When Mr Cameron went to Jakarta

What the outcome of Cameron's Indonesian tour means for relationships between London and Jakarta

Earlier this month, many of us were among the Indonesian business community which welcomed British Prime Minister David Cameron to Jakarta, where he expressed his clear desire for closer trading links between our countries.

This week, Indonesia’s trade minister, Gita Wirjawan, will arrive in Europe to press the case for more trade with all member states of the European Union. As part of Indonesia’s forestry business sector, with over $9bn in exports annually, we wholeheartedly support the initiatives from both Cameron and Wirjawan.

For European companies, Indonesia represents a substantial and growing opportunity at a time of deep economic crisis. Indonesia is the largest economy in South East Asia, with a GDP in excess of $1trn. Annual GDP growth reached 6.5 per cent at the end of 2011. We have a thriving consumer economy which offers great prospects for everyone from smart phone makers to automotive brands and plane manufacturers. During Cameron’s trip to Jakarta, Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia’s national airline, announced an order of 11 new planes from Airbus, bringing much needed work for the UK aviation industry.

For Indonesia, Europe continues to be a significant market for our exporters. In Indonesia’s forestry sector, Europe accounts for 15 per cent of Indonesia’s timber product exports, a figure we would like to grow in the years ahead.

In order to achieve that, we understand European businesses and consumers need cast-iron assurances that their wood products do not come at the expense of the environment. Indonesia contains many of the world’s most precious natural resources and biodiversity. Indonesia’s rainforests are home to some of most endangered species on the planet, such as the Sumatran Tiger, and are critical in the fight against climate change.

Indonesia, including the forestry sector, has recognised that deforestation is no longer an acceptable option for our country, our partners, and the environment. That’s why Indonesia’s President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, made a strong commitment last year to protecting Indonesia’s rainforests and reducing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 26 per cent over the rest of this decade.

In the forestry sector, we have seen the very positive and practical results of these commitments, with the introduction of a new certification system for Indonesia’s timber sector, called "SVLK".

SVLK, which comes into force next year, will provide the assurance to European and other customers that Indonesia’s wood products are produced in a legal and sustainable manner. Two months ago, all the major trade associations representing the forestry sector in Indonesia, gathered in Jakarta to work out the practical steps required to achieve world-class timber production and trade standards through SVLK. We are now very firmly on that path, which will ultimately cover every part of the wood product sector in Indonesia. It is a huge undertaking – but a vital one.

The timing of SVLK is very important for our European stakeholders. When the EU Timber Regulation comes into force in March 2013 it will require all European importers of timber to have done a high level of due diligence on the wood products they buy. By providing a simple and clear standard, SVLK licensing will make this much easier and provide a very high level of reassurance for those sourcing timber products in Indonesia.

We urge the European Commission, European Member States and the Indonesian government to promote awareness of the SVLK in Europe and what it will mean for those who wish to trade in wood products with Indonesia. With these world-class standards in place, Indonesia’s forestry sector will be able to participate in the growing trade opportunities between our country and the EU – without sacrificing precious environmental values.

Finally, we would also like to call for constructive engagement with European NGOs who have taken such a strong interest in the protection of Indonesia’s natural resources over the years. The new SVLK system is something they should support and welcome. Indonesia’s forestry sector wants to work with them to help make it a success.

We hope that the initiatives by Cameron and Wirjawan mark the beginning of a new era of trade between Indonesia and EU nations. There are huge gains to be made by both sides if our economic ties can become stronger.

Illegally logged trees are floated downstream in Indonesia. Photograph: Getty Images

Purwadi Soeprihanto is the executive director of the Association of Indonesian Forest Concessionaires.

Photo: Getty Images
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Why are boundary changes bad for Labour?

New boundaries, a smaller House of Commons and the shift to individual electoral registration all tilt the electoral battlefield further towards the Conservatives. Why?

The government has confirmed it will push ahead with plans to reduce the House of Commons to 600 seats from 650.  Why is that such bad news for the Labour Party? 

The damage is twofold. The switch to individual electoral registration will hurt Labour more than its rivals. . Constituency boundaries in Britain are drawn on registered electors, not by population - the average seat has around 70,000 voters but a population of 90,000, although there are significant variations within that. On the whole, at present, Labour MPs tend to have seats with fewer voters than their Conservative counterparts. These changes were halted by the Liberal Democrats in the coalition years but are now back on course.

The new, 600-member constituencies will all but eliminate those variations on mainland Britain, although the Isle of Wight, and the Scottish island constituencies will remain special cases. The net effect will be to reduce the number of Labour seats - and to make the remaining seats more marginal. (Of the 50 seats that would have been eradicated had the 2013 review taken place, 35 were held by Labour, including deputy leader Tom Watson's seat of West Bromwich East.)

Why will Labour seats become more marginal? For the most part, as seats expand, they will take on increasing numbers of suburban and rural voters, who tend to vote Conservative. The city of Leicester is a good example: currently the city sends three Labour MPs to Westminster, each with large majorities. Under boundary changes, all three could become more marginal as they take on more wards from the surrounding county. Liz Kendall's Leicester West seat is likely to have a particularly large influx of Tory voters, turning the seat - a Labour stronghold since 1945 - into a marginal. 

The pattern is fairly consistent throughout the United Kingdom - Labour safe seats either vanishing or becoming marginal or even Tory seats. On Merseyside, three seats - Frank Field's Birkenhead, a Labour seat since 1950, and two marginal Labour held seats, Wirral South and Wirral West - will become two: a safe Labour seat, and a safe Conservative seat on the Wirral. Lillian Greenwood, the Shadow Transport Secretary, would see her Nottingham seat take more of the Nottinghamshire countryside, becoming a Conservative-held marginal. 

The traffic - at least in the 2013 review - was not entirely one-way. Jane Ellison, the Tory MP for Battersea, would find herself fighting a seat with a notional Labour majority of just under 3,000, as opposed to her current majority of close to 8,000. 

But the net effect of the boundary review and the shrinking of the size of the House of Commons would be to the advantage of the Conservatives. If the 2015 election had been held using the 2013 boundaries, the Tories would have a majority of 22 – and Labour would have just 216 seats against 232 now.

It may be, however, that Labour dodges a bullet – because while the boundary changes would have given the Conservatives a bigger majority, they would have significantly fewer MPs – down to 311 from 330, a loss of 19 members of Parliament. Although the whips are attempting to steady the nerves of backbenchers about the potential loss of their seats, that the number of Conservative MPs who face involuntary retirement due to boundary changes is bigger than the party’s parliamentary majority may force a U-Turn.

That said, Labour’s relatively weak electoral showing may calm jittery Tory MPs. Two months into Ed Miliband’s leadership, Labour averaged 39 per cent in the polls. They got 31 per cent of the vote in 2015. Two months into Tony Blair’s leadership, Labour were on 53 per cent of the vote. They got 43 per cent of the vote. A month and a half into Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Labour is on 31 per cent of the vote.  A Blair-style drop of ten points would see the Tories net 388 seats under the new boundaries, with Labour on 131. A smaller Miliband-style drop would give the Conservatives 364, and leave Labour with 153 MPs.  

On Labour’s current trajectory, Tory MPs who lose out due to boundary changes may feel comfortable in their chances of picking up a seat elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog. He usually writes about politics.