In response to Ron Clayton’s query as to why Michael Foot and Tony Benn, (after his change from Anthony Wedgewood Benn, a respected minister in the 1960s), were not in favour of British membership of the Common Market, as it was then, the left of the party had persuaded themselves that the Common Market was a capitalist plot, while Britain could become an island of socialism.
Margaret Thatcher and Jacques Delors, in very different ways, between them helped to bring about a change in the thinking of mainstream Labour.
During the 1980s it became increasingly apparent that Britain was becoming a society where the poor were becoming ever poorer and the rich ever richer.
The areas like South Yorkshire that lost jobs in mining, steel and engineering received no extra help from the British government, which actually removed central government funding from such areas.
However, in Brussels, Jacques Delors, the new President of the European Commission, brought in programmes to help areas like South Yorkshire and drew up the Social Chapter, (from which John Major negotiated an opt-out), to give new rights to working people, especially women.
It became clear that Labour should be working with our sister parties in our nearest neighbours in Europe to achieve the kind of just and fair society we want to create, a view I have held since I was in my teens many years ago.
Tony Blair signed up to the Social Chapter to give our working people the same rights.
The big challenge now is to cooperate with our European partners to support the many refugees from the Middle East seeking sanctuary from war, hunger and rape in their own countries, with bigger countries like Britain not leaving Greece to cope as best it can while having problems of its own.
In Germany on holiday three weeks ago, it was inspiring to see how Angela Merkel was prepared to offer shelter to hundreds of thousands of refugees, and also to go and speak to the minority of people opposing the policy and tell them face to face that it is our duty as human beings to help others in distress.
I tried to imagine David Cameron doing the same – and failed!
Northfield Court, S10