Fed up with business, whose futures lie in being part of a single market, failing to stand up and be counted on Europe.

Fed up with apparently intelligent journalists, failing to challenge what UKIP stands for, and when they do, they get whacked over the head with a brochure.

Conference,

We don’t have to accept a version of Europe defined by myth, prejudice and little Englander euro-scepticism.

We need to go on the attack in the lead up to next year’s Euro elections.

Talking to people about bankers’ bonuses, where Labour voted for firm action, while Tories and UKIP didn’t.

About tax evasion, where Labour voted for tough measures and Tories and UKIP didn’t.

And about so much else:

• better working rights

• addressing climate change 

• greater protection for consumers 

• and equal rights for all 

Where votes for real progress have come from Labour, and foot-dragging and outright opposition have come from those on the right.

And on UKIP in particular we need to tell people that Nigel Farage isn’t “just like you.” He isn’t just the normal bloke down the pub with his pint.

He is a former Tory. He was a trader in the city, one of the breed who got us into this financial mess in the first place. And a man who doesn’t believe the Conservative Party is Conservative enough.

We can’t keep letting UKIP and the Tories get away with it.

Conference,

We have to convince a doubting electorate that the UK must be an active part of the EU.

And that’s where we’re better off because by working together we achieve more than we do working separately.

We need to re-state the case for a progressive, socially inclusive and democratic EU.

Not just the Single Market for business, which Cameron wants.

Conference,

Throughout the 80’s and early 90’s when people were suffering under Thatcherite policies. It was Europe that offered a light, a beacon of hope.

A Europe which put social protection at the very top of its agenda.

A Europe which helped revitalise and transform our towns and cities.

In places like Liverpool, Leicester and Leeds, EU funding gave a lifeline, to places almost abandoned by a callous Tory Government.

That is what inspired me about Europe then and why I am still determined to fight for it today. 

So if a Labour voter asks why bother voting in the European elections, ask them if they have a job and want to keep a right to paid holiday.

Ask them if they work part-time and want fair treatment.

Ask them to look at the government website showing that every household is at least eleven hundred pounds better off each year because Britain is in Europe.

Of course Europe isn’t perfect.

Nothing ever is and there are changes that Labour wants to make.

Your Labour MEPs are already working to create such a Europe.

Take the youth guarantee scheme, a Labour initiative, that I spoke about at last year’s party conference and which has now been approved with a starting budget of 6 billion Euros.

Giving young people a guarantee of work, education or training.

A glimmer of hope for the one million young people in our country alone who are unemployed.

But we also need to say, what we will do in the future. 

We’ll fight to defend our rights at work, fight to improve living standards, fight against unfair zero hours contracts, fight for a cleaner environment.

A vote for Labour will mean, a strong, prosperous Britain, working with our neighbours to play a full part in the world’s affairs not sulking on the sidelines.

It needs all of us, here in this hall to be knocking on doors, up and down the country, and giving that message.

A good result for Labour, in next year’s Euro elections, is also a key staging post on the road to Number 10.

Momentum is everything.

So, next year’s elections matter, more than ever.

If we want to make a difference to people’s lives. 

If we want a fairer, more prosperous society.

We need Labour . . . in the European Parliament.

Labour . . . in councils across the country.

And Labour . . . in government . . . in 2015.

ENDS

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