Theresa Griffin’s Blog: 22nd-30th September 2018
Welcome to this week’s update on my recent activities in the European Parliament and North West England!
Labour Party Conference 2018 in Liverpool
It was brilliant as usual to meet so many enthusiastic Labour friends and colleagues at Labour Party Conference 2018. Running from 22-26 September 2018, it was a busy event with many memorable moments.
On the Sunday, I led a People’s Vote march through the streets of Liverpool, from St George’s Plateau to the Pier Head and spoke on stage to the 5000 strong crowd gathered in support of a say on the terms of the final Brexit deal, and about what the EU has done for Liverpool. Watch the footage of my speech here.
Later that day I also spoke at a Friends of Yemen rally, calling on the UK government to back the European Parliament’s call for Saudi Arabia to open up the ports that they have blockaded, to allow the flow of vital supplies into Yemen to alleviate the suffering of people experiencing large scale famine and disease outbreaks. This vigil also heard compelling speeches from Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn MP, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry MP and many others, including representatives of the local Yemeni diaspora. The suffering has gone on for too long and an end to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen must now be found.
On Monday I chaired a Labour Movement for Europe event, hosting Shadow Brexit Secretary, Keir Starmer, Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, Richard Corbett MEP, and TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady. There was significant discussion on Labour’s Brexit position and the likely impact of Brexit on various aspects of peoples’ lives, from healthcare to EU nationals’ right to stay in the UK post-Brexit. Richard Corbett MEP then presented his Europe Report to conference.
He reported on what progress MEPs had made in the European Parliament and how Brexit and the government’s Chequers plan threatens this progress, making a clear case for the need for Labour values to be at the heart of Europe. It was great to meet so many new people and colleagues at the European Parliamentary Labour Party exhibition stand, interested in the work of their MEPs. In the evening I hosted the EPLP reception which was packed out.
I started off the Tuesday by attending a Daily Mirror fringe on revitalising the British high street.I spoke alongside Shadow Chancellor JohnMcDonnell MP, Wigan MP Lisa Nandy MP and USDAW General Secretary Paddy Lillis. Watch the video and read the coverage here.
In the 1990s after a Tory Minister suggested that Liverpool should be left to go into ‘managed
decline’, I pushed for the investment Liverpool needed to regenerate from a different source: the European Union. At that point most of the city centre was in a fairly dire state. So my colleagues and I went to the EU over the heads of the then Tory Government and it was European investment and solidarity that transformed Liverpool. But it wasn’t just infrastructure, it was about training, including tied-in childcare money which allowed a lot of women to return into the workplace.
I then held meetings with representatives of the automotive and other high-tech industries, concerning the impact of Brexit and ways to secure jobs in these vital industries for the future in the UK. I spoke in solidarity with the people of Jammu & Kashmir at their fringe event with the NEC’s Cllr Yasmine Dar – it is more important than ever that Jammu & Kashmir are allowed to determine their own future and that there is a cessation of the terrible human rights abuses in this region.
I attended the UNISON Fringe where it was brilliant to see old friends Dave Prentis, Liz Snape, Lynne Morris and Frank Hont and to congratulate the new Chair of the NEC Wendy Nichols. I also met up with old friend Angie Rayner and congratulated her on a barnstorming conference speech.
Wednesday was the day of the Leader’s Speech and Jeremy Corbyn promised that Labour would vote down in Parliament any Tory Brexit deal that did not include customs union access, free movement across the Irish border and protect jobs, people’s rights at work and environmental consumer standards. This combined with Keir Starmer’s clarification that ‘Remain’ will stay on the table as an option in a public vote on the final deal, was a welcome set of interventions. It seems unlikely that the Government will secure a deal that satisfies the criteria set out by Labour.
I had travelled back to Brussels by Thursday, where I attended a Jo Cox memorial with Labour and Socialist & Democrat colleagues, including S&D Leader, Udo Bullman MEP, and Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn MP, to honour the life and work of Jo Cox MP. I paid tribute to the good work Jo did to help the people in her community, while Jo’s sister spoke passionately about how Jo had loved the six years she had lived in Brussels while working for the Labour movement. Watch this fitting tribute video here.
This week I am back in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, attending a plenary on the rule of law in Romania and a debate with the Prime Minister of Estonia, Jüri Ratas, on the future of Europe. I will be attending an S&D ITRE working group and a meeting on how Europe’s bio-economy is leading the way to a truly circular economy.