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Straight Talking - October 2010

Love Europe. Hate the European Union

Roger Helmer's electronic newsletter from Strasbourg

Please feel free to distribute this newsletter, or to quote from it. It is primarily written for Conservative Party members and activists in the East Midlands, but may also be of interest to others concerned about developments in the EU. If you receive the newsletter second-hand and want to go onto the
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A Great Conference -- especially on the fringe

I had a good couple of days at our Party Conference in Birmingham. Emma McClarkin and I met Boris Johnson on the Sunday evening at his reception, sponsored by Canary Wharf. And for the first time I met the delightful Bryony Gordon, the Telegraph columnist -- and got a photograph with her (I've been a big fan for ages). That picture, and many more Conference pics, can be found here.

The Freedom Zone (TFZ): This was the third year for The Freedom Association's Freedom Zone, this time in Austin Court, right adjacent to (but outside) the Conference security cordon. Every year it's bigger and better than last. It was opened by John Redwood. And of course we had all the good guys -- ConHome, Taxpayers' Alliance, Big Brother Watch, and so on. TFZ is rapidly gaining a reputation on the conservative wing of the Conservative Party as "The Real Conference", where lively debate and challenging opinions rule -- in contrast to the anodyne and carefully sanitised speeches in the main auditorium (which I didn't visit at all this time).

My fringe with Nirj Deva MEP: On Tuesday 5th, Nirj Deva and I had a fringe meeting in TFZ on the European Diplo Service (EEAS) -- one of the great concessions which the Coalition has made to Brux. It was very kindly chaired by David Nuttall MP, the very sound new MP for Bury North. We made the points I cover below ("Coalition Selling the Sceptics Short"). I recounted the story of how in July Nirj and I had been stunned to find we were whipped to vote for the EEAS -- despite having been elected on an explicit Manifesto Commitment to oppose it.

The problems of "Greenmailing": On the 6th I was a late substitute chairman (for Simon Richards who had conference flu) on a TFZ/TPA fringe on "Greenmailing" -- the outrageous pressures that are put on businesses and academics and citizens in pursuit of the discredited theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming. We had Matt Sinclair of TPA, excellent as always, but I was delighted to find that the other speaker was James (Jim) Roberts, Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation in Washington (and so a colleague of my former staffer Sally MacNamara). Jim has been with them just a few years, editing their hugely authoritative "Index of Global Freedom", but previously he spent 25 years with the State Department. In the course of this work he's seen the damage that doctrinaire green regulation is doing across the globe -- including the Third World. A sparkling session -- I rather abused the Chairman's prerogative by chipping in too frequently. But then it is my specialist subject.

The David Davis Fringe: David's TFZ fringe was packed out, with people sitting on the floor and the stairs. He started by reminding us of the news coverage of recent sibling rivalry -- brothers competing to lead their party. And the contest won by the youngest -- a virtual unknown. Just about all we can say about him is that his father was a Marxist. Then he added "I am speaking, of course, about North Korea".

The TFA Dinner: The TFA organised a dinner on the Tuesday evening at the end of their two-day mega-fringe event, at the Bluu (sic) Brasserie. Hat-Tip to Jane Broadhurst and Christiana Hambro of TFA for their Sterling work on the dinner -- and on the whole show. This really was the Conservative wing of the Conservative Party. I sat opposite Sajid Javid, the extremely impressive new MP for Bromsgrove. What a good man. We enjoyed a rousing address from Matthew Elliott of the Taxpayers Alliance (why are they all called Matthew, by the way?).

The Bruges Group Fringe

I was invited to speak alongside Melanie Phillips of the Daily Mail at the Bruges Group Fringe here in the Birmingham & Midland Institute -- a wonderful example of the Midlands social and industrial heritage, all wonderful Victorian brickwork and tiles. The name reminded me of Betjeman's poem "The gas was on in the Institute", and I mentioned it to the manager. Within five minutes he was back with the whole poem, from a website called www.oldpoetry.com. The event went very well, we had about 140 in the audience -- and I was misquoted in the Independent. No surprise there, then. I hope to have the video available soon.

In addition to all this I did the Scotch Whisky Assn event (I used to work in the industry); Conservatives at Work (a pro-nuclear event); the UK (Tory) MEP delegation event; the ECR fringe; the East Midlands Regional Dinner; the CAMRA reception; and an extended interview with (believe it or not) Russia Today. See it at Russia Today

And I visited the stands of The Countryside Alliance; the Fur Trade Assn; the Nuclear Industry Assn; "Mum's Café", a charity concerned with maternal health around the world; Dogs Trust (campaigning against puppy farms); Bombardier (the Derby train company); and Conservative Friends of Turkey (I'm such a good friend to Turkey that I counselled them not to join the EU), plus a number of others. Lots of photos in the gallery section.

But apart from that, a quiet couple of days.

Coalition sells the sceptics short

Since the Coalition came to power in May, it has been surrendering vital powers to Brussels with indecent haste -- arguably faster than Labour ever did. Financial regulation; an EU Diplomatic Service; the EU investigation order (about which even the Police have complained -- they'll have to implement it. Whether they want to or not).

The much vaunted "Referendum Lock" is no more than an egregious piece of spin. It's about headlines, not about halting integration. It's slamming the stable door when the horse is long gone. The EU already has all the powers it needs to pursue "Ever Closer Union". And our failure to kick up about the powers we've just surrendered shows we lack the backbone to stand and fight.

Europe Minister David Lidington has indicated that there won't be any referendum for at least five years. But we've already transferred vast powers in five months. For more on this, see my piece on ConHome, which summarises the speech I gave at the Bruges Group fringe meeting on Oct 4th.

Birmingham Art Gallery

I even found time during Conference to spend forty minutes (nothing like enough) at Birmingham's rather fine Art Gallery. I'd been told that they had an excellent collection of Pre-Raphaelites, and I wasn't disappointed. One of their best pictures is famous: "The Last of England" by Ford Maddox Brown shows a married couple, faces grim with apprehension, as they sail from home to a new life in the colonies. Take a look for yourself. But the way things are going in the EU, we could see The Last of England without ever setting foot on a boat.

Churchover Wind Farm

On Sept 30th I was the first speaker at a well attended meeting (100+) in Churchover Village Hall. This is just over the border into Warwickshire, on Mark Pawsey MP's patch (Rugby) -- so I apologise to my West Midlands colleagues. But the wind farm, if built, will affect, for example, Cotesbach, on my side of the A5, so I have an excuse. The organiser, Lorne Smith, is one of those natural, indefatigable campaigners who are worth their weight in gold (see photo). On a show of hands at the end of the meeting, just about everyone was in favour of forming a protest group, nem con. Good luck to Churchover.

Chris Heaton-Harris takes the lead on wind-farms

My former MEP colleague Chris Heaton-Harris, now MP for Daventry, is doing wonderful things on wind farms (as is Andrew Bridgen MP from NW Leics). Chris has asked a series of searching questions on wind farms, and called for new planning rules to require a Two Kilometre "set-back" from dwellings. He scheduled an adjournment debate on wind power in Westminster Hall on Oct 13th at 4:00 pm entitled "Government policy on energy from onshore wind turbines".

The intemperate language of Damian Thompson

In mid September, I published what I though was a fair and measured blog item about the child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church -- a subject that had been much in the news alongside the Pope's visit to the UK. However it elicited a near-hysterical response in some quarters, and leading the charge was the Daily Telegraph’s blog editor (and former Catholic Herald Editor) Damian Thompson, who with evident Christian charity described my piece as “vile” and me as “a bigot”.

In fact I had written supporting the sincerity of the Pope’s apology (in the face of criticism from the BBC); I’d made a robust defence of faith schools; and I criticised the strident atheism of Richard Dawkins.

But it seems that criticism from within the Catholic Church itself is far sterner than any words of mine. Garry Wills is a highly respected Catholic writer, scholar and theologian. He was described by Roman Catholic journalist John L. Allen Jr as “perhaps the most distinguished Catholic intellectual in America over the last 50 years”. He is one of the world's top experts on the life and thought of Saint Augustine.

Yet in his essay on child abuse in the Catholic Church, he is far more critical, and far more colourful, than I was (or would have cared to be) in my blog posting. I should like to share with you the final paragraph of a second article by Wills, which concludes as follows:

"The current scandal is not a sex scandal. It is a dishonesty scandal. It entails what I described in my book Papal Sin as "structures of deceit". Until the hierarchy can "come clean" -- to themselves, to the faithful, to the world -- an instinct towards shifted blame and righteous denunciation will stand between it and the trust it claims to preach. The problem is not with the Church, with the people of God, but with those who claim to be the Church, in a structure honeycombed with pretence, hypocrisy and evasion. The core of solid belief, the common sense of the faithful, the deep belief in the saving truths of the creed, will stand more solid after this clumsy scaffolding of lies thrown up around it has collapsed."

I fear that Damian Thompson is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Belgian Bishops call for end of celibacy

While I have been vilified for suggesting a link between priestly celibacy and child abuse, two senior Belgian Bishops have been making the same point, and calling for the abandonment of the celibacy rule. (I wonder if Damian Thompson will call them “vile” and “bigoted” too?). They have a particular problem: a September report says that child abuse has been identified in every parish in Belgium – a truly shocking finding

A visit to Oakham School

I have been a regular speaker to sixth form classes at Oakham School for a number of years -- and hope to be able to welcome a party from the school to Brussels early next year. I have a particular interest as my son Stuart was a Scholar at Oakham (1987/93). I spoke there on Sept 17th, but I'll let Annie Whitehall, a pupil at Oakham, tell you about it. Annie has worked as a volunteer with Alan Duncan MP in Melton. Here's a photograph of her, with others.

Roger Helmer -- a talk on Climate Change

Whether you are listening to the radio, watching the news or reading the paper, it is difficult to escape the hype which surrounds climate change. This controversial issue makes a frequent appearance almost everywhere you go and is always subject to debate; there are those who believe that climate change is a man-made major crisis, whereas there are also those who are sceptical towards this global dilemma. On Friday 17th September, Roger Helmer, Conservative MEP visited the school and gave an intriguing talk on this very subject to the A2 Politics students.

Mr Helmer had just got back from Latvia that morning and after hearing about his travels and career experiences in both politics and business, we all knew that we were in for an exciting talk. To begin with he tackled a number of myths and misconceptions which come attached to climate change, one of which was rising temperatures which suggest that Global Warming is happening now when in fact the last hottest year was in 1998 and since then global temperatures have remained stable. Mr Helmer also mentioned that temperatures have only risen by 0.7 degrees since 1900 and that climate change itself is a natural occurrence which has always happened and always will. This therefore indicates that the world has constantly experienced extreme weather and the example which he used was the Lynmouth flood disaster in 1952 and the more recent Boscastle showing that extreme weather is not a result of climate change. Another issue which he also addressed was most importantly the action which needs to be taken. Britain is in need of radical changes to energy policy and that the focus should be on energy security as oppose to global warming. Secondly, another essential factor is to find different resources where the political appeal is to reduce dependency from the Middle East and Russia. Mr Helmer then came to a conclusion and said that the solution of Britain’s energy security policy had to be nuclear and coal.

We were then given the opportunity to ask questions about any issues we wanted to raise. We were very grateful and appreciative to have Mr Helmer come to talk to us for it is always fascinating to hear different views on controversial issues. In particular the talk compliments the A2 work we are currently doing on the environment. If one thing’s for sure, we wished we had more time to listen to Mr Helmer speak for longer. The talk also enabled us to form our own opinions on what we thought ranging from those who were climate change realists to those who were climate change supporters.

