Glenis Willmott's 2012 conference diary - 2012-10-05
As a previous Labour Prime Minister once said, a week is a long time in politics. Before getting to Conference, our UK news has been full of questions about Ed Miliband's leadership, and British apathy and antipathy to the EU. Well, in just seven days, many many more Brits finally 'got' both Ed's personality and his Prime Minister potential, and also throughout this Conference, there was an amazingly positive reception for the EU everywhere I went.
Saturday Kicked off the week with a packed Labour Women's Conference. It's a great chance to say hi to old friends in a wonderful atmosphere. It's the first chance I get to promote Europe. We want to have a quota of women on Boards across the EU. Some large companies say it would put them at a competitive disadvantage if a national government 'imposed' a quota on just one country, but if every large company in Europe has the same rules, it would then work well. It already works well in Scandinavia. Ideally, large companies across the EU would have women on their Boards in large numbers by now, but after years and years of failed persuasion, it seems legislation is now the best way forward.
Sunday Conference Centre filling up today, and in the evening the EPLP (my lot - the "European Parliamentary Labour Party") have a great fringe meeting on Europe. We had Kevin Maguire, the Daily Mirror's politics person, to chair it using his journalism skills to stop speakers falling into jargon, and a panel of leading Labour Europeans. Relieved when my first speech of the week went down well but more importantly, the meeting was full. Europe's cool for the first time in years.
Came back to the hotel and there was another great victory for Europe - our European golfers won the Ryder cup! When will sceptics realise that some things are better done at a Europe level (such as golf, the environment, trade negotiations) and some are best done at a national level (Olympic teams, education, taxation)? I decide to begin tomorrow's Conference speech with a quip about the Ryder cup.
Monday In my EPLP Leader Speech to Conference, I launched our campaign to get the EU to invest its underspend in pan-European schemes to help unemployed youth.
I managed to get another speech in from the floor later on about minimum rights for workers. As a proud former trade union officer, I'm really pleased to get cheered by our Conference Delegates when I say that when David Cameron talks about 'repatriating rights' from Brussels what he really means is taking away the basic rights British workers get as a result of the EU.
Day finished well with a packed EPLP meeting where over 900 people listened to Ed Miliband praise the EPLP's work on Europe. We fully support EU co-operation but we fight against waste wherever we see it, whether it is a totally unnecessary parliament building in Strasbourg, or subsidising tobacco farmers. Socialist Group Leader, Hannes Swoboda MEP, has come over from Brussels. He ‘gets’ where the Brits are coming from and his speech receives a roar of applause. The evening is rounded off by Eddie Izzard getting a good laugh with an unashamed pro-European rallying call. No "euro-apathy" here. I really hope Eddie stays in European Labour politics. We have created our own Obama-style rally, and it's all about Europe. Fantastic!
Tuesday Chaired a breakfast with Douglas Alexander, our hugely supportive Shadow Foreign Secretary, and Hannes Swoboda. Once again, Hannes has got the tone just right.
My Conference highlight today. I feel tremendously proud as one tiny part of a completely united massive Conference Centre, cheering Ed Miliband as he makes it clear that we are the One Nation party. Of course he affirmed his support for Europe and internationalism but what I liked was the way the speech came from his heart - without any notes. I supported him as our Leader from the start. I feel convinced I am looking at a future Prime Minister of our country. He's more than just a bright guy, he is a passionate Leader. I don't remember standing ovations during a Leader's speech before.
Later on, Business for New Europe hold a packed fringe meeting for a business audience. I debate "Europe In/Out" with veteran anti-Europe MP Austin Mitchell and others. Austin’s arguments don't seem to have changed since the 1975 referendum when he campaigned against British common market membership. I'm over the moon when an amazing 97% of people there voted to stay in the EU, while just 3% want the UK to pull out. In a separate vote, 74% vote not to have an "in-out" referendum. This referendum issue could be just a "Westminster village" obsession.
Wednesday Meet up with Breast Cancer Care charity to discuss the kind of drugs that can be used as a preventive for at risk groups. Health legislation is one of my areas of responsibility in the European Parliament, an area of interest which dates back to my previous job as an NHS lab scientist inMansfield.
I spend most of the day meeting up with trade union colleagues from UNISON, the GMB, and UNITE. There's concern about Tory plans to withdraw from European workers' rights legislation.
Meet with campaigners and activists preparing for the 2014 European Elections.
In the early evening a very emotional Labour NEC meeting (the governing body of our party). My dear colleague Michael Cashman MEP ends his year as Chair and decides to step down from the NEC after 14 years brilliant service. Michael has also announced that he will not seek re-election to the European Parliament. He is of course a great campaigner and champion for equality and LGBT rights, but to me he will always be a good and trusted friend and a wise counsel.
Thursday Leave Conference for theEast Midlands, exhausted but happy in the knowledge that Labour with Ed is back on the road to No 10.