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Straight Talking - May 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
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The Death of Free Speech

EU Court bans criticism of the EU

This is one of those "couldn't make it up" stories. Back in 1995, a British economist with the European Commission, Bernard Connolly, published a book entitled "The Rotten Heart of Europe". It was a brilliant, forensic insider's dissection of monetary union. It predicted disaster, and current events prove that Connolly was right on the money (to coin a phrase).

Naturally, he was fired from his job. In the EU institutions, you don't get fired for absence or misconduct or even downright fraud. Oh no. Just about the only thing that gets you fired is dissent.

We hear a lot about whistleblowers. People who reveal corporate fraud by their employers are regarded as deserving protection -- but not if the employer is the European Commission. Connolly brought an action for unfair dismissal, and the European Court of Justice has finally ruled on the case. It finds that that the Commission can restrict dissent in order to "protect the rights of others" and punish individuals who "damage the institution's image and reputation".

But then the European Court of Justice has little to do with Justice. It's all about promoting European integration, and protecting the institutions at all costs.

If you haven't read Connolly's book, I can't recommend it too highly. It's a fascinating read -- especially with the benefit of hindsight. Meantime I shall continue to criticise the EU and its institutions, and await the punishment.

Local election results...

It is really remarkable. You would expect a governing party after a year of government to do less well than it did in the preceding General Election. You would expect it to lose seats, and we were braced for losses on May 5th. With a severe austerity plan in place, things would be even worse.

Yet on the day, we actually gained seats. The Lib-Dems took the hit.

My former staffer Donna Edmunds stood successfully in Sussex -- well done Cllr. Edmunds! And my Press Officer Neelam Cartmell stood in Derby, in a seat we had no chance of winning, but she got a creditable result. Lots of hard work delivered results.

There was a lot of discussion on the BBC about why the Lib-Dems took the hit, when they were the junior partner in coalition, and arguably the Conservatives bore more responsibility for "the cuts" (in reality, of course, spending and debt keep rising -- cuts or no cuts).

The answer is simple. Conservative voters recognised the need for fiscal retrenchment -- though of course they are concerned about its impact on their own pockets. So they're getting what they voted for. But the Lib-Dems in opposition were always the soft-option party. They could promise the earth -- they wouldn't have to deliver. But now they're facing the reality of government, and their supporters are naturally disappointed.

...and that AV referendum

Perhaps Nick Clegg's biggest achievement to date in government has been to waste £80 million on a referendum that nobody wanted, on a new voting system that two thirds of the people didn't want. Since then the Lib-Dems have been crying "foul", and failing to recognise that they didn't have much of a case to start with, and that the YES Campaign didn't make very much even of the poor case they had. Mind you they had a tough furrow to plough when Clegg himself had called AV "A miserable little compromise".

I had feared for the outcome, until I started canvassing and sensed the public mood. On the doorstep, people couldn't understand what the point of AV was, or why they were being asked to vote for it. So they voted NO. I apologise to the electorate for underestimating their common-sense, but I applaud them for making the right call.

Dialling up Europe

There's been a lot of talk lately about Europe's ambiguous leadership -- it's been a point of debate for several years. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger used to say, "When I want to speak to Europe, I don't know whom to call."

Since the appointment of Baroness Cathy Ashton as the EU's High Representative, the question of "whom to call" has finally been answered.

The Baroness' phone number will be provided to the many Heads of State throughout the world in order to provide a direct line of communication. When they dial the number they will be greeted with a recorded message:

"Thank you for calling the European Union's High Representative for security and foreign policy. If you would like the German foreign office statement on current events, please press ONE. If you want the French government position, please press TWO..."

Problem solved.

Co-sign the letter to Minister Lidington

A new and scandalous development in the Spanish property scam has arisen. Rather than taking action against unscrupulous developers and property attorneys, the Spanish government has launched a PR campaign -- led by the Spanish Development Minister, Jose Blanco Lopez -- to generate more interest in inward investment in Spanish property. Senor Blanco was in London with his road-show earlier this month. I almost wish this story were a bad joke, but I'm afraid it's true

For years I and my colleagues have been inundated with calls of frustration and anger from (mostly British) expats purchasing their dream home on the Spanish coast only to be told by the local authorities a year or two later that they were living in violation of local planning laws, and their house was to be repossessed and demolished. None was ever told of the position they were putting themselves into when buying property in good faith, with legal advice and due diligence. The Spanish government stands by its decision. The European Commission stands idle.

