Sunday, 8 March 2009

Winning the fight for Europe

I was pleasantly surprised this afternoon as I wandered along the Southbank trying to get unsuspecting members of the public to agree to be interviewed about their views on whether Britain should join the euro (don’t ask). Maybe it was my incessant need to read the British blogospheres’ views on Europe that had left me in despair but the people I met today (both those for and against membership of the single currency) were happy to engage in debate and open to new ideas.

But maybe things are looking up in general. Gideon Rachman posted a great article in the Financial Times this week renouncing his euroscepticism. Ok ok, so the FT usually serves up a fairly balanced view of the EU, citing its successes and failures in equal measure. Yes, even I will admit it has its flaws but I won’t go into them here (well at least not in this post). In keeping with the occasion (Happy International Women’s Day) let’s look at why those elections in June are so important for Labour women.

As we gear up to the European elections in June, we have to remember just how much we have at stake here. Currently, only 31 percent of the 785 MEPs are female, but of that 25.6 percent of UK MEPs are female. Mirroring Westminster, it’s the Tories that let the side down. Whilst Labour may have an impressive 42 percent female representation and a female leader to boot, the Conservatives only manage one female MEP in their 27 strong delegation. Pitiful and that’s even before I get started on UKIP…

The equal representation of women in the European Parliament is not just a means to an end but a force for change in wider society. When we lead the way we can legitimately call for change. Glenis Willmott, newly elected Labour leader in Europe, has today called for more women to be considered for one of the three top posts in Europe which are up for grabs this year. We already reached a milestone last year with the appointment of Baroness Cathy Ashton as Trade Commissioner – Britain’s first ever female Commissioner and Europe’s first ever female Trade Commissioner.

Not only do we have to fight to ensure the threat of a BNP victory is kept at bay but also make a strong case in the battle for minds and hearts on Europe. A loss of Labour seats in June will not just be a loss for the Party as whole but a particularly damning blow for Labour women.

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