This is what separates Labour from the rest in Europe – and what makes me so proud

9th March, 2009 3:12 pm

By Glenis WillmottAnne Fairweather

From my perspective as Labour’s third woman Leader in the European Parliament, following in the footsteps of the legendary Barbara Castle, International Women’s Day should be about looking back on what Britain’s membership of the European Union has achieved for women, and looking forward to the real choices facing women voters in June’s European elections.

Equal pay for women workers was enshrined in the founding Treaty of the European Community, way back in 1957. The British Conservative government at the time wasn’t willing to sign up to the Treaty and certainly wasn’t willing to introduce a statutory requirement for equal pay. It took over 13 years and a Labour government for that to happen in Britain.

Since then the European Union, propelled by successive Labour governments and MEPs, has been at the cutting edge of progressive policies which have greatly benefitted women workers in all walks of life. Our proud record includes achievements such as equal rights for part time workers (over half of women workers are part time), an entitlement to maternity rights from day one (instead of the two years it used to be) and the right to return to work with no loss of pay or status after pregnancy.

More recently the highly successful EU ‘Daphne’ programmes have funded action to combat all types of violence against women in Europe including violence in the family, violence in schools and other establishments, violence at work, commercial sexual exploitation, genital mutilation, trafficking and so on. The current programme, championed by Labour MEPs, runs until 2013 and has a budget of €116 million.

But that is the past. What about now?

Well, we are less than 3 months away from what will be important European elections on June 4. The choice for women’s rights and women-friendly policies is a clear one. Many people say it doesn’t matter who you vote for in the European Parliament. I say this is wrong. The dividing lines are clear and the choice is one between progressive women-friendly policies and the old male-dominated misogynistic Tories.

David Cameron’s Conservatives may be working overtime to present a caring and compassionate façade nationally, but scratch beneath the surface and what you find are the same old male-orientated attitudes. This applies nowhere more so than in the European Parliament. Out of the 27 Tory MEPs just one is a woman, and even she is stepping down at the June election, fed up with her 26 male colleagues. She protests that for too long the Tory European right has been allowed to fester in the European Parliament.

This did not surprise me one iota. Looking at the Tory voting record in the European Parliament, they have consistently followed their Neanderthal instincts. They refused to give their support to a report on combating violence against women. The report called for a zero-tolerance policy as regards all forms of violence against women, including within marriage. They failed to vote to make rape within marriage a criminal offence or to end so-called ‘crimes of honour’ or female genital mutilation. Tory MEPs also voted against a key report that would combat any form of discrimination in the provision of goods and services, including on the grounds of gender. They are not just an embarrassment to Caroline Jackson, they are embarrassment to David Cameron and an embarrassment to Britain.

I am proud of the fact that I lead a Labour Party in the European Parliament made up of over 40% women, all of whom work tirelessly and are a credit to Labour values and our country as a whole. We will continue to push for women-friendly policies in Europe, from the protection of women in the workplace, the continued fight for equality in all walks of life, to the defence in the developing world of what we in Europe now take for granted as the most fundamental of rights.

This is what separates us from the rest. It is why, just like we need progressive Labour representation in our local councils and in national government, we need to ensure we return Labour MEPs to fight for what we believe in and uphold our values in Europe.

Whatever your views on the European Union, it is an important forum where key decisions affecting our everyday life are made and we cannot afford to have those decisions dominated by the unreformed Tory right or the extremist rabble of UKIP, the BNP and their ilk.

Comments are closed

Latest

  • Comment Featured Ken Livingstone is a pariah and must be expelled from Labour

    Ken Livingstone is a pariah and must be expelled from Labour

      Ken Livingstone is finished in the Labour Party. His bizarre Hitler rant has succeeded in uniting Corbynista and centrist Labour MPs, as well as the entirety of the mainstream press, in condemnation. He has been suspended and will surely be expelled. For many in the Labour Party, it cannot come soon enough. Livingstone has disgraced himself one time too many and, if he is bowing out, it will be with perhaps his most toxic intervention yet. His comments about […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News MPs slam Cameron’s right to buy plan over lack of detail

    MPs slam Cameron’s right to buy plan over lack of detail

    David Cameron’s controversial plan to sell off housing association properties to tenants at a discount has today come under fire from an influential group of MPs for huge gaps in the detail. The public accounts committee, chaired by Labour’s Meg Hillier, has several concerns over the Right to Buy scheme, criticising a lack of detail, concerns that it may worsen the housing crisis and that the scheme may be open to abuse. The report condemns the Government for only providing […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Exclusive: Corbyn aide named new Unite political director

    Exclusive: Corbyn aide named new Unite political director

    Unite has boosted its relationship with Jeremy Corbyn’s team by recruiting one of his key lieutenants. Anneliese Midgley, Jeremy Corbyn’s deputy chief of staff, has been appointed as political director of Unite, Britain’s biggest trade union. Midgley, who helped organise Corbyn’s leadership campaign over the summer, has served as deputy to Simon Fletcher since September. She will start her new role in the next few weeks, replacing Jennie Formby, who moved to be the South East Regional Secretary last month.  […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Uncategorized Michael Gove is cynically trying to exploit the EU small print to boost his Brexit campaign – Richard Corbett

    Michael Gove is cynically trying to exploit the EU small print to boost his Brexit campaign – Richard Corbett

    I am somewhat shocked that a man with a reputation for intellectual rigour should throw so many distortions, half truths and lies into his attempt to “launch the Brexit fightback” after a miserable week. Michael Gove started his Times piece with a sweeping statement that nothing has changed in the EU because, er, the treaties have not been changed. That is like saying that in domestic politics (and his article starts with a long list of Government “reforms” to schools, tax, welfare, […]

    Read more →
  • News Ken Livingstone must be expelled from party, Labour MPs demand

    Ken Livingstone must be expelled from party, Labour MPs demand

    Labour figures are calling on the party to permanently expel Ken Livingstone as thousands sign a petition demanding John Mann be suspended for his confrontation with the former London mayor. This comes as a Jeremy Corbyn campaign visit to Wales was cancelled today amid the row over handling of anti-Semitism in the party. MP Jess Phillips has become the latest to say Livingstone – suspended yesterday – should be thrown out for his remarks about Hitler, Zionism and the influence […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit