Tag Archives: history

  • Berlin: 3 snapshots

    The 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall brings back some personal memories. Three in particular are amusing but illustrative. The first is from when I hitchhiked to Berlin in 1973 as an 18 year old, getting a lift from inside West Germany and going along the “corridor” road through East Germany to […]

  • Place Jo Cox

    On 27th September, the city of Brussels honoured the memory of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, by naming a square beside the Ancienne Belgique music venue she often visited in the years she lived here, as Place Jo Cox, in a formal ceremony.

  • Honoured to be President of Grimethorpe Colliery Band

    I am thrilled to have been asked to be the Honorary President of world famous Grimethorpe Colliery Band in their Centenary year. I attended the special screening of the film at the Albert Hall where they performed the soundtrack live. A wonderful evening!

  • courtesy David Holt London via flickr

    May 9th – Europe Day

    Today, May 9th, is Europe Day. But what does that really celebrate? Given that the UK’s relationship with Europe has never been more present in the public consciousness – ironically at a time when our future relationship with the EU has never been less clear – it is worth some reflection.

  • Courtesy Grimethorpe band

    Grimethorpe Colliery Band

    I had the great pleasure to attend a superb performance of the Grimethorpe Colliery Band on Saturday – and of being reminded of the significance of the deep-rooted Brass Band tradition. I had the honour of meeting conductor Ian Shires and star cornetist Roger Webster. Brass bands are about music – but more than music. Many are […]

  • courtesy Paaskivi via Wikimedia Commons

    How Britain shaped Parliament

    To coincide with the publication of The European Parliament in its ninth edition, John Harper Publishing have commissioned a series of studies in the evolution of the institution.

  • Ventotene

    The BBC reported last night on the summit meeting of the leaders of France, Germany and Italy on the island of Ventotene – but without explaining the significance of the venue! It is yet another example of the British media not fully reporting European affairs. Why is Ventotene symbolic? Because it is where, in 1941, […]

  • Handwritten letters

    Thoughts from a constituent

    I recently received a fascinating letter from a constituent, Eric Smith, which offers a unique perspective on the EU referendum and Britain’s historical relationship with its European neighbours. With his permission, below are the four pages of his letter. (You can also download the entire letter in PDF format by clicking here.)

  • courtesy YouTube

    Benn’s five questions

    Tony Benn famously proposed five questions to be asked of anyone who holds power of one kind or another. One of the many organisations to fail his democracy test at the time was the European Commission. But, since then, the EU treaties have been changed to increase the accountability of the Commission. How would it […]

  • Winston Churchill: a champion of European unity

    The last few days have seen one of the two anti-EU campaigns trying to use Churchill to their advantage, provoking outrage from his family. It is indeed a damn cheek, because Churchill was both an initiator and a strong supporter of the creation of what became the European Union. Eurosceptics like to quote Churchill’s speech in […]

  • History of a pro-European monarch

    In a forthright statement, yesterday Queen Elizabeth called for unity in Europe. Addressing German president Joachim Gauck, she said: The United Kingdom has always been closely involved in its continent. We know that division in Europe is dangerous and that we must guard against it … that remains a common endeavour. She did not explicity […]

  • History has stopped repeating itself

    The Battle of Waterloo was one of the great milestones in European history — and today marks the 200th anniversary of the episode that concluded an extremely prolonged military campaign. I’m delighted to be attending the Waterloo 200 Service of Commemoration at St. Paul’s Cathedral today to mark the occasion. The ceremony is testament to […]

  • EU and UK flags

    Idealism or pragmatism?

    I wrote my first article for the UK European Movement since becoming Vice Chair, on the subject of balancing pragmatism and idealism about the European Union. The EU today might appear to be less about inspirational idealism, and more about nitty-gritty pragmatism. And pragmatism is important. But when we focus exclusively on self-interested arguments, we […]

  • Photo from European Parliament

    Spinelli: who was he?

    Few of the younger MEPs or staff in the European Parliament seem aware of the person after whom the main parliamentary building is named: Altiero Spinelli. I was privileged to attend as a special guest last Monday, the premiere of a film on the life of Spinelli — not a documentary but a historical drama […]

  • Photo by Wikipedia user Andrejavus, licensed in CC

    Lessons from history

    Spending my summer break pottering along the Baltic coast from Germany through Poland, Lithuania and Latvia is a reminder of how recently Europe saw horrific slaughters like those now on our television screens in Iraq and Syria. I write these words from Bialystok, where, seventy-five years ago, the Jewish community comprised almost two thirds of […]

  • Photo courtesy of Wikipedia editor Saruman

    The First World War

    The madness that saw millions of young people go out to slaughter each other on the battlefields of the First World War started 100 years ago today. Of course, on all sides, most were motivated by high ideals: to defend their country, to right a wrong, to do their duty. Killing people who had precisely […]

  • Photo by Tim Bekaert via Wikimedia

    A view from Ypres

    Travelling back from Brussels to Yorkshire by car this time, we decided to go via Ypres (or Ieper, to give its proper name). It’s always moving to visit the area, with its countless war cemeteries, but never more so than on this 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. The Menin gate […]

  • At a Srebrenica commemoration event

    Remembering Srebrenica

    This weekend, I spoke at two commemorations of the Srebrenica massacre — one in Leeds (at the Makkah Masjid mosque) and one in Bradford (at the town hall) — marking the 19th anniversary of the cold-blooded massacre of over 8000 Muslims in the Bosnian civil war. I visited Srebrenica three years ago. Like others in […]

  • via Wikimedia Commons

    Never again

    This week is the hundredth anniversary of the assassination of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in Vienna which triggered the start of the First World War. Two highly symbolic events to mark it stand out: one by governments in Ypres and one by civil society organisations in Sarajevo. Herman van Rompuy’s initiative to convene the heads of state […]

  • Ten years of a larger European Union

    It’s ten years this month since eight central and eastern European countries (and two Commonwealth countries, Malta and Cyprus) joined the EU. This was a historic achievement, bringing former Communist dictatorships into the family of democratic countries that constitute the EU — helping to anchor peace, stability and human rights in a potentially volatile area. […]

  • Daily Mail 1975

    We were never hoodwinked

    One of the most frequently repeated lies about Europe is to say that, when we joined the EU, ‘we were told we were only joining a free-trade area’ and ‘no-one told us that it was more than that’. The eurosceptic strategy here is to try to undermine the national debate that took place in the […]