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Straight Talking - February 2011

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
e-mail list (or if you want to be deleted), please e-mail me on .

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The Coalition: right on the deficit, on welfare, on education, but

Wrong, So Wrong, on Europe

I'm pretty happy with the rather courageous job that George Osborne is doing with the deficit; hugely impressed by IDS's work on welfare; and by Michael Gove's education policies (though horrified by the social engineering of the Cable/Clegg axis on university admissions).

But Conservatives who trusted in William Hague’s reputation as a eurosceptic must be profoundly disappointed. In the last nine months or so, this Conservative-led government has been handing powers to Brussels faster than the previous Labour administration did before it. We’ve had the EU diplomatic service; a whole new EU financial regulation structure; the EU Investigation Order; and the roll-over on the budget.

With this record, the government has no business to ask us to trust it on Europe, and its EU Bill conferred no new powers on parliament or on the people – in effect, it merely asked us to keep trusting the government, on an issue where it clearly has not earned our trust, and appears to have no intention of attempting to do so.

Some of these EU measures were provided for in the Lisbon Treaty. Yet we seem to have welcomed them. We Conservative MEPs have been whipped to support them. Cameron has been robust on euro membership – but we’ve seen a £7 billion loan from the UK to Ireland to prop up the euro.

The City of London has the lion’s share of the EU’s financial services business, yet we’ve agreed for it to be regulated from Brussels and Frankfurt. With that, and our punitive taxes on high earners and our endemic bank-bashing, companies and high-net-worth individuals are already buying tickets to Switzerland. I pay tribute to my colleague Vicky Ford MEP who has fought tooth-and-nail, and with some success, to modify the proposals and limit the damage. But we have conceded the principle, and that’s a gross dereliction of the government’s duty.

Why are they doing this? Weren’t Cameron and Hague of a broadly sceptic disposition? Their first priority is, quite rightly, the deficit, and so their second priority is to keep the Coalition on an even keel to deal with the deficit. For these reasons they don’t want to be distracted by a huge row with Brussels, nor do they want a row with the Lib Dems.

The European Union Bill with its sovereignty clause was merely intended as a sop to eurosceptics, to buy off opposition and rebellion. Yet for the government to offer a sop which is transparently worthless is merely to demonstrate contempt for its own supporters. And Cameron should never forget that the great majority of Conservative members and activists are eurosceptics. If they are to be treated in this cavalier fashion, it would be unwise to rely on their enthusiasm and commitment in future elections.

We’re promised referendums on new transfers of powers to Brussels, yet we have had no referendum on any of these recent measures. And Europe Minister David Lidington has indicated that he expects no referendum in this parliament – perhaps for another four years. Vince Cable has previously told a Brussels audience that the EU institutions had been “pleasantly surprised” by the Coalition’s engagement with, and commitment to the EU project. And for once Vince wasn’t wrong. We’re selling out.

Just this week a new issue, which could be pivotal, came to the fore, as parliament voted by an overwhelming majority against giving votes to convicts, in defiance of the ECHR and the European Court of Human Rights. I appreciate that the ECHR is not the same as the EU, but as a political statement about Europe, it’s a very powerful issue – and one where parliament and people are united.

I know what Cameron ought to do now, and what I hope he will do. He should tell the Court, and the Council of Europe, and the European Commission, that the UK’s sovereign parliament has determined that we do not allow convicts to vote, that we do not agree that our position infringes their Human Rights, that we will not entertain any fine or sanction from the Court, and that we will not hear, nor pay, any claims for compensation. He should add that if necessary we will pass a new law to this effect.

Will he deliver? I hope so. But I’m not sure. It could be a defining moment. If he gives way, we can abandon any pretence that we’re an independent country with a sovereign parliament.

This article first appeared in the February edition of the European Journal

Germany demonstrates rapid growth

Last year, the German economy grew 3.6%, while results for the rest of the eurozone were mixed. Without wishing to take the sparkle off the German ginger-bread, it's worth recalling that Germany has enjoyed interest rates and monetary policy designed specifically for Germany, while other eurozone states have been obliged to make do as best they can.

Little wonder, then, that Germany is sitting pretty, while Greece, Portugal and Ireland feel the pain.

An EU debate at Leicester Grammar School

February 11th found Bill Newton Dunn and me at Leicester Grammar School, as guests of Mr. Trevor Allen, Head of the Sixth Form, debating "This House believes that the benefits of EU membership outweigh the costs". The motion was voted down.

