Monday, 19 May 2014

Answers from Labour about the European elections

In the last of my European election series of blogs, the turn comes of Labour. Not the best to last nor the worst just simply one of the first to initially respond and last to clarify party policy. It certainly is an interesting election for the Labour party, in some senses they are on the up and bouncing back from the very low ebb of 2009 and indeed 2010. In the last European elections they polled 15.7% and came in third across the UK behind the Conservatives and UKip. In the South West (and Cornwall and Gibraltar) they got 7.7% of the vote over all (but only 5% in Cornwall) failing to gain an MEP.

In the recent South West opinion poll in the Western Morning News Labour received 25% polling below UKip on 44% but above the Conservatives on 14% and the Green Party on 10% and the Lib Dems on 6%. But polls should always be taken with some caution this is the only South West opinion poll and it was published on the 1st of May from field work a month ago now. Things may well have changed since then and there is no other polls to compare it's accuracy. For those that enjoy electoral geekry there's a great poll of polls for the 2009 Euro election on wikipedia, it interestingly shows Labour gained less votes than any opinion poll had indicated. So after talking around the subject what are Labour's chances? well they aren't strong in the South West, they have strongholds in cities like Exeter and Plymouth but struggle in the less urban areas. They could well gain an MEP at this election and profit from the plummeting of the Liberal Democrats, but perhaps the Greens could challenge them or the right wing duo of Conservatives and UKIP gain enough votes to squeeze them out. Could they win? yes, will they win? don't know.

So anyway to the subject of the blog finally, the answers come from Jude Robinson one of the 2 prospective MEPs that actually live in Cornwall. But unfortunately for Jude she's quite far down the party list in fifth position, so if Labour get 5 MEPs the ex Cornwall Councillor will be one of them. Despite this I am impressed my answers found the way to someone who knows something of Cornish issues and on the other hand a bit disappointed to not have the thoughts of their lead candidate Clare Moody. Credit to Jude Robinson she was the only respondent to include the party manifesto in the email and the Pan European PES manifesto too. As with the others the answers are here unedited, comments on all of the emails to come in a later post. I've bumped the question on the Common Agricultural Policy to the end as it's long and involved:

1. If elected as an MEP what would you most like to achieve in the next parliament?

Jobs and growth across Europe, linked to higher standards of living for people - as opposed to higher bonuses for those ' at the top'. 

2. What is your party's goal in this term of the parliament?

Manifestos attached. 

3. Is the European Union a force for good  in Cornwall at the moment? Why or why not?

Yes. The third round of convergence will be coming on stream soon, bringing a total of around £1 billion in funding. Most people I speak to want decent homes, jobs and a better standard of living. Without a stronger economy we will never achieve those for people here. 

4. Could the EU be doing more for Cornwall?

I don't really understand this one. Should Cornwall do more for the EU? The funding is rarely acknowledged and we have Ukip MEPs who want to take us out of the EU and hardly bother to turn up at the parliament. That is madness. The EU has a democratic structure and if Cornwall wants more, we need to elect MEPs who will work for us not squander public money on websites fighting their own silly battles against Europe. 

5. If there is a referendum on the UK's place in the EU, would you campaign for or against UK membership?

Unequivocally for. 
6. Should Cornwall have a greater say in the EU, how might this be achieved?

We elect MEPs, I think people forget that. Perhaps it is because some of our current MEPs do not work hard enough to be accountable, to build links with Cornwall and to feed back?  A Labour MEP, if elected, would be active here and be clearly accountable.  It is such a waste of time electing Ukip MEPs, who don't want to work in Europe for us and have poor attendance records. Vote Labour. 

7. Do you think Cornish fishermen get a good deal from the Common Fisheries Policy? What aspects of the CFP would you defend and which would you change?

I need to look into this.

8. Do you think Cornish farmers get a good deal from the Common Agricultural Policy? What aspects of the CAP would you defend and which would you change?

As above. 

9. Have European Structural Funds (Objective 1, Convergence) been a success in Cornwall? how should future funding be allocated?

Big question. Yes, on the whole I think successful - especially the university/innovation centres and growth of knowledge economy. I think it will be a while before the benefits are obvious, at the moment they are there and growing but not well known. I hope you have visited at least one of the Innovation Centres. 

10. The Cornish have recently been recognised as a national minority. Is this a good thing? How does this apply to an MEP?

Yes, it's a good thing and I signed up to the minority report. It is a European status and any MEP in the South West must have regard to it and to proper consultation and acknowledgement of the status when discussing and deciding on policies that affect Cornwall/ 

The agreement on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a "serious missed opportunity".
The European Parliament's Agriculture Committee has decided on a range of funding measures for the next seven years and whilst Labour welcomes some moves towards reform, the majority of the proposals were weak and unambitious.
The scope of the agreement was decided by the European Parliament's CAP negotiating team and it will face a final vote by all MEPs in the autumn, once the wider EU budget has been finalised.
Labour has always maintained that we need to bring an end to inefficient farming and promote sustainable, competitive models that benefit rural communities as well as the wider public
It is good that the new agreement has prioritised the need for greater transparency when it comes to spending on agriculture. This is taxpayers money and they have the right to know how it is spent, so members of the public will be able to find out how much beneficiaries of CAP receive and what they are using the funds for.
But in addition to greater transparency, Labour also proposed a series of radical reforms to ensure that farming in the UK and EU as a whole is modern, green and fit for the future. Unfortunately, we've seen most of these proposals rejected in favour of the status quo.
Labour believes that the funding allocations proposed in the agreement will undo much of the limited agricultural progress already achieved, and has criticised the UK government for not pushing for more reform when the CAP was discussed in the European Council.
We’ve ended up with an agreement between the European Parliament and national governments that is a real step backwards. Its supporter say there will be more money for environmental measures, but in reality there seem to be few tangible environmental benefits..
On top of the limited environmental gains, it is a real shame that there will be even more money spent on production subsidies, or to put it another way - more money wasted on inefficient farming. These are funds that could be much better spent on rural development programmes, to stimulate competitiveness and enhance biodiversity."
Labour supported CAP reforms that would have promoted financial efficiency, environmental protection and investment in our prized rural communities, whilst at the same time rewarding good farming practices. Despite a real opportunity for radical change, we've been left with an unambitious agreement that fails to fully reform the CAP.

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