The British Labour Party needs to be more Pro-European

Here is the video and text of my speech to the Labour Party Conference in Manchester on the subject of Europe:

Our party needs to be more pro-European, and our party needs to be more proud to be pro-European.

It is foolish to think that Britain is not part of Europe. The question is about Britain’s role in Europe, and what role Labour has to play.

Labour doesn’t share the Tory vision of an isolated Britain. Relegated, forgotten, abandoned, ignored. Our Britain is one that is listened to, trusted and respected across the continent.

The problem with the other parties is that they think that Europe is a zero-sum game. That’s not just pathetically shortsighted; it’s deeply destructive too.

We must not let ourselves be dragged to the Right by Tory, UKIP and tabloid lies about the European Union.

However, Conference, I don’t know whether you’ve had time to browse this. This is the National Policy Forum report. It weighs in at an impressive 115 pages, but only two of them discuss Europe.

Europe is too important to try and just wish away.

If we do, we will be caught off guard when the debate begins and be on the defensive, in 2014, when the European elections arrive.

Let’s not forget that the current difficulties were not created by Europe itself.

Those responsible include the financial sector, of course. There are the economic and moral shortcomings of the banks. And then there are the unfair and ineffective austerity measures that have been pursued over the past few years.

Europe is not the problem here; the problem comes from the Right-wing Governments, including our own, that dominate it.

Labour must have the confidence to reaffirm our commitment to Europe.

We must have the confidence to stand up to those who want to pull Britain out so that we can drown alone in the Atlantic.

And we must have the confidence to say that Britain is better off in Europe.

Open to Europe, active in Europe. That’s our way.

This post was first published on Hadleigh Roberts’ Blog


  1. Ian Young says

    Labour is not fighting on its strongest battleground, regarding the EU, and that is the Tories’ desire to withdraw British from EU wide social and employment protection provision, under the guise of ‘repatriating powers from Brussels.’

    William Hague is completely open about these intentions in order to make Britain ‘more competitive.’ Or put it another way demanding a de-facto subsidy on the single market paid for out British workers’ own pockets.

    The social chapter opt-out never gained any mass support under John Major, but it seems that the present Labour Party is allowing the Tories to go ahead with this policy, under the cloak of the Union Jack, without any vigorous challenge.

    I am also concerned that Labour as much as the Tories will oppose more EU foreign policy and defence integration because they are still wedded to some form of mid-Atlantic special relationship foreign policy.

    This was a shaky concept under Churchill 60 years ago but 20 years after the Cold War looks, even to Washington, like the aspirations of an eccentric headless chicken.

    An even more peculiar piece of barminess is the Tory revival of an Edwardian post-imperial concept of Britain moving closer to the networking club and fantasy trade block the Commonwealth, as an alternative pole of influence to the EU. How long will it be before the Tories forge an alliance with Narnia and the Klingon Empire?

  2. tommi konttinen says

    Mr Hadleigh, Mr Young: The notion that a more centralised EUropean Union will bring peace and prosperity to Britain just flies in the face of reality!
    ‘Peace’: Going to rely on the EU-Brussels entity when Putin’s Russia gets upset, are you? Well, if you must, jest at an Atlantic Alliance that has stood for all of those “60” years since Churchill, but if you are serious about placing your faith in Paris-Berlin-Rome, never mind Madrid-Prague-Athens when economic-political push comes to military-political shove from Moscow then those of us with any sense of History will have already de-camped to the other side of the ‘pond’!
    ‘Prosperity’: That would be the Economic-Financial ‘prosperity’ core policy of the EU-Brussels-Berlin axis wherein ‘Big-Business’/’Big-Government’ control the core Commission-EUrocrat decision-making process whilst the Rights and Responsibilities of the 550+ million Citizens are given the political sop of electing a few hundred MEPs every 4 years most of whom are so well funded by ‘big-business’-‘big-government’ the very last thing that would occur to the huge majority of them would be to Represent their Constituent Citizens – – a realisation that may account for why in the last 4 EU Parliament Elections less than 50% of the eligible Electorate Voted and the 2009 Turnout was a derisory 43% (in 5 States less than 20% voted), i.e. 57% of EUropean Citizens were so pleased by their Supra-National Governance they were inspired to NOT GIVE A THOUGHT AS TO WHO SAT IN BRUSSELS and STRASBOURG!
    If that is the sort of cross-border ‘Union’ the Labour Party is now considering as suitable and fitting to advocate to Britons then clearly not only has Labour lost all touch with its ‘grass-roots’, Mr Hadleigh it is betraying millions of Citizens into an anti-Democratic entity that has for a decade FAILED to take account of the Citizens’ expressed wishes (i.e. Constitution rejected, so Lisbon Treaty foisted on 26 of 27 States) – – that You are a member of a Labour Party so derelict in its upholding of Democratic principles just underlines how dangerously illiberal the ‘pro-EU’ lobby has now become!

