The Tories are putting their anti-European ideology over the interests of the British people

By giving people something to vote for at the European Elections - not only to vote against - Labour can progress.

The following are edited extracts from the keynote speech of East of England Labour MEP Richard Howitt to the Labour East Regional Conference taking place today (Saturday 23 November 2013) in Luton

When David Cameron says he wants to renegotiate in the EU on behalf of Britain’s position he should realise that that’s what Labour MEPs do all day, every day.

When he claimed he tried to limit the budget, it didn’t even convince his own MEPs, who voted against the deal.

Through negotiation Labour MEPs have made a huge difference just in the last year. We won an end to the obscene practice of dead fish discards, as part of reforming the Common Fisheries Policy, proving you win reforms by persuasion not by threatening to walk away. With the Trussell Trust, I personally led the fight to get European funding for Britain’s foodbanks.

I am deeply proud that we succeeded in getting £22 million European money to help them. But our government refuses to claim the money, because they put their anti-European ideology over the needs of the most deprived and destitute people in our society.

Meanwhile, as Tory Eurosceptics try to make false political capital about the European accounts, the truth is that all European regional aid to England is suspended at present because they – the Tory-led government – have failed to pass the audit.

Since the government sucked control of EU funding away from the regions, and in to the centre, errors have been identified in the way the government spends 12 per cent of EU funds. Millions will be lost to Britain by Tory incompetence.

And in a European Election where we will defeat the two BNP Members of the European Parliament, it is not so straight-forward for UKIP and right-wing Tories to distance themselves from the far-right.

This year I contributed to a study of the far-right published by Counterpoint. We showed there is a single common strand in politics: of intolerance, anti-immigration, and for simple solutions to complex problems.

It is an anti-politics, always knowing what it’s against but never what it’s for.

Political scientists don’t call this exclusively far-right, but they do call it populism. They call these parties populist radical-right Parties. And UKIP, as much as the BNP, is just such a party.

It is why Labour has to fight UKIP at the European Elections too. It is a common fight with sister socialist and social democrat parties across Europe against populist parties. We have to hold their actions to account, not increase the salience of issues over which the populist right claim ownership. We have to make the case that diversity is a positive, bust their myths, confront their propaganda.

Most  important of all, however, we have to rebuild trust in the Labour Party and our own politics. And at the European Elections we have to confront UKIP and the Tory right head-on over immigration.

In the week those poor three women were rescued in London, I believe in being tough on immigration: tough on the people traffickers who are the modern day representation of the slave trade we thought had been abolished two hundred years ago.

Labour’s answer to the insecurity people feel for their jobs because of migration is to offer decent employment rights to prevent in law those cowboy employers who deliberately recruit migrant labour to undercut jobs and conditions.

I and my Labour MEP colleagues did it on agency workers, we are doing it on what they call the posting of workers and I believe we should take our campaign against exploitative zero hours contracts to the European Parliament too.

Some people say we’re losing the immigration argument. But you don’t win an argument if you don’t put it in the first place. Yes, Labour must argue for well-managed immigration. But is the fact two per cent of Europe’s population lives in a different EU country really such a bad thing?

We have to put the argument that migration – our ability to visit, study and work in different countries, to share in our different cultures – is actually a good thing. Economically, Britain and the European Union need migration. As human beings, we should want it.

At last night’s conference dinner, Ed Miliband said the route to Downing Street came through the East of England and its thirteen target seats. By giving people something to vote for at the European Elections – not only to vote against – Labour can take a giant stride forward on that road.

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8 Responses to “The Tories are putting their anti-European ideology over the interests of the British people”

  1. LB

    Simple test.

    The UK spends 11.5K per person per year.

    For all those migrants who don’t pay 11.5K a year in tax, are you going to stump up the difference?

    If not you are stealing money from people via tax for something they don’t need to pay for, because migration is optional.

    That you won’t pay, just shows what a hypocrite you are. You are prepared to make people poor, and then whinge about what you have done.

  2. subwus

    A wretched and miserable article indeed.
    You said:
    “Some people say we’re losing the immigration argument. But you don’t win
    an argument if you don’t put it in the first place. Yes, Labour must
    argue for well-managed immigration.”
    A Labour politician lecturing others on well-managed migration?
    Are you fcking serious?
    What well known Conservative/UKIP/BNP politician has recently warned of riots in Sheffield due to the recent Roma arrivals?

