It was great to get to Liverpool last week and see so many of you all at our first Federal conference since the Lib Dems have entered government! I’m sure that all of you that went would agree that it was, in many ways, a completely different conference experience. The size of the event, the media interest and the Fort Knox style security were at levels that we have never seen before. But it many ways it was the same as all the other Federal conferences I have attended over the last sixteen years.
I saw the same great friends and there was the same level of strong debate that we always see as we decide the direction of the party in the coming years. We are still the only major party that decides on its policy in this public and democratic way and that will never change. It’s just that now we have ministers of state at the debates who can actually get to work on implementing some of these policies!
This weekend I’m heading down to the South Central regional Fun Day in Winchester. It should be great event for both new members and those who want to learn top tips on all the different ways you can get involved. To book your place and make sure you don't miss out on these exciting opportunities, or just to find out more please email Vanessa McPake at [email protected] or call 01908 373418.
I hope to see a lot of you there and that all of you will be supporting Europe in the Ryder Cup this weekend!
Campaign for Fairer Votes Launched
One of the highlights of conference for me was the launch of our campaign for fairer votes at a special rally.
About 2,500 delegates packed into the auditorium to hear speeches from Nick alongside Party favourites Tim Farron and Jo Swinson. Also speaking at the rally - hosted by actor Art Malik - were former independent MP Martin Bell, Keith Sharp of the Electoral Reform Society and Pam Giddy, chair of the umbrella organisation Yes! To Fairer Votes.
First past the post is not fit for purpose as an electoral system. It is a relic that deserves to be consigned to the past. As Nick said: “Good MPs have nothing to fear from AV. Only those that take their constituents for granted do.”
"So we say vote Yes in May. Yes to a more democratic system where MPs will need a majority of voters to support them. Yes to a system that compels MPs to spend less time with their duck houses and more time with their constituents. Yes to a system that means no MP has a safe seat for life. Nick was also right in saying that “This is not about the Liberal Democrats. We don’t know whether we will benefit from AV or not. It’s about fair play, it’s about real democracy and it’s about putting people back in charge.”
Sign up to support the fairer votes campaign here.
European Supervision for European Markets
Last week, EU-level agreement was reached to set up pan-European supervisory bodies which it is hoped will help avoid repeats of the mistakes that led to the financial crisis.
The new institutions are one of the key responses to the financial crisis and are designed to reflect the highly integrated nature of Europe's financial markets.
Sharon, who led the negotiations with the Council of Ministers and European Commission to reach the agreement in her role as Chair of the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, said: What we really need are authorities with fingers in all of the pies, and eyes in the backs of their heads. They must become the link between different financial sectors across the EU, looking out for problems when they are developing, and considering knock-on effects when they take decisions.
“Some will be quick to bill these new authorities as taking powers away from EU Member States, but we have to recognise that banks and financial markets operate across borders. National bodies will continue to form the cornerstone of supervision - these European authorities will need to respond to the expertise of these national bodies if they are to achieve what we have mandated them to do.”
These new bodies will help us spot problems before it is too late and protect ordinary people from the irresponsible actions of a few. They will empower national governments and regulators to act effectively together.
Kent at forefront of new green Britain
Last week, the UK took a significant step towards achieving its renewable energy targets as the Thanet Wind Farm opened off the coast of Kent.
With 100 turbines the Thanet Wind Farm is the largest operational offshore wind farm in the world. It is capable of powering 200,000 homes with clean energy.
I'm so pleased that Kent is leading the way on our journey towards a new green Britain. We need to wean ourselves off energy sources that are killing our environment. The investment put into the wind farm has been great for the local economy in Kent.
Local businesses were involved in the development, new jobs have been created in Thanet, and we're hopeful tourists will be attracted to the area to come and see the project.
That’s a win win all round. Well done Kent!
Fancy a Trip to Brussels?
The brilliant Liberal Democrat European Group (LDEG) is organising a group visit to Brussels that I am happy to sponsor. The visit will take place from Tuesday 9th November until Thursday 11th November 2010. These visits are a great way to see the inner workings of the parliament and we hope this one will include a briefing at NATO HQ or at the Commission.
To offset their costs LDEG levies a £20 per head fee which, for non members, also serves as a "free" temporary membership. I regret that LDEG visits are only open to Liberal Democrat Party members. You can find out more information here.
The numbers will be limited so please book early. If you wish to take part please email [email protected]
This Month’s Euromyth
British farmers lose out in Europe and would be better off if we left...
This is untrue. Ben Gill, former President of the NFU (National Farmers' Union) has said: "Membership of the EU is vital to the interests of British farmers. Over three-quarters of our agricultural commodity exports go to the EU and this share is only likely to grow with the further enlargement of the EU. Looking ahead, the signs are that the whole of the food chain will become increasingly integrated on a European scale. Our future as part of a competitive food industry depends on continuing membership of the Union."
For more myth-busting, have a look at the Euromyth section on my website. Hopefully our responses to these myths will help all of you if you’re challenged about them in a heated European debate!
Now on to Eastbourne and Oxford...
Following on from our hugely successful Federal conference it’s also time for our regional conferences. As the Euro region I represent is so massive it has to be split into two regions by the party so I will be attending both but I hope you can join me at one (or both if you’re really keen!), particularly if you were unable to get to Liverpool this year.
First in the calendar is the South East conference in Eastbourne which boasts Secretary of State for business Vince Cable and our new Deputy leader Simon Hughes on its speakers list (as well as Sharon and myself!). It’s on the 23rd of October in Eastbourne. You can register here.
A week later, it’s off to Oxford for the South East conference with the speakers list headed by our Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne. You can download a registration form here.
I look forward to seeing you in Eastbourne or Oxford!
I will be keeping these newsletters coming out regularly to keep you all up to date with our work in the European parliament and the region but if there’s anything you want to see in these pages or any issues or problems you feel I should be looking at then don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected].
With best wishes,
Member of the European Parliament for South East England
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