Thursday 1 July 2010

Was Diane's Brussels snub a pitch for the Eurosceptic vote?

With their exhaustive Hustings 2010 UK tour playing to packed houses, most of the Labour leadership candidates have taken their campaigns to the continent.

Indeed, a few CLPs might cast a mildly envious eye at the Brussels branch of Labour's international section, which was running a revolving door policy among leadership contenders, with a crowded room of over 60 party members hearing from Ed Miliband and Andy Burnham on the same night last week. David Miliband spoke to the Brussels party earlier in the campaign, while Ed Balls was in Brussels to meet the party's MEPs on Tuesday.

What might explain this highly welcome outbreak of pro-European fraternalism?

It may not be entirely unrelated to the fact that each of Labour's MEPs has equal status with the party's Westiminster MPs in the Parliamentary section of the electoral college.

Labour Eurosceptics may be pleased to hear that one candidate is standing out against the trend. The Diane Abbott campaign turned down her invitation to meet the Labour MEPs, telling them that she would be too busy campaigning for the leadership.

That surprised some MEPs, as they collectively have more voting power than the remaining group of Labour MPs in the south, south-east and south-west of England.

Mention of the Electoral College did seem to spark a rethink, with the Abbott campaign then suggesting a Brussels hustings be organised among all of the candidates. But that seems unlikely given the crowded hustings schedule, given that the other four have already made the trip individually.

They have also begun to pick up supporting nominations from MEPs - the current tally is David Miliband (4), Ed Miliband (3) and Andy Burnham (1) - with five MEPs, including group leader Glenis Willmott, yet to declare their hand.

Next Left understands that the Brussels invitation to Abbott remains open, though some of his colleagues now suspect that not even deputy group leader Claude Moraes' status as a Hackney resident, may be enough to swing them an audience.

So perhaps it is a sign too that Abbott is confident that she will secure more support than anybody expects among Labour MPs at Westminster.

1 comment:

Jane Chelliah said...

Perhaps it is an indication of her foreign policy towards Europe.