Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Red Wedge: Europe and Labour

Labour has to sit down and prepare its strategy on Europe for when the cracks in the coalition appear, and inviting the EPLP leader to cabinet is a good start to integrating UK and European politics

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I was astonished to read William Hague’s speech on Thursday, in which he said among other things that “It is mystifying to us that the previous government failed to give due weight to the exercise of British influence in the EU”. This comes from the same party who just a year ago left the main centre-right group in the European parliament in order to join what the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg called “nutters, antisemites and homophobes”. Clearly, leaving the biggest political group in the European parliament is not what is going to help ‘exercise British influence in the EU’ but will definitely help to its isolation.

So last night’s Red Wedge event came with perfect timing, there being a need to discuss UK’s position on Europe, how it changed under Labour, where it will go under the coalition and what impact the contradictory views within the coalition will have on our relationship with Europe. The event was chaired by the newly elected MP for Wolverhampton North East, Emma Reynolds, and included the former MEP and deputy leader of the EPLP, Richard Corbett, the shadow Europe minister, Chris Bryant, the director of the Centre for European Reform, Charles Grant and Gideon Skinner who is a research director at Ipsos MORI.

What should be Labour’s approach to Europe? First of all, as Chris Bryant MP rightly said, it should be based on ‘our internationalist and democratic socialist values’. Europe and the EU face big issues such as cooperating with emerging economies worldwide, developing the EU as a low-carbon economic zone of the future able to lead the international green economy, building economic growth alongside deficit reduction, and a strong European foreign policy that uses our clout in Europe to advance British interests. It will not be possible to achieve these objectives without cooperation with our EU partners.

Within the party some steps needs to be taken. Personally I think that it would be helpful to have a strategic thinking group on Europe which will include the shadow foreign secretary and the shadow Europe minister and other former Europe ministers. In addition, as David Miliband said a few weeks ago, it is important to invite the leader of the EPLP to the shadow cabinet as the voices from Brussels on European matters are important. It will also be helpful for the party if some frontbench MPs avoid using rhetoric against EU immigration for instance, as this is counterproductive for a progressive party such as Labour.

Thirdly, in relation to the government’s policy on Europe, Labour needs to oppose when the government is not defending the national interest, but it needs to support the government when it takes the right decisions in relation to EU affairs. The Conservatives talked before the election of repatriating powers back from the EU and on a referendum on giving further powers to the EU in the future. Under the coalition agreement the Tories only secured the latter and in such a strange coalition which contains both eurosceptics and europhiles, it is likely that at some point in the future the issue of Europe will trigger the end of this government. This government will be surely tested on the EU budget, the external action service and the common agricultural policy. The prime minister will have to face down the staunch eurosceptic MPs inside his party, which are not going to let things go to rest and already voiced their dissent on the EU.

In the meantime we have to learn lessons from the past on our policy towards Europe and to have a coherent approach that will resonate well among the British electorate. We should proud of Britain’s being part of the biggest single market in the world, having 55 per cent of our exports going to the EU and other achievements. And finally, we should stress that the European Union is essential to the success of Britain and a Britain fully engaged in Europe is essential to the success of the European Union.