    That’s right, your very own David – no obvious limit to the number of immigrants who could settle in the UK – Blunkett.
    From the BBC:
    Mr Blunkett’s intervention was praised by UKIP leader Nigel Farage,
    who campaigns against the ending of some work restrictions for migrants
    from Romania and Bulgaria, both countries with significant Roma
    He said: “Mr Blunkett should be admired for the courage he
    has shown by speaking so plainly on this issue. Of course, the type of
    language he has used I would have been utterly condemned for using.
    “The fact that he is talking of the significant difficulties
    with the Roma population already in his constituency should be taken
    seriously by the likes of Cameron, Clegg and Miliband.
    “My question is if they won’t listen to the dangers of
    opening the door to Romania and Bulgaria next year when UKIP speak out
    on it, will they listen to David Blunkett? I certainly hope so.”

    Mr Blunkett later issued a statement distancing himself from
    Mr Farage’s endorsement, stressing he had been talking about the need
    for better integration.

    Now then, you say:
    We have to make the case that diversity is a positive, bust their myths, confront their propaganda.
    But Blunkett says:
    “We have got to change the behaviour and the culture of the incoming
    community, the Roma community, because there’s going to be an explosion
    otherwise. We all know that.”

    So there we have it, yours and Blunkett’s twisted logic is captured in Christopher Caldwell’s excellent essay Fear Masquerading as Tolerance:
    So European leaders defended mass immigration in one breath by saying it would make their countries different (through diversity), and in the next by saying it would leave them the same (through integration).

    Just to remind you again, you said:
    “Some people say we’re losing the immigration argument.”
    Yeah? No sh!t Sherlock.
    The sooner politicians such as yourself, have to suffer the same devastation from mass immigration that the WWC have suffered, the sooner the door will be slammed shut.

  3. wg

    And what of Democracy Mr Howitt – how about re-naming a European Constitution and then fighting tooth and nail to stop people having a say on its successor.

    How about building more glass palaces, increasing the chauffeur-driven car fleets, creating more self-important apparatchiks with six-figure salaries – whilst working class people decline in a race to the bottom.

    Hypocrite – let’s have our old Labour Party back; we’ve had enough of self-serving parasites like you.

    They wouldn’t have touched the EU with a barge pole.

  4. Two Bob

    85% want immigration slashed NOW. You are dangerous extremists.

  5. sachfrhrgtrhty

    This article is ridiculous and clearly worried Brits have had enough of immigration destroying the UK

    Please sign and share, blog, tweet, facebook the Daily
    Express petition to stop EU immigration. Over 115,000 have signed.

    Sign here-

  6. The_Average_Joe_UK

    Richard has got his enormous EU income to consider.

  7. Rallan

    “We have to make the case that diversity is a positive, bust their myths, confront their propaganda.”

    Because you’ve earned so much public credibility and respect? Ha ha! I’m a Kipper, and you are our recruiting sergeant. We are laughing at you.

  8. TM

    Because immigration only really affects the white Working class, it is sidelined and ignored. But is has festered now and is too much of a swollen political football to boot over to someone else. It has to be debated and it has to be tackled. And what dear readers is immigration really all about? CHEAP LABOUR. And to keep the wages of the Working class down, and when the Working class protest for fear of losing their jobs and livelihoods, the Middle class Left jeer and point and call them all racist!!! Ah, don’t the Middle class love to hate Working class people, and love to shift their hostility and fears and prejudices onto the Working class?! Safe to blame them, because of course they are mostly white and therefore the prejudice is ‘acceptable’ because it’s not racism is it?! And so we are divided up and turned against each other, whilst democracy dies every day.
    If we start bringing in urban professionals from Eastern Europe, who will do all those middle management jobs but for 30 to 40% less wages than the Middle class get now, do you think all those oh so magnanimous trendy Lefties would be so welcoming of cheap labour then? I do wonder. It doesn’t affect their livelihoods or their white Middle class affluent suburbs or threaten their living standards so they can be as PC about immigration as they like can’t they?
    And if all this is starting to make you trendy Lefties squirm a little uncomfortably or get you angry, good, that’s what it’s meant to do. Maybe when we are all honest about the reasons for immigration we can have an honest and open debate from the Labour Party or some other party.

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