    • cindy says

      I have just started reading Social Europe Journal about two weeks ago.

      Is Europea REALLY that bad Mr. Konttinen? I know EU is not perfect, the idea of a single currency, euro, is not properly thought through (I am no economist or whatsoever, just a plain-empty-headed-house-wife), but really, really, really truthly there is nothing GOOD about Europe? Really, really, really truely that EU is A nothing but BIG FAT ROTTEN APPLE? Umm.

      Could you please show me a single country, or ‘union’ of countries such as ASEAN, the US OF A, UK and even the great CHINA (it is a union of many, many tribes and ‘old countries’ ) etc. that is better than EU? I am not trying to be funny, but just like to hear something positive about others as compared to EU to REALLY, REALLY understand what is so ROTTEN about EU. Really, truely that is my simple request.

      On a more serious note, there is never anything 100% perfect. That is life. EU is not perfect. I know that. Borosco is nothing to write home about, I know that too. Van Rompey — honestly I do not know. YET. BUT there are countless of people involved EU do really work hard to want to see something better than their dreams. I don;t know about them, but I would be so discourage by what you wrote.

      How about try hard to give us something positive about EU? I know it is not an easy reqeust. But I truely believe in positive thinking. Negative feedback only compounded negative actions. Does not really help to improve the situation. I think most EU citizens, including me, are not 100% satisfy with what EU ‘management’ is presenting or performing, but I think we do deserve to hear a tiny-wee-bit of good news? Especially in present gloomy-financial-unemployment-euro-Greek-Spanish-and-what-not climate?

      HOW ABOUT BRING US SOME SUNSHINE? What do you say Mr. Konttinen? From what you wrote, I know you are an expert. And I know you must have your frustrations just like many of us looking at the ineffectual actions of many of our statemen (or women???), but how about tell us something positive about EU to cheer us UP?

      Negative thinking does nothing but bringing people down. Even if you are right, and I am sure many of the things you wrote were expert opinions, if you can present them in a different way perhaps we could accept them more readily?

      Just my two cents.

