Monday, 23 December 2013

2014 matters for Europe, for the country and for Labour

Article for LabourList looking ahead to next year's European Parliament elections.

When pinning your new calendar to the kitchen wall in the next couple of weeks be sure put a red circle around Thursday 22 May. The weeks and days will quickly countdown to European election polling day and important local elections. As the European election results are announced on the following Sunday evening, we will be less than a year to the 2015 General Election.

Momentum matters in politics and next May’s European elections have real significance. These are the first European elections we have contested whilst being in Westminster opposition since 1994. The patterns of previous results are clear in telling us what tends to happen to governing parties at European elections but we should be anything but complacent. We need to be working tirelessly to elect more Labour MEPs and to win in all parts of the country.

European results tend not to set the long-term political weather but next year’s will set the tone at a critical point in the domestic electoral cycle. The good set of results we need next May will give a real boost to the campaign towards 2015.

To win in 2014 we have to be ready to take on UKIP. A UKIP surge next year is good news for no one and a Nigel Farage victory lap around the country next summer will be to our peril as well as the Tories’.

Organisationally the party is in good shape going into the New Year. With a team of new organisers in the field we should be relishing the opportunity to boost contact rates in each and every constituency and rehearse our GOTV campaigns.

The European campaign will need to dovetail with local council and parliamentary campaigns, framed around our strong and decisive argument on the cost of living crisis.

We will set out our case for a better and reformed European Union that works for working people, that is focussed on jobs and growth and which responds to the challenges we face today.

Having recently seen the Government’s chaotic approach to EU immigration policy, we should not forget that Labour demanded action months ago to deal with the loopholes that lead to exploitation of migrant workers and the undercutting of local labour. We have to show that it’s Labour with the ideas for a better and fairer EU.

Next year’s elections come at an important time for Europe and for our domestic electoral cycle. With every vote counting in European elections our challenge is clear. As we see the cost of living crisis take hold across the country we will show that it is Ed Miliband’s Labour with the real solutions. We will set out a progressive argument for a better Europe; a Europe that works for working people.

We can secure a One Nation result next May, winning in all parts of the country; to do that we need to be straight out of the blocks at the turn of the year. Let’s get to it. 2014 matters for Europe, for the country and for Labour. See you on the doorsteps.

This article was first published on LabourList, 22 December 2013.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Blog: campaign update #FreezeThatBill, Small Business Saturday & more.....

Here's a quick campaign update from the last few weeks including #FreezeThatBill, Small Business Saturday and Billy Bragg:

On Saturday 9 November I took part in the #FreezeThatBill campaign day, joining our campaign teams in Leicester and Loughborough. It was good to be joined by Shadow Cabinet Member Vernon Coaker MP at the campaign session in Loughborough.

To find out more and support Labour's #FreezeThatBill campaign see:

FreezeThatBill campaigning in Loughborough.

During November I spoke at several meetings and events about next year's European elections including Charnwood Constituency Labour Party; Nottinghamshire Fabian Society's AGM; Glenis Willmott's East Midlands Labour European Forum; and Northampton University Labour Students with our Parliamentary Candidate Sally Keeble.

I also attended the East Midlands Labour Gala Dinner which was addressed by Ed Miliband. It was also good to welcome Tom Watson MP to the annual Leicester South Christmas Curry earlier this week.

At the East Midlands Labour Gala Dinner with friends from North West Leicestershire Labour Party including our candidate Jamie McMahon.

Saturday 7 December was the first Small Business Saturday UK. This was an excellent opportunity to celebrate the important contribution small businesses make to our high streets and communities. I wrote a column for the Leicester Mercury which can be read here.

On Small Business Saturday itself I started the day at the home of many excellent small businesses and independent traders, the famous Leicester Market. I also visited Welbeck Farm Shop in North Nottinghamshire, which is also home to the Welbeck Brewery. The previous Sunday I visited the popular Clarendon Park Christmas Fair on Leicester's Queens Road.

I have written previously about the special food heritage and industry we have here in the East Midlands. If I am elected as an MEP working to promote this industry will be one of my top priorities. In November we saw lots of local producers showcased at the Leicester Market Winter Food & Drink Festival. This event featured local producers like Woodhouse Farm in Hinckley and Coalville's Long Lane Brewery.

I have signed up to support an NUS campaign to champion postgraduate students. Postgraduate study is vital to the UK in terms of research and innovation. I want to see a fair funding settlement for postgraduate students at our region's universities. Find out more here.

With Leicester University Students Union officer Michael Rubin and
Jon Ashworth MP signing up as a Postgraduate Champion.

Congratulations to Labour's Parliamentary Candidates that have been selected since my last update blog, Kevin McKeever in Northampton South and Cherly Pidgeon for South Derbyshire. It has been a busy few weeks but it was good to find time to see Billy Bragg perform here in the East Midlands at Derby Assembly Rooms.

Thank you to everyone who is campaigning across the region ahead of next year's elections.

Remember, you can also follow me on Twitter @Rory_Palmer.

Small Business Saturday, Leicester Mercury column

Column for the Leicester Mercury looking ahead to the first Small Business Saturday UK.

Last Sunday I joined the crowds at the popular Clarendon Park Christmas Fair on Queens Road. This event was one of many excellent showcases of Leicester’s vibrant and growing small business economy.

Whether it’s Queens Road, Stoneygate Shops, Narborough Road, the Golden Mile, Aylestone village, Evington Road, Leicester Market or the city centre, small businesses are making a big contribution to the city’s economy.

In Leicester, the city council is supporting small businesses all year-round with a number of initiatives that aim to help them prosper. Small businesses are the engine room of Leicester’s economy and illustrate the entrepreneurship and creativity which typifies our city.

This Saturday, the UK will acknowledge the importance of these businesses by encouraging people to shop locally and support small businesses in their area. I want to encourage people to back Leicester’s small businesses.

Leicester recently retained its place as 11th in the UK’s retail league table - a major achievement given the tough economic times. Small businesses and independent traders can claim their share of this success as an integral part of the city’s retail offer.

The council is making big improvements to the city centre to ensure it continues to be an attractive place to visit. Our city centre director leads a board made up of local retailers and businesses, which is also helping to improve the shopping experience in Leicester.

From promoting what’s on offer in our shops, bars and cafes, to organising special events to attract people into the city, the board is giving small businesses a voice alongside the bigger retailers.

Independent retailers outside the city centre are benefiting from our shopfront improvements grants, and other work we are doing to improve signage, and spruce up shopping areas.

Small businesses on Belgrave Road, Melton Road, Churchgate and Granby Street have taken advantage of these grants with great results, and we are now talking to those on Narborough Road, Braunstone Gate and Humberstone Gate East about the improvements we can help them to make there as part of this £380,000 scheme.

In September this year we launched our Enterprising Leicester grant, opening up a pot of £2m of European funding to small and medium sized businesses looking to grow and create jobs in the city.

So far we’ve given out £70,000 to local businesses, with more awards coming through every week.

The council is also supporting small businesses by making it easier for them to apply for council contracts. It is one of our priorities to use the council’s spending power to help boost the local economy.

Last year the city council spent £3.2m with local small and medium businesses. Our target for this year is to award £10m of contracts locally, and we are well on our way to achieving this.

There’s no doubt that small businesses will play a significant role in the development of our city over the next few years, so I urge you to go out and support them in any way you can, not just this Saturday but every day.

More information on the support available to small businesses in Leicester is available on the council’s website at 
Tweet #SmallBizSatUK

This column first appeared in the Leicester Mercury, Thursday 5 December 2013.