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Straight Talking - December 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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Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The Veto: Well done Cameron!

I was delighted (but rather surprised) at the news of David Cameron's Veto. I have written about it on my blog, and will be posting more on the hysterical reaction of some of our EU partners (and Sarkozy's absurd petulance). Cameron was absolutely right to say NO. But it leaves us in an unsatisfactory position. The Veto must be the start of a process of disengagement, not simply a one-off gesture.

The €uro is a Bankruptcy Machine!

Hat-tip to Sajid Javid MP for the dramatic phrase, but it sums up the problem perfectly. Yet everyone seems dead set on "Saving the €uro", when the €uro is the problem, not the solution. It's the disease, not the cure.

Asking how we save the €uro is a bit like asking a cancer patient how we can save the tumour, when we need to save the patient -- the European economies, which are suffering desperately, locked into wholly inappropriate monetary policy and interest rates. The €uro cannot be saved indefinitely, but we'll waste billions in the attempt.

The only policy that makes sense is to start dismantling the Bankruptcy Machine, in as orderly a way as possible. I wrote about this at greater length recently. I won't repeat it all here, but you'll find it on ConHome.

Speaking of dramatic phrases, my own line that with the €uro, "we're trying to save the cancer, not the patient", was picked up by Peter Oborne in the Telegraph (Dec 3rd); quoted unattributed on BBC's World at One by Boris Johnson on the 7th, and on the front page of both the Times and the Telegraph on Dec 8th.

Autumn Statement: not a bad job

George Osborne's Autumn Statement was presented against perhaps the worst economic backdrop in living memory. There was always one key test that it had to pass. Would it reassure international financial markets, and so underwrite the UK's (rather surprising) "Safe Haven" status, and our very low government borrowing rates? And on that basis, it seems to have worked. It was tough -- very tough -- but it was broadly right.

The plan to abandon national wage bargaining in the public sector is a red rag to the left, but is exactly right and long overdue. I'm happy with the temporary relief for motorists from fuel duty rises, but the increase in air passenger tax is a damaging own-goal.

More generally, the £5 billion on infrastructure, though welcome, is very small beer, while the hope of leveraging four times the amount from pension funds sounds like the EU's aspiration to leverage its bail-out fund -- and as likely to succeed.

But Osborne gets top marks for courage and determination. The big remaining worry is that all the forecasts seem to be based on the assumption that the euro crisis will abate -- an outcome looking less likely by the day