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Straight Talking - October 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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EU Referendum: 80 Tory MPs defy the whip

On Monday 24th, around 80 courageous Conservative MPs put country before career, and voted for the EU Referendum which most Conservatives (and most voters) would like to see. Thirteen of our East Midlands Tory MPs were on the "Rôle of Honour". I salute them.

Cameron's decision to whip against the motion was pointless and damaging, and finally destroys our pretensions as a eurosceptic Party.

The light starts to dawn on green hysteria

Despite Chris Huhne's desperate attempts to blame consumers for rising electricity prices (because they've failed to "shop around"), the press are starting to realise that it's really mostly about green subsidies.

The Daily Mail warns "The (average domestic bill) is inflated by around £100 to cover a raft of green taxes and associated charges". It is the consumer who must fund the Government's climate change obsession, as the switch to “green” sustainable polices comes with a £200 billion price tag.

Karl-Ulrich Koehler, head of Tata Steel's Europe division, warned that the Coalition's aim to be “the greenest government ever” could threaten the firm's plans to invest £1.2bn in Britain by 2016 (reported in The Daily Express on Tuesday, 18th October). I'd already worried in a blog article that high energy prices could force a re-think in Jaguar's proposed new engine plant in the Midlands. It's worrying to see Jaguar's owner, Tata, thinking along the same lines.

But maybe George Osborne is starting to see the light. He said recently: “We're not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business”. This comes as the European Commission's energy department questions whether it should press ahead with plans to cut greenhouse-gas emissions because “EU industry would lose competitiveness” (Wall Street Journal). Ruinously expensive green polices are hurting consumers and harming economic growth.

The Euro Crisis: Episode 17

So much has been, and is being, written on the euro crisis that it is difficult to find anything useful to add -- except that Greece must now default, despite repeated denials. A key point: the dysfunctional style of the EU institutions shows up constantly. It's like Groundhog Day all over again. Every day (nearly) they issue a new statement reaffirming their commitment to an effective and lasting solution. But they never tell us what concrete action they envisage -- or if they do, the markets immediately dismiss it as too little, and too late.

In a recent move, Merkel and Sarkozy, the new joint Czars of the eurozone, tell us that "they will announce a decision at the end of October". But as the lawyers always say, an agreement to agree later is no agreement at all.

One thing, however, has changed. What I noticed in our two September Strasbourg sessions is that Commission President Barroso and other EU leaders have lost all conviction. They keep mouthing the old platitudes, but all the fire and feeling has gone, and they look like men recently diagnosed with a terminal disease. They know the game is up. Fear stalks the Hemicycle. You can see it in their eyes.

Meantime the Cameron/Osborne plan is "The Big Bazooka" -- lots and lots of money to support the eurozone and its banks. But the euro is the biggest wealth-destruction machine (short of war) that we've ever seen. It's not smart to keep shovelling trillions down the black hole. Reinforcing failure. Good money after bad.

As Alcoholics Anonymous will tell you, the first step towards solving your problem is to recognise that you have a problem. The true conservative approach is (A) to recognise that the euro is a failure; and (B) to develop a rapid but orderly plan to dismantle it.

The Cameron plan involves binding the subject nations of Brussels ever more tightly into anti-democratic structures. That's plain immoral, and anyway it won't work beyond the short-term.

Quote of the Month:

Oct 12th: In City AM Alistair Heath argues, “No system can survive if it is sufficiently hated or despised by most of the population. Those who believe that the Eurozone needs to push through radical fiscal integration and federalise vast amounts of sovereign debt are playing with fire.”

It's time to go

As you may have seen, I have advised our new Regional Chairman, Stephen Mold, that I intend to resign from the parliament at the year-end. In my letter I said "As with any major decision, this is driven by a number of factors. Some might say that it is high time I stood aside for a younger man. For myself, I think that twelve-and-a-half years banging my head against the same brick wall in Brussels is perhaps long enough. And I should certainly like to see more of my three fine grandsons.

"But it would be disingenuous to deny that my decision is dictated in part by my increasing disillusion with the attitudes of the Conservative Party. I am finding it ever more difficult to defend the policies of the Coalition, not only on my key issues of Europe, and of climate and energy, but on a range of other matters besides".

I expect to be replaced by Rupert Matthews, who is well-known in the region, and in whom I have great confidence. He will do a first-rate job for the East Midlands and for Britain.

Comments on my decision

I have been very touched by the very friendly and positive responses to my announcement. As I said in a Group meeting, "If I'd realised the amount of goodwill there is towards me I might not have left!". But I especially like an e-mail response from Vince Bennett:

"Sensible man to get out before the whole expensive edifice collapses around you. Perhaps you should have made the effective date 31st October to be safe."

Doing the Decent Thing

Memo to Bill Newton Dunn, elected as a Conservative in 1999, who defected to the Lib-Dems in 2000. Bill: if you find that you can no longer, in good conscience, continue to represent the Party on whose ticket you were elected, then the honourable thing to do is to resign your seat. Not to jump ship and sail under a flag of convenience for four years.

The Freedom Zone

Yet again, the TFA's Freedom Zone at Party Conference proved a huge success. I spent more time there than in the main Convention Hall. Just about everyone who was anyone on the Conservative Wing of the Conservative Party was there, and the standard of lively debate frankly put the main Conference Hall to shame.

The TFA dinner on the Monday night took place in an amazing venue -- the Manchester Museum of Science and Technology. We dined amongst steam engines and beam engines and locomotives.