This piece was written by Annie Whitehall for the School Magazine.

US Prof. resigns over Climate "Pseudoscience"

The alarmists have taken yet another hit to their credibility. The distinguished Professor Harold Lewis, of the University of California's physics department, has resigned from the American Physical Society (APS) over what he's referred to as the "money flood" which seems to be driving much of the research behind climate hysteria.

In a stunning letter to the president of the APS, Prof. Lewis recounts that in his sixty-seven years as a physicist he has lived through several instances of scientific scare stories, which tend to generate a sharp increase in so-called experts on the topic. He recounts his experience working to research Nuclear Reactor Safety thirty years ago and his work being constantly challenged by over anxious anti-nuclear zealots with limited knowledge of the subject. His experience with climate zealots has been rather similar.

The courageous Prof. Lewis goes on to say in his letter that "everything that has been done (within the APS) has been designed to silence debate", one of the core principals for legitimacy within the scientific community. He insists that climate alarmism is the worst example of pseudoscience he has seen in many decades of his career in physics. The excellent James Delingpole of the Daily Telegraph has been keeping up with this developing story. Find it on his blog at the DT website .

You can’t please all of the people all of the time

One thing I’m learning about politics is that whatever position you take on an issue, someone will be upset – and it’s a general rule of life that while the winners go away quietly, the losers make a lot of noise.

I’ve just published a blog posting on the Nocton Dairy project in Lincolnshire. I understand the concerns of local residents, and I know that if I lived in Nocton I’d be concerned, and very likely joining the campaign group. They have a perfect right to make their views known, and to argue their case, and they are doing so with vigour. But as a politician, I have to make a judgement, balancing those very local concerns with broader questions like jobs and investment in Lincolnshire, British food security and the balance of payments. And having taken the trouble to go to the site and spend some time looking at the project, I’ve formed the view that the local impacts are relatively limited, while the benefits could be substantial. I think that the local Planning Authority should give it serious consideration.

It’s not just dairies. I supported a wind farm protest group in Churchover near Lutterworth (see above), speaking at their meeting on Sept 30th. The local farmer and landowner declared that if I speak against his wind-farm, he’ll vote UKIP, not Conservative, next time (though politics is a numbers game, and I expect that the protesters will greatly outnumber the landowner).

I don’t blame farmers and landowners for taking the wind-farm shilling. It’s a rational economic decision. I blame the politicians who created the vast, absurd, unsustainable subsidy system that’s driving the wind farm business. People like The Rt. Hon. Chris Huhne MP, jokingly described as our Climate and Energy Secretary.

In Praise of Nuclear Energy

Nuclear power generation has a staunch champion in the person of my colleague Giles Chichester MEP (South West), who is also the leading light of the European Energy Forum, which meets frequently do debate energy issues in both Brussels and Strasbourg.

On October 12th, Giles organised an ECR Group hearing entitled "In Praise of Nuclear Energy" in the European parliament in Brussels, with a stellar cast of speakers. At it, he introduced his new leaflet (of the same title), which you can find and download here (pdf format).

It seems bizarre that the Greenies fulminate against CO2 emissions (wrongly, in my view), yet are mostly opposed to the one mainstream low-carbon generating technology. Nuclear is the safest technology we know of -- deaths in the industry are fewer by orders of magnitude than in coal, hydro or oil -- and nuclear energy is highly competitive (even after allowing for waste disposal and eventual decommissioning), and likely to become more so over the years as fossil fuels become scarcer and more expensive.

Renewables have a place at the margin, but if we are to keep the lights on, we need a serious commitment to nuclear power. I commend Giles for his excellent work on this issue.


That's it from Straz for this month, don't forget to visit this website, follow me on twitter @RogerHelmerMEP, and post a comment on my blog at http://rogerhelmermep.wordpress.com.