Theresa Griffin, who ousted BNP leader Nick Griffin from his European parliamentary seat in May, told UNISON’s national delegate conference that we need a “social Europe” that defends people and isn’t just about the markets.
The newly-elected MEP for the north west of England, who spent five years as a UNISON regional organiser, was addressing conference this morning, after a rousing debate on tackling the politics of hate.
It is an honour, she declared “to be here as a UNISON member. No longer can the fascist, racist, Holocaust-denying BNP claim to represent UNISON members in the European parliament.”
She thanked the union for “years of dedicated work”, adding that “it was UNISON – and a big thanks to Dave Prentis who let us do this – who produced the first literature exposing the myths of UKIP.”
Ms Griffin condemned the mainstream media, “and most disgracefully, the BBC, for making a celebrity of Farage”.
But she pointed out that “we have to remember that 10% of those entitled to vote, voted UKIP, and 60% didn’t vote at all.
“Absolutely key to the success of Labour in the European elections was the trade union movement.”
Quoting UKIP leader Nigel Farage himself, she reminded the hall that he claimed to be “the only politician keeping the flame of Thatcherism alive”, as a reminder of precisely what he stands for.
Health and safety at work, maternity pay – the legal right to return to work after pregnancy – and enshrining violence against women as a crime have all been achievements of the European Union, Ms Griffin told conference.
And “you know who is trying to take them away from us”.
She told delegates that “we need to show that UKIP does not have the answers. We must not ignore the fears that people have – but understand the underlying problems and address them.
“We must organise and campaign to expose and defeat” the far right, but to do that, she continued, “we have to replace austerity with growth.”
For that to be possible, Ms Griffin said that “we need to get back to the social Europe … more than a single market for business.
“A Europe that defends working people, fights to eradicate in-work poverty.
“Europe that fights to end discrimination. A Europe that defends and enhances working rights and protections. A Europe that gives hope and security for our young people.”