  3. tommi konttinen says

    Again, other matters have delayed my makiing a reply until now. Where to begin an answer to such a vast topic as you raise with the word ‘rotten’!?
    First, it is not my role or purpose to bring ‘light’ into the lives of the EU-Brussels regime: They already accrue far too much of it in position, power and wealth for it to be politically healthy for the ongoing safety and security of the Citizens of the Continent and British Isles.
    It is good that you stand-up for or at least voice some sort of opinion in favour of the EU – – your views totally at odds with my own – – that is Democracy.
    So, there we are: DEMOCRACY in action – – except of course where the EU-Brussels entity is concerned: Afterall, when was the last time even a semblance of Democratic process was used across the whole of the EU27 in order to gauge the views of the multi-millions of Citizens!? 2009 is the answer: And what an answer! Fewer than 43% of the Electorate Voted for the EUropean Parliament – – but, at least that does bring some form of Democratic Representation of EU Constituents into Brussels; and given how inadequate is the general EU democratic tradition presumably we are supposed to express gratitude for that!? However, let us examine more closely the even more recent ‘Democratic’ systems of the EU-Brussels when it comes to issues of policy: E.g. The Lisbon Treaty that drew together 5 other Treaties? And yet, no, there was no direct appeal to the Citizens it would affect in 26 of the 27 States – – and that for a Treaty everyone with an iota of Political sense understood was the rejected 2005-6 ‘Constitution’ by another name – – so, let us not have any illusion or delusion those in-charge at EU-Brussels or State level have the Citizens at the forefront of their ‘political’ aspirations.
    Cindy, I don’t know if you are familiar with the English ‘political’ term, “Rotten Borough”: However, it is an Historical phrase alluding to a period of UK Political evolution when huge swathes of densely populated and usually rapidly ‘industrialising’ Britain had little or no Representation in the Westminster Parliament – – instead, a good many MPs were elected from Rural Constituencies, and among those were MPs elected by as few as 2 or a dozen local residents and they all voted for a Candiate according to local patronage. Frankly, the ‘Rotten Borough’ in my view has returned in the shape of the EU Commission and Parliament; because their selection of membership is almost no different from patronage in 18th Century Britain! MEPs are selected from ‘lists’ and to get on them they must have ‘patronage’ and likewise the 27 Sates under-the-table juggling and dealing for which Political Jobsworth will take which EU Commission Post is also very largely down to ‘patronage’: In addition many MEPs sit in Brussels and Strasbourg (2 Parliaments = DOUBLE EXPENSE! To the EUropean Citizen Tax-payers!) with less than 15% Electoral support from their Constituents, and yet these people claim the Right and Responsibility to make criticallly important decisions on behalf of 550+ million! That is ‘Political Representation’ ROTTEN to the CORE!
    Please Cindy, how can you be so naive as to imagine any of the Presidents give even a momentary consideration to critics of the EU-Brussels enterprise!? Pres. of the EUropean Council von Rompuy, Pres. of the Commission Barroso, and Pres. of the EU Parliament Schulz (3 Presidents = TRIPLE EXPENSE! To the EUropean Citizen Tax-payers!) are not in anyway discouraged by adverse comments when their entire Political Lives are wrapped-up in perpetuating ever-closer Political Union irrespective of the Free-Will of the EUopean Citizens. Their single most important objective is to sideline the Citizens’ voice, to divert the Citizens’ Rights and Responsibilities to affect their Political future: There is no better example of this corruption/rottenness at the core of EU-Brussels than that demonstrated by the 3’s duplicity and complicity in foisting the Lisbon Treaty on the EU27 (Ireland apart) without direct consultation of the Citizenry. If Lisbon was such a fine Treaty how is it Brussels and State Leaders were afraid to put its case before their Citizens?
    IMO along with their EUrocratic-EUcentric cohorts (in Soviet times more accurately known as the ‘Party apparatchiks’) the 3, plus the Commission represent the greatest threat to realistic Democracy since the advance of the Red Army across Eastern Europe ’44-’45.
    Cindy, it does NOT take any sort of ###expert### to know when ROTTEN has replaced DEMOCRACY: When 27 States’ legitimate Electorate having gone through accepted Democratic Electoral processes to Elect 27 National Parliaments to GOVERN them can then have any and every Political – Economic – Social -Judicial enactment by their 27 Governments OVERTURNED by an UNELECTED, UNREPRESENTATIVE, UNACCOUNTABLE EUropean Court of Justice or EUropean Court of Human Rights then the FREE-WILL and FREEDOM OF THOUGHT of the CITIZENS has been USURPED by the antithesis of MERITOCRACY, an Anti-Democratic and Illiberal centralising Oligarchy.
    My previous comments Cindy, and the above are by no means “NEGATIVE THINKING”! I am being POSITIVE: By attempting to REMIND Peoples of the values and principles of DEMOCRACY many millions struggled for over Centuries: The People’s Inalienable Right to decisively affect the decisions of those in power. At this time the EU is the “negative” influence on those Rights and Responsibilities: It is EU-Brussels aided and abetted by National Leadership who prefer not to have to be answerable to their Citizen Electorate that press-on with this Unification at any and all cost to Individual Free-Will.
    WHY should I consider the pros & cons of the governance of USA, China etc.? They are not the issue for the British and European Citizen. The monolithic EU presents a version of Political History completely at odds with the factual reality of what generations of Citizens aspired to achieve for themselves and their children. I state the Political strait-jacket of the present EU-Brussels’ system is not the best route map to a secure and prosperous future.
    It is not ‘negative’ to try to point out and try to correct the imbalance between the EU-Brussels entity and the Citizens. On the contrary it is a real ‘positive’ to thereby redirect and redefine the Political Framework which future generations will inherit.