Once more to the SWALEC Stadium, this time for the launch of the European campaign, along with Cheryl Gillan and three of our four candidates – Kay Swinburne, Evan Price and Emma Greenow. Our fourth candidate, Dave Chipp, was attending the David Cameron launch in the North West on behalf of Wales.
These elections are important in their own right. Europe is vastly important to Wales and the United Kingdom. I have always believed we should be in Europe. I campaigned hard in Cambridge in 1975 to keep us in when Harold Wilson was Prime Minister. There was then a cross-Party alliance of pro-common market Labour MPs led by Roy Jenkins, and Conservatives and Liberals (as they then were). There was a fierce anti-campaign supported by Enoch Powell, Tony Benn, Peter Shore and others. In those days the Labour Party was pretty ambivalent about the Common Market, although there was a recommendation from the Prime Minister to vote ‘Yes’. Nevertheless some members of the Cabinet were campaigning on the ‘No’ side of the argument.
We need to be in Europe campaigning from the inside to shout for Welsh and British interests on issues like electronic identification, testing of water supplies, the working time directive, and other matters that have a direct impact on us. Quite apart from the wider strategic interests.
My view of Europe is not a federal Europe but a Europe of states working together. The best example of this is surely the Single Market which has provided massive economic opportunities, jobs and prosperity throughout the United Kingdom and Europe.
The government, in my belief, has a weak case in these elections. It has denied a vote on the Lisbon Treaty (European Constitution under the ‘rose by any other name’ principle) and has not fought hard enough for British interests in my view.
These elections will no doubt also been seen as a mini referendum on Gordon Brown’s government, and a snapshot of how Labour is seen by the electorate at large. It is important for that reason too.
We are fortunate to have excellent candidates. Kay Swinburne spoke fluently in English and, indeed, in Welsh on her vision of Europe, and Evan Price, whose family lives just outside Crickhowell, gave his vision of Europe too. These two, along with Emma and Dave are campaigning hard throughout Wales and I will be joining them at times throughout the campaign.
Good luck to them!