Life after campaigning
Today at South Central Liberal Democrats regional conference in Chandlers Ford, Catherine Bearder MEP made a speech about her election to the European Parliament. Please see the full text below:
"For those of you who don't know me - and there are not many I think in this room, but a few. I have been doing what any good candidate is asked to do for the last 15 years."
"From Aylesbury to Whitstable, and from Gravesend to Ventnor I have stuffed bits of paper into letter boxes and knocked on doors and trudged up and down the gravel drives."
"It's what I do. Well, it's what I used to do!"
"I finally got elected, not on my own, but with the help of activists and campaigners in 78 local parties that form the huge region of the South East of England - into which the South Central LD region sits."
"I got elected to the European Parliament, which is a wonderful place packed with people from across the Union, who all come together to work for the benefit of all the 500 million citizens of the Union."
"I think this has had to be the most extraordinary time of my life - it's bewildering, with a new city to find my way around, 2 new parliament buildings, staff to employ, forms to fill in and decisions to make about what I want to achieve and just how on earth to go about it."
"It's exciting, finally I am in a position to make a real difference about the things that and I care about."
"And, it's exhausting! Travel to and fro by train to Brussels and Strasbourg and other foreign parts are now part of my normal life, and sleeping in hotel beds and eating strange foods just run of the mill. Getting the washing done is a small worry, but an essential one!"
"All through my political life I have been concerned about the environment, first the natural one with the disappearing biodiversity, and secondly about the effects that our lifestyle is having on the climate and the life sustaining forces of the planet."
"It's what I campaigned on and stood up for when I was a councillor."
"The second issue is that of social justice and protecting vulnerable members of society, so when I became aware of the fate of women and children traded as so much baggage, I started to campaign on these issues."
"Now that I am a member of a Parliament that has great legislative powers in 27 members countries and the 500 million people who live here, I expect you are wondering how I am going to turn campaigning into action."
"Well I now sit with 10 other UK Liberal Democrats in a group of 84 Liberals and Democrats, which is the 3rd largest group in the parliament. In a similar way to the House of Lords, it's the Liberals who hold the balance in the parliament."
"I sit on 3 committees, and these all fit with my priorities and experiences well."
"First is the Regional Development committee, which is involved with all the European regions, their cooperation and governance. This committee has close links to the Committee of the Regions, and for those of you who don't know, this is the body that represents local government from across Europe. Around 2/3rds of all EU legislation is implemented by local and regional authorities and so keeping in touch with them is keeping in touch with the very heart of European people. The Regional Development committee also holds most of the development funds, the Structural, Regeneration and cohesion funds that aim to equalise the regions of the Union, supporting the newer members and helping cooperation, employment and development in all areas."
"I have just been asked to prepare a response on the paper that the Commission is bringing to the parliament on the 2011 EU Year of volunteering. Now who would have thought that all those years working in charities helping those in need in my own local communities would have been so useful in preparing me to report to the parliament!"
"My second committee is the one on International Trade. This will be deliberating on the Trade agreements that the Union has with the rest of the world - how well that fits with the environmental concerns that I have."
"And Finally, I sit on the African, Caribbean and Pacific inter-parliamentary group, - and this met last week. I felt so privileged to be contributing to the discussions with representatives from Djibouti, Malawi, St Kits and ST Neva, Seychelles and the rest on ways in which we can help young people and their involvement in society, what stops them accessing education and playing a full role in society. Some of the thoughts I had on the discrimination that disabled people face have now been incorporated into the final report."
"Now I feel that I can make a real difference to so many lives."
"But we are all doing so much:
Sharon is chairing one of the most important and influential committees at this time of financial crisis, the Economic and Budgetary Affairs committee."
"Sarah Ludford is in a key position to carry on her work to protect human rights and EU USA relations."
"Liz Lynne is working to protect horses in transport, and George Lyons our new Scottish MEP is working hard on the agricultural committee to stop sheep tagging."
"Come to think of it, we are still campaigning!"
"Just as Chris Huhne, Sandra Gidley, Mark Oaten, Mike Hancock and Evan Harris are still doing in Parliament - all year round. It's what Lib Dems do isn't it? It's what you are doing on your councils and in your local parties."
"It's what we expect from our PPCs, and candidates. As we approach the General Elections, and as I try and get my head around the huge job that I have working on behalf of the party and the 8 million people that I represent - I know that the campaigning doesn't stop."
"I know you will all be putting that extra work locally and I hope you will all be going to help Martin Tod in Winchester, and Steve Goddard in Oxford East to WIN - so that they can keep up the campaigning."
"Life after campaigning? No such luck, there is still too much to do."