We had a good contingent from ALEC -- the American Legislative Exchange Council -- including my former staffers Sally McNamara and Cat Bray. There was also a contingent from Georgia (ex USSR, not USA).

There were no fewer than seven current or former staffers from my office at the event, and I was able to get a photo with six of them. Sally (from Notts) and Cat (Leics) are both working in Washington (and both engaged to be married to American fiancés). They have proved to be key political allies on a range of issues and projects.

Sometimes people ask me what (if anything!) I shall look back on with pride from my parliamentary career. High on the list will be the careers and achievements of young people who started their political lives in my office.

Don't ever stay at the Britannia Hotel, Manchester

Arriving late and tired at the Britannia for Party Conference, I was shown to Room 456. It was small and hot and stuffy, redolent of last year's ash-trays. But thinking that the air-con would soon cool it down, I unpacked. It didn't get any cooler. I put a wetted finger up to the air-con vent, and there was nothing -- not even a hint of a draft (although I could hear the fan).

So I thought I'd open a window. Then the awful truth dawned on me. There was no window. Lots of plasterboard and emulsion paint, but no window. And no curtains. Nothing. It was like a prison cell. It was every claustrophobe's worst nightmare.

I phoned down to complain, and they offered me a cooler room -- 217. So I packed up again (this was around 11:30 p.m.) and moved down. But the new room was just as hot and stuffy -- and had no air-conditioning at all. No vent. No control. Nothing.

But it had a window, and resigning myself to the loud city noises, I tried to sleep, whilst dripping with sweat.

Funny how when one thing goes wrong, lots of others do as well. I hit my head (several times) on the low lintel of the unlit walk-in clothes closet. So I spent half a day with a Kleenex pressed to my bleeding scalp. The kettle had a steam vent strategically placed to scald the user's finger. Even the shampoo bottle seemed designed to stop any shampoo getting out. I shan't be going there again.

Group Meeting: Gibraltar

Last week I was in Gibraltar for an ECR Group meeting, the location chosen to mark our support for this British Overseas Territory, which still takes some flak from neighbouring Spain. We met (amongst others) Chief Minister Peter Caruana and the Governor Sir Adrian Johns, who entertained us for afternoon tea on the lawns of his residence.

In economic terms Gibraltar is doing rather well, with a balanced budget, low borrowings and practically zero unemployment (in fact this territory of 23,000 also provides jobs for 5000 workers who commute from the mainland).

We visited the famous "Siege Tunnels" in the Rock, which were used during the great siege at the back end of the Eighteenth Century. There was a vast tunnel carved parallel to the rock face, with openings every so often for cannon -- including one large room with apertures for five cannon.

During the Second World War there was more extensive tunnelling, with more than 30 miles of tunnels put in place.

The Battle of Trafalgar took place not far from Gibraltar, and the damaged Victory, with Admiral Lord Nelson's body on board, made Gibraltar its first stop after the battle. The Governor's residence is stuffed with Trafalgar memorabilia, so I was particularly glad to be in Gibraltar for Trafalgar Day (October 21st). Photos in the album.

Struan Stevenson and the Rape of Britain

I recently blogged about Struan Stevenson's excellent new booklet "The Rape of Britain", published by my good friend Rupert Matthews at Bretwalda Books. It's based on a speech of the same title that Struan gave a while back.

It seems that a Scottish lady MSP took offence at the title. She thought it was an affront to women to use the word "Rape" in this context, and she tabled an Early Day Motion condemning Struan in the Scottish parliament.

But as Struan asks “Doesn't she know that Homer was writing about the Rape of Troy three thousand years ago? What does she think I am? A Homer-phobic?”.

If Struan ever gets bored with politics, a glowing career beckons in stand-up comedy.

Questions to the Commission

The EU is instinctively protectionist, and uses a range of factors -- labour conditions, environmental criteria, trumped-up safety concerns -- as an excuse for non-tariff barriers. I recently raised a question about a new one:

“Is the Commission aware of a new study released by academics at Friedrich Schiller University and the Max Planck Institute of Economics, which criticises the EU’s renewable energy policy, revealing it as protectionist, trade-distorting, and discriminatory?

Will the Commission now admit what several independent studies have revealed: that the EU is using environmental regulations such as RED as a way to erect trade barriers against better-value imports from outside the EU?

European consumers and businesses deserve the best, cheapest and most effective energy sources that are available from around the world. By erecting trade barriers in the form of burdensome environmental regulation, the Commission is denying them this choice. This is ‘green protectionism’ of the worst kind, and the Commission could at least be open and transparent about that fact.”

A comment on my Blog

"I think that the one-size-fits-all Euro project is like everyone having to go to a shoe shop where only size 7 shoes are available.

Everyone has to wear the same size shoes. For some, they are comfortable, but for most, they cause great pain.

The relief when you finally take them off is obvious, unless you’ve worn them for so long that you are permanently crippled"

Credit: Gary Rickard

Culture Corner

Tennyson's Ullyses

I've always admired this magnificent poem about the reflections of Ulysses/Odysseus in old age. It seems particularly appropriate now that I have announced my resignation from the parliament. Let me offer you a few lines:

Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.


Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved heaven and earth; that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


That's it from Straz for the October session. Please remember to visit this website, my blog at http://rogerhelmermep.wordpress.com, and follow me on Twitter: @RogerHelmerMEP