But a very bright young lady called Jessica Neal asked a very interesting question, which opened an issue which (after eleven years as an MEP) I had never really considered.

Bill had made great play of the wonderful opportunities in the EU for British people to work in other member states. Quite separately, he also talked about the way in which English had become the lingua franca of the EU. It is the preferred second language of most non-English speakers.

Jessica's question was: "If most Europeans can speak English, they can all apply to work in the UK, whereas we Brits won't speak all or most of the continental languages, so our opportunities will be relatively limited -- won't this create problems for us in our own jobs market in the UK?".

Bill waffled and looked embarrassed. I replied "That's a remarkably perceptive question -- and the answer is YES".

Malaysia, Jerusalem, Hong Kong

I've had a busy time travelling so far this year. I've written extensively on my blog about each visit, so I won't clutter up the newsletter by repeating it all. In Malaysia (I was there for around 36 hours) I addressed a conference of the Malaysia Palm Oil Council (on Jan 25th -- my birthday!). A transcript of my speech is up on the blog now. This visit got Leo Hickman of the Guardian very aerated.

Then on the weekend of Feb 5th/6th I visited Jerusalem for a "European Friends of Israel" Conference, with a large group of MEPs and national parliamentarians. Amongst others, we heard an excellent speech from President Shimon Peres. I also made a point of visiting Palestinian leaders in Ramallah in the West Bank. There are a number of photographs here.

Next week (it's a Green week) I plan to go with a Friends of Hong Kong parliamentary delegation to Hong Kong. I started my ex-pat career in Hong Kong in 1972, and am always keen to keep in touch.

In case you were wondering: no tax-payer's money was spent on any of these trips!

Futile sacrifices

They say that the Incas used to perform frequent human sacrifices to the sky gods, with the objective of praying for rain and preventing droughts. These sacrifices were accompanied by horrific and grotesque rituals and cruelty. If, despite these excesses, the drought came anyway, then the priests advised the people that there had been insufficient sacrifices, so more and more citizens should be slaughtered to appease the gods.

Usually, this seemed to work, the drought ended, and the credibility of the priests was enhanced (just as sick people mostly get better, and in olden times this might be taken as proof that the medicine worked -- in the days before double-blind trials).

As the droughts became worse however -- and strangely the end of the Incas may well have been associated with natural changes in climate leading to lower rainfall and poorer crops -- it finally dawned on the benighted people that their ever-more frantic blood-letting had no effect at all on the weather or the rain. It was as futile as King Canute defying the waves, and a great deal less pleasant. And when that realisation came, the people turned on their priests with the fury of those who have been duped and deceived, and let the priests learn the reality of human sacrifice from the sharp end.

There is a parallel here with our current passion for climate mitigation -- and an awful warning to its promoters, like Chris Huhne. Our plans for climate mitigation are futile at three levels:

1. More and more scientists are coming to believe that natural and astronomical cycles dominate terrestrial climate change, and that the effect of human activity ranges from trivial to zero. If they’re right, our efforts too are as futile as King Canute’s.

2. Even if Al Gore and the IPCC are right, nonetheless respected environmental economists and analysts argue that the activities we plan to undertake, at the expense of trillions of dollars, are likely to make only a 0.2 degree C difference in mean global temperatures -- and that not until 2100. That’s within the error limits of measurement -- effectively no difference at all.

3. And if our objective is to cut carbon emissions, the EU’s arbitrary commitment to expensive and intermittent renewable technologies like wind and solar, and its perverse refusal to include nuclear in its low-carbon plans, mean we are condemning Europe to loss of competitiveness, with high-cost energy and serious risks of disruption in supply.

Yet there was Prince Charles in Brussels on Feb 9th selling the same old snake oil, and calling on us to “make it cool to have less stuff”. Pity the poor retailer -- this sounds like a recipe for extending the recession indefinitely. He also said that climate sceptics were “corroding public opinion”, which I proudly acknowledge as right royal recognition. Maybe the message is getting through. I was asked by the Daily Telegraph for a comment (though I had avoided the event itself, for fear of bursting a blood-vessel). My quote, which appeared in the paper on the 10th, read: "Even if global warming is man-made, the actions we are taking will achieve a result too small to measure, and even that's only in 100 years time. We might as well sacrifice a golden calf to the sky gods. It would be equally ineffective, but much cheaper."

