It’s been an interesting week at party conference. As it becomes ever clearer that the British economy is being choked rather than resuscitated by austerity, we in the Labour Party need to provide an alternative. Ed Miliband’s excellent speech on Tuesday clearly outlined that we must focus on growth to survive this crisis, and the Tory-led government’s brutal cuts just aren’t working.
And they’re not working elsewhere in Europe either. When I spoke to conference on Monday as the leader of Labour MEPs, I wanted to make it clear that the deepening financial crisis in the Eurozone is not about a failure of Europe, but a failure of the right wing politicians who currently dominate the European Commission, Council and Parliament. Just as Ed is fighting for an alternative in Britain, we need to work together with our colleagues in the EU to find a solution for all of Europe. It is crucial that we don’t turn our backs on Europe when they need us most, because if the Eurozone fails, we fail.
And the interest in European matters this conference was astounding. Our Europe reception on Monday night was one of the most popular all week, with about 900 people attending and a huge queue outside the door. We also held three fringe events, all of which were packed and it was fantastic to see so many people engage in European issues. Richard Howitt and Claude Moraes used their experience on foreign affairs and migration at our event on the Arab Spring, and Arlene McCarthy and Peter Skinner, our leads on economic affairs, were impressive at our event on financial reform. I took part in our joint event with the GMB union on why austerity is not the answer, Linda McAvan spoke passionately at the Labour Movement for Europe fringe and Mary Honeyball hosted an event on women in power. It was great to have the expertise of Labour MEPs on show.
As we leave conference I’m encouraged to have seen that despite the huge challenges we face, both in Britain and in Europe, the Labour Party is the only party that has hope for the future and a commitment to working together, not apart.