Please take a minute to visit this website to learn more about this travesty, and to co-sign the letter to Europe Minister David Lidington calling for action to be taken to ensure that no more British citizens lose their homes and their life savings.

A sideways look at the Royal Wedding

Sometime before the Royal Wedding, the papers carried a story that our Prime Minister David Cameron planned to defy convention and wear a lounge suit, rather than a morning suit, at the wedding. I thought this was bad form, and could not help recalling Gordon Brown's crass decision to go to the Lord Mayor's Banquet in a lounge suit.

I Tweeted "It's Kate & Wills' big day, not David Cameron's. He should dress properly, or stay away". It was pointed out to me later that the invitations (I didn't get one, by the way!) had explicitly said "Morning dress or lounge suit". But I think we can take it that this was a concession to those guests who did not have, and perhaps might have been stretched to afford, morning dress. That certainly doesn't apply to the Prime Minister, who undoubtedly has a morning suit in his wardrobe -- if not several. As one of my colleagues said: "He'd certainly wear a morning suit to one of his friends' weddings".

As Prime Minister, David Cameron in some sense represents all of us, and especially members of the Conservative Party. If he failed to measure up on a big national occasion, then we were all diminished. Fortunately wiser councils prevailed, and he appeared on the day in the right kit.

Wind power is bad economics, however you subsidise it

I recently received a communication from a concerned citizen who had heard Philip Hammond speaking on television about on-shore wind power, and had got the impression that Mr. Hammond had said that such electricity generation no longer needed subsidies. Of course it receives the benefit of massive "Renewable Obligation Certificates", which are subsidies by another name.

The Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP is of course our Secretary of State for Transport, and is generally a very sound chap. He has said some good things about speed limits and permitted alcohol levels for drivers.

But in response to my query on wind farm subsidies, he said in essence that higher carbon taxes on conventional fossil fuel power generation would gradually make on-shore wind more competitive, relatively speaking, so that soon it should no longer require subsidies.

I replied as follows:

Dear Philip

I am most grateful for your reply to my recent e-mail on the question of subsidies for on-shore wind. The gist of it seems to be that carbon taxes will make conventional power generation less competitive, and that thus on-shore wind will no longer need subsidies.

But in terms of the overall economic impact, the effect of a carbon tax on fossil fuels is very much the same as a subsidy for other non-carbon means of generation. A carbon tax is, in effect, a subsidy for non-carbon generation. We have a distinction without a difference.

The plain fact remains that wind power is very expensive, and that it could not survive for a moment without government intervention creating a market distortion designed to give wind an artificial advantage. I fear that we in the UK are likely to end up with the most expensive electricity in the world, just so that we can do some posturing over our green credentials -- for be assured, nothing that we do will make a scrap of difference to the climate. We risk bankrupting our grandchildren for the sake of gesture politics.

I do hope that you and your colleagues will reconsider this ruinous policy.

Quote of the Month

“The Coalition’s approach to our Universities has all the intellectual coherence and finesse of a petulant child taking a hammer to the mantel-clock because he doesn’t want it to be bedtime”.

From my April 15th blog, “The Comprehensivisation of our Universities”

... and other blog items

Countering the Euro-Agitprop

Scottish Independence and the threat to the Union

The strange parallels between Tolkien and Gaudi's church in Barcelona

Labour intimidation at the local elections in Derby

Bribed with our own money: the EU's Arc Manche project

Why I'm a pet owner, not a "human carer" for a "companion animal"

The euro, the Schengen agreement: major EU projects falling apart at the seams

Poem of the Month

Oh earth who gives us warmth and life
We’re sorry we’re so cruel,
We like to ride in big flash cars
And gorge on fossil fuel.
Oh crumbs, we feel so silly now,
We should have stayed in caves.
Not run around improving things
That’s no way to behave.
Lorks, I know we dropped the ball,
Screwed up all that's screwable
When we should have dined on guilt and shame,
Which is at least renewable!

From my former staffer Donna Edmunds, now a District Councillor!


That's all from Strasbourg for May, but please check out my blog, and this website for regular updates.