True grit wins the day

By Richard Howitt GOOD news recently as our battle to defeat a terrible EU Ports law which would have threatened jobs, safety and investment for our local ports of Felixstowe and Harwich was a stunning success as the law was rejected by a landslide by the Parliament.

By Richard Howitt

GOOD news recently as our battle to defeat a terrible EU Ports law which would have threatened jobs, safety and investment for our local ports of Felixstowe and Harwich was a stunning success as the law was rejected by a landslide by the Parliament.

This was a huge victory for the communities of Harwich and Felixstowe and shows just how much of an impact local voices can have in swaying crucial European votes.

In campaigning against this law, I was joined by the Harwich and Felixstowe port owners, and also by dock workers and union officials. As well as holding meetings with me in Felixstowe and Harwich, these local people such as Geordie Landles and Ricky Burnham who between them have over 60years of working in the Port of Felixstowe travelled to Brussels and Strasbourg to fight their case.


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They met with MEP's, sent letters and did media interviews, protested along with 5,000 Dockers from around Europe outside the Parliament, and even had to dodge a bit of tear gas from French police as an element in the crowd started causing damage in Strasbourg.

In the end through true grit and determination they swayed enough votes to see the Ports law well and truly sunk! The sense of relief from the dockworkers was palpable and my thanks to them for all their efforts.

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The big international news last week was the political earthquake which saw the terrorist group Hamas win the election in Palestine and I was there as part of the EU monitoring mission to certify that voting was free and fair.

I spent polling day in the Hamas stronghold of Gaza, and the mood was extremely tense, with both media and local observers expecting violence. However meeting with election officials and voters they were determined that the election would be a success and that Palestine would move a step closer to proving itself a viable state.

The result of those elections is a huge challenge to the Middle East peace process. Hamas are firmly on the EU and UK terrorist list and until they prove their commitment to peaceful means they must stay on that list.

The week ahead will be another busy one, but am very much looking forward to welcoming some local groups to the European Parliament. A group almost thirty staff and students from the Colchester sixth form college will be getting a taste of the work being done in the Parliament and also getting to experience Brussels, and also during the week a group from the National Farmers Union will be dropping in to discuss the agricultural issues facing Essex and Suffolk.

Finally this week another Euro Myth hit our tabloid headlines, with the Brussels Eurocrats supposedly trying to get rid of our traditional pint of milk replacing everything with litres and half litres instead. I can assure you that as usual this scaremongering was a load of Eurosceptic claptrap.

So from Palestine to ports and from schools to sugar beet farmers the work goes on in the European Parliament, but you can rest assured that the pint will still be sitting on your doorstep tomorrow morning and for the foreseeable future!

Richard Howitt is Labour Euro MP for the East of England.

Email: richard.howitt@geo2.poptel.org.uk

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