Braving the elements for Remain

Cromer beach remain 290516

Nothing quite matches the charm of a North Norfolk seaside resort on a cold and rainy bank holiday.   We have our own microclimate here (the Humber shipping forecast is the best guide to the weather) and this often works to our disadvantage with sea frets that block out all sunshine. This year, on the bank holiday Sunday at the end of May, it seemed that everywhere in the country was bathed in warmth except the Norfolk coastline.

Despite the weather some twenty brave souls turned out at Cromer Pier as part of a Beach Parties for Europe event designed to underline the very positive effect that EU membership has in combatting pollution – clearly a problem that can only be addressed through international co-operation. It was a nice idea, and an important point to make, even if Remain for Nature t-shirts were worn over sweaters and in some cases anoraks.

This was an all-party event. Our Eastern Region Euro MP, Richard Howitt, was in attendance as well as a Conservative MEP, a sprinkling of Greens, and some euro-supporters of no firm party allegiance. As far as I could ascertain there was one LibDem present but no sign of the local LibDem MP Norman Lamb (see previous blog), despite the fact that his participation had been announced in our local daily paper, the Eastern Daily Press. Ironically, if he was trying to adopt a low profile, Cromer Pier on a rainy bank holiday Sunday would have been a perfect place to be – there were comparatively few passers-by and most of his constituents would have remained firmly indoors in the warm.

Also conspicuous by their absence were members of our local branch of Momentum – the ultra-left organisation established to protect Jeremy Corbyn’s position as leader of the Labour Party. They are displaying very little momentum, and certainly limited enthusiasm for the European cause. I wonder if the name they have chosen for their organisation is any longer appropriate. One of my all-time favourite misnomers was the group within the Church of England who styled themselves ‘Reform’. Their statement of principles included a recognition of ‘the unique value of women’s ministry in the local congregation but also the divine order of male headship’– code for keeping women in their place. Titles chosen by organisations can be most misleading.


Updates on previous blogs: What is Richard Howitt doing? and Academics for Jeremy Corbyn

Richard Howitt MEP’s Press Officer rang me today to have a whinge on what he felt to be two factual inaccuracies in my blog below. First he claimed that there was no early bird price for the jolly to Europe. Oh yes there is. It is £165 early bird for Strasbourg and £85 for the Brussels jolly.

On his second I must hold my hand up and admit a mistake.  I said that you would not find information on whom Richard was supporting for the leadership by looking at his website. I was wrong. You can if you are prepared to do the following.  Go the main site; ignore the four news items listed on the page; go below them and press ‘see all’. You then get to page 1 of 10. Press ‘page 3’.   Richard nominates Yvette Cooper for Labour Leadership is the 5th story of 10. It appears just below Loughton teens are being denied a say in their own future and What Greece needs isn’t Grexit. I offer the Press Officer my apologies.

My second update concerns the letter from pro-Corbyn academics.  I sent an e-mail to the 27 signatories drawing attention to my piece immediately below.  So far I have received 7 out of office replies only one of which gives an alternative contact. The prize goes to the lecturer from Greenwich whose reply reads: This is an automatic reply. I am out of the office until 14 September, and will respond to you if necessary on my return.

One other academic wrote asking me to reproduce a second letter in support of Corbyn’s position.  The author admitted to doing ‘very little canvassing’ (which I suspect means none) and his letter denies that Corbyn is a “danger” who is causing harm to the Labour Party. As Gordon Brown put it this week ‘Labour must be credible, radical, sustainable and electable to help people out of poverty’. I will be dealing with Jeremy Corbyn’s policy position on Wednesday and Thursday.


What is Richard Howitt doing?

We can expect a flood of books on the Labour Party’s crisis to appear in the autumn. The more thoughtful of these will draw attention to the dismal European campaign that Labour fought in 2014. We seemed almost embarrassed about Europe, scared stiff of Ukip, and tried to get through by avoiding saying anything worthwhile about the international scene.

We did badly here in the Eastern Region and elected just one MEP, when we hoped for two or even three. The one we elected, Richard Howitt, seems a decent enough fellow with a long background of Labour Party activism  Last week I received an ‘e-postcard’ from his office and assumed it would be a communication about the leadership. In fact it was a notification that he is hosting two visits to the European Parliament. For £85 (early bird price based on sharing a twin room) you not only get travel by Eurostar and a trip to the Parliament, but ‘dinner in a traditional Chinese restaurant, hosted by Richard’.

Now this seems pretty good value to me. However it does raise the question whether, at a time of existential crisis for the Party, he should spend his time on this sort of activity. Maybe he thinks the crisis is terminal and is looking to start a travel business after the next European election.

Richard has in fact declared for Yvette Cooper – though you won’t find this information from his website. If this is where he stands, given the gravity of the situation facing the Party, surely his resources would be better spent on supporting her campaign.

Fiddling with chopsticks while Rome burns?


On 21st August I will be publishing a short book:

Labour’s failure and my small part in it: a memoir for my grandchildren

It will be made available free of charge as a download on this site and my personal website  I also intend to produce a Kindle edition.  The book is based on my experiences of 50 year’s activism, my despair about the current state of the Labour Party, and the steps that we need to take to regain credibility.