18 June 2007

Labour Party deputy leadership candidates' views on Europe

The British Labour Party (now with its own channel on YouTube) is in the process of choosing the new party leadership. Gordon Brown is to become the new party leader unchallenged, as the Blairites did not manage to persuade David Miliband to run.

Brown is now touring the country with his "Gordon Brown for Britain" campaign, trying to build up a momentum before the start of his premiership. Interestingly, his campaign blog is written by Oona King. King used to be a Labour MP for Bethnal Green, an East London constituency predominantly inhabited by Bangladeshi Muslims. At the last general election in 2005, she got ousted from her seat by George Galloway, a former Labour MP and a founder of the Respect party. The whole affair was seen as particularly nasty because King, who is black and Jewish, had a little chance to shield herself from Galloway's attacks pandering to radical Islam. Nevertheless, George Galloway MP now works as a presenter for Channel 4's Big Brother, having previously been one of the contestants on the celebrity version of the show.

Paradoxically, Brown seems to have a clearer vision for Africa then for Britain. It was rather amusing to watch his last speech, where he got all worked up about providing free education for children in developing countries. Yet the banner "Gordon Brown for Britain" rather begged for outlining Brown's reforms of the British malfunctioning state education system. His policies on Europe are also a subject of much speculation among the commentators. A good analysis of Brown's probable strategy for the upcoming European Council summit is on Benedict Brogan's blog, but noone can effectively read the Chancellor's mind.

Thanks to a pamphlet produced by the resurgent Labour Movement for Europe, the deputy leadership candidates' positions on the European Union are somewhat less mysterious. The electoral process is rather complicated, with three different colleges (members, MPs and MEPs, trade unions) selecting the deputy leader and voters required to rank all the candidates according to preference.

The front runner Alan Johnson calls for a "social Europe"; so does the backbench surprise Hilary Benn (no, he is not a woman) who acknowledges that "only by working across Europe we can tackle international crime". Does that mean he supports the controversial data-sharing deal which would enable the national police forces to search the DNA databases of other EU states? Harriet Harman believes "we need improvements to internal decision making procedures to agree better priorities quicker" and Peter Hain, the former Europe Minister, welcomes the institutional reform. Hazel Blears, condemned to damnation for her consistent support of Tony Blair, reiterates her support for Turkey's membership bid and demands a more efficient common foreign policy.

Harman is happy to see the EU rebranded as an Environmental Union, a term first used by the Environment Secretary David Miliband; all other candidates also play up the EU's environmental credentials. The chief purpose of that is to bash the Conservatives, still not at ease with Europe.

Alan Johnson picks up on William Hague's efforts to create an alternative to the European People's Party-European Democrats in the European Parliament. He accuses Cameron's Conservatives of allying with "a rag bag of deranged right wingers from Eastern Europe". A rather unfair accusation if you ask me. (The Conservatives' newly launched Movement for European Reform consists of the British Conservatives, the Czech ruling Civic Democratic Party and the Bulgarian Union of Democratic Forces, which failed to get a single MEP in the last month's European elections in Bulgaria).

However, it is unlikely that Europe will play a big role in the deputy leadership election. The hottest topic seems to be re-connecting with the disenchanted and demoralised party base.


Jon Worth said...

For what it's worth Harriet has a large EU flag stuck on the back of the car she drives. So she's reasonably pro-EU.

Problem - I fear - is more with Gordon Brown than with any of the deputy leadership candidates, although I wonder whether Alan Johnson knows what a Social Europe actually is.

Tomáš Ruta said...

One more reason for me to support Harriet then!

Lukas said...

Gordon Brown is supposedly far more pro-EU than he lets on, he's just to smart to let people know up front, or so I've heard.

Incidentally, the UDF is NOT going to be a member of the MER; after the dismal showing in the latest election, they ousted their party leader and went back on his statement to become part of the MER. However, the UUP also wants to be a part.

Joe Chapman said...

Love the way you sum up GG - he's now a presenter on Big Brother.

We Brits should be so proud of our elected representatives

What you didn't mention as a little side, was the famous Paxman-Galloway interview on election night in 2005 - one of the classics

Watch it here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tD5tunBGmDQ

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