Mark Whiley with Jeremy Corbyn at the PES Congress, Lisbon
Mark Whiley with Jeremy Corbyn at the PES Congress, Lisbon

With the European Elections on the horizon in May and many European Left parties still countenancing the rise of the far-right, this year’s Party of European Socialists (PES) congress heavily focused on reengaging with our traditional voters and combating far-right extremism. Despite the expense of paying outright for three conferences since the start of October, an SPD (Germany) comrade twisted my arm into attending in Lisbon.

Attending PES Events

Despite numerous enquiries with Labour HQ and the European wing of the Labour Party I was unable to get any information on their plans for PES Congress or the names of their delegation. Regardless, you can join as a PES activist for free at to participate in policy prioritisation, discussions, and attend events across Europe – the majority however are in Brussels.

It’s also worth mentioning that you don’t have to be a member of the PES sister party where you live, and that there are no UK Labour Party rules regarding which non-UK party you join in combination with UK Labour Party membership.

Getting Involved!

Without voting rights for the main conference, my input was limited to Q+A sessions, workshops, and being drafted in by Rainbow Rose for my limited ‘manpower’ in setting up their stall!

Highlights included the Digital Strategies Workshop with Jessica Shearer (ex Bernie Sanders campaign) focused on producing low cost viral content and Facebook ads for GOTV and attracting swing voters; questioning the panel on ‘Getting out our voters’ on connecting our message with white, working class, young men who are increasingly swayed to the far right; briefly meeting Imogen from Labour International Brussels; and name-dropping Labour International to Jeremy Corbyn while snapping a selfie shortly after his speech to Congress on Friday evening.

I understand that LI Portugal were angry that they weren’t told about the event – as a PES activist who struggled to get prior information from UK Labour and was only able to find out how to register with PES for the Congress in early December, I can only empathise with them.

In future, I hope we’ll be proactive and aware enough of the PES calendar to circulate information of future PES events and expand Labour International’s presence, either as part of an official delegation or as PES activists.

On that subject…

PES Election Congress is on 23rd February 2019 in Madrid, Spain. You can apply to attend now – until 10th January 2019 – at

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