Climate Scepticism makes the West End Stage!

I was fairly astonished to read that a new play by Richard Bean, "The Heretic", has opened at the Royal Court Theatre in London. Described by theatre critic Charles Spencer as "an absolute corker", it stars Juliet Stevenson as Dr. Diane Cassell, an earth sciences lecturer who specialises in measuring sea levels in the Maldives, and is described as "funny and sarky", and "delivers put-downs with great aplomb". She has no time for sea level rise or man-made climate change.

I'm hugely impressed that a London Theatre has dared to put on a play that shows a sceptic -- or as the title puts it, a heretic -- in a positive light. I don't get to London too often, but I'd love to see the play. But let's give Charles Spencer the last word: "It's a play on the side of life and optimism, with a faith in humanity that goes markedly against the grain of current thinking". Amen to that.

On Sunspots and the (cooling) Climate

David Delaney, who writes to me from Herefordshire, has recently sent me two informative links on the correlation between sunspots and climate. The second is from our familiar ally in the battle against climate alarmism, Anthony Watts.

This is essential reading for anyone wondering how our harvests are going to evolve in the near future, it is a lecture directed at Australians given in 2007.

Since then sun spot predictions have been drastically reduced.

Sir William Herschel in 1801 announced he had spotted a correlation between sunspots and wheat prices. Here's a mention in the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, 1823. Prices advance when the solar cycle is at a minimum.

Recently on the blog:

Tragedy in Smith Square: The occupying power takes over CCHQ

The Kings of England lifting up their swords: The statue of Richard Coeur de Lion in Old Palace Yard

Welcoming the Shen Yun dance troupe to Brussels

Abuse of Coptic Christians in Egypt

EU laws undermine insurance & pensions

A Bedtime Story: Father and Daughter

A young woman was about to finish her first year of university. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be Labour Party minded, and she was very much in favour of higher taxes to support her education and for more government programs – in other words, the redistribution of wealth.

She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch blue-ribbon Conservative, a feeling she openly expressed. Based on the lectures that she had attended and the occasional chat with a professor, she felt that her father had for years harboured a selfish desire to keep what he thought should be his.

One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the need for more government programmes.

The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors must be the truth, and she indicated so to her father. He responded by asking how she was doing at university.

Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 90% average, and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she was taking a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew. She didn't even have time for a boyfriend, and didn't really have many university friends because she spent all her time studying.

Her father listened and then asked, “How is your friend Audrey doing?” She replied, “Audrey is barely getting by. All she takes are easy classes, she never studies and she barely has a 50% average. She is so popular on campus; university for her is a blast. She's always invited to all the parties, and lots of times she doesn't even show up for classes because she's too hung over.”

Her wise father asked his daughter, “Why don't you go to the Dean's office and ask him to deduct 20% off your average and give it to your friend who only has 50%. That way you will both have a 70% average, it would be fair and you would both be equal.”

The daughter, visibly shocked by her father's suggestion, angrily fired back, “That's a crazy idea; how would that be fair! I've worked really hard for my grades! I've invested a lot of time, and a lot of hard work! Audrey has done next to nothing toward her degree. She played while I worked my tail off!”

The father slowly smiled, winked and said gently, “Welcome to the Conservative side of the fence.”

If anyone has a better explanation of the difference between Conservative and Labour/Greens, I'm all ears.

If you ever wondered what side of the fence you sit on, this is a great test!

If a Conservative supporter doesn't like guns, he doesn't buy one.
If a Labour/Green doesn't like guns, they want all guns outlawed.

If a Conservative is a vegetarian, he doesn't eat meat.
If a Labour/Green is a vegetarian, he wants all meat products banned for everyone.

If a Conservative is gay, he quietly leads his life.
If a Labour/Green is gay, he demands legislated respect.

If a Conservative is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his situation.
A Labour/Green wonders who is going to take care of him.

If a Conservative doesn't like a talk show host, he switches channels.
Labour/Greens demand that those they don't like should be banned.

If a Conservative is a non-believer, he doesn't go to church.
A Labour/Green non-believer wants any mention of God and religion silenced. (Unless it's a foreign religion, of course!)

If a Conservative reads this, he'll forward it so his friends can have a good laugh.
A Labour/Green will delete it because he's "offended."


That's it for this month from Strasbourg this month. More in March.