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Tal Ofer

2 comments

  • Like all social movements, the Men’s Rights Movement struggles with its identity at times, and with factions withing its ranks that tend to do more harm than good. Many of us are a little hesitant to take this problem on directly. We have enough problems with divisions and infighting as it is. But the dangers of ignoring these things altogether are probably more significant than the frictions that ensue from talking about them. And, after all, it seems to be the calling of MRA’s to talk about a lot of things people would rather we didn’t. First, defining a real MRA is just as hard as defining what a real manis, which obviously means it can’t be done with any authority whatsoever. Opinions are all we have. That being said my personal definition of an MRA is very loose, but it isn’t just about being against feminism. A lot of people are against feminism, but you would never know it unless you asked them, and you might not get an honest answer anyway depending on who’s listening. They are the silent and quite useless majority, and they are more hindrance than help because they care more about social and political approval than speaking up for their values. The truth, rather my truth, is that if you can leave your values at the door when you walk into a room you never really had them to begin with. MRA’s in my experience are people who have and act on their values in many situations that other people won’t. It is what will eventually make the movement an unstoppable force for change, and it is what makes the MRA stand out above all others when gender is discussed. When someone makes an asinine, vacuous statement like “If women were in charge there wouldn’t be any wars,” the MRA is the man or woman that stands up and says, “Excuse me, that’s BS,” and then spouts off a string of names like Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi and anyone of a number of female European monarchs. The MRA is the one person that will publicly rip the covers off of someone who is spouting slanted numbers from an imaginary gender wage gap or making the ridiculous claim that domestic violence is mostly a male thing. So, in the simplest of terms, an MRA is someone, anyone, who sees the emperor has no clothes and says so out loud. Marxist-feminist hate mongers were successful in hiding behind a thin façade of equalitarianism for a long time simply because no one wanted to challenge them. It was MRA’s and MRA’s only that finally blew the whistle on the stinking lot of them and continue to do so whenever the opportunity arises. Another group of men, part of the social phenomenon we now call MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) are also MRA’s in my opinion. These are men who see through the misandry of modern times and vote with their feet about marriage and about relationships. They won’t trade their dignity for sex, for attention and approval, and certainly not for a pathetic illusion of love. So far, all of this is easy enough to talk about. Most MRA’s agree that feminism is the enemy of decency and justice, that it is nothing more than female supremacy dressed up as a movement for equality, and we all agree that the MRA’s are the only ones that are actually doing something about it. It gets a tad stickier, however, when we start talking about what an MRA is not. This is the discussion that sends fingers pointing from and to within, and that’s seldom pleasant. But, it is an important dialogue because in defining what an MRA is not we create the opportunity to identify and rid ourselves of some pretty heavy baggage. First, a chivalrist is not an MRA. The guy who thinks his purpose in life is to care for women like they were children, to pay their way, to open all their doors, to rescue them from the harshness of the world, to pamper them and treat them like a princess is no friend to men and boys. He is just a trained seal balancing a ball on his nose for a piece of fish, and he is a Judas among his brothers. When he is not that, he is generally one of a truly dying breed, a real deal male chauvinist, seeking control in exchange for his niceties; the “man” that thinks he is paying in advance, that sex is owed him when he slides the plastic to cover dinner and drinks. Either way, the chivalrist will sell his best friend out over a skirt and a pair of legs. He does this because it is the only identity he knows or can even imagine. He sees himself as good and gallant, but he is actually a white knight with a black heart and bloody hands. He may call himself a traditionalist or chime on about his family values but he’s really just interested in getting laid and being admired (or obeyed) by women. He has no identity whatsoever without their approval and/or submission, and has much more in common with a feminist than he does with “us” because in every waking moment he is about and only about giving women whatever they want in exchange for his validation fix. That validation is his drug and he will walk right over our broken, bleeding bodies to get it. Regrettably, the traditionalist must be approached with some amount of caution as well. While tips of the hat are well due to men who chose and succeed at traditional marriage, they are the exception– not the rule. The traditionalist who knows his good fortune will not aspire to obligate other men to that path in life. They recognize the risks and vulnerabilities of modern marriage and they do not condemn, but rather fully support, men who choose not to go that way. They stand behind men who opt to un-tether themselves from the role of protector and provider and do not let shaming language about that choice pass between their lips. They tend to see their own path in life as one of free will, a choice followed by some measure of good fortune, not of the mandated disposability to which men have been historically yoked. Troubled families are a concern in this culture, but the men and boys bear the worst of that burden, so it is the otherwise unnoticed men and boys that remain the concern of the MRA; not marriage, not women or girls as a group. This is not an attitude of supremacy or contempt, but a rational response to the egregious state of imbalance that already exists. By advocating for men and boys, we pursue parity, not hegemony. The biggest pretender in the Men’s Rights Movement is the neocon. This is the right wing ideologue that asserts whatever Republican hopeful du jour is some sort of de facto MRA, and consequently a friend, despite their well documented track records of selling us out. In fact, this usurper is more dangerous than the left wing ideologue. We already know the left is owned and operated by feminists; that their thinking is saturated in misandry. And we know that they embrace whatever they are told to by McKinnon and the rest of that ilk. But that chap from the right, the one who hangs out in the MRA forums and contributes to threads, cheering on the Men’s Rights Movement and weaving in pitches for republican politics as usual is looking only for useful idiots. In reality he is a cancer growing near our vital organs. The modern right offers men nothing more than religious fundamentalism, conscription to traditional marriage and disposable roles for men like that of cannon fodder; all the things that have hindered us from fighting back against feminism in the first place. It still seems clear that elements in the right hold much more actual promise for men than anything on the left, but that promise won’t be realized with blind allegiance and automatic votes. The right must be brought back on track towards small government, constitutional ideals, and must become openly and energetically counter-feminist to be anything but useless to us. We must hold allegedly conservative leaders to account for participating in travesties like VAWA and the full gamut of feminist governance that they have either supported with their votes, or by omission with their shameful silence. Joe Neocon in the comments section doesn’t care about all that, he just wants to push his Republican candidate. So it is Joe Neocon who should be pushed right out of the Men’s Rights Movement and into the street where he belongs. And it means. at least to me, that all politicians of both parties are considered feminists or sympathizers till proven otherwise. It must be said, however tactfully, that misogynists are not MRA’s either. Misogyny is a touchy subject in the MRM. All of us who take public stands with our opinions are used to being called woman haters. It comes with the territory. But there are a scant few real ones in our ranks. They should be invited to join Joe Neocon in the street, but by MRA’s, not by feminists. In the end, it seems clear that the MRM doesn’t have a political party (I’d vote for a three-legged chihuahua if it would dump VAWA). We don’t have a religion, or even a sex. We don’t have a nationality or an ethnicity; a universal identity or even national organization that centralizes our leaders. Heck, we don’t even have leaders. We are more a scattering of diverse and independent voices, unified by the quest for justice and an unyielding refusal to be silenced. As such, we are generally policed from within, all of us keeping an eye on each other, and keeping the all but ungovernable masses more or less in line for the greater good. The few misfits among us won’t stop any of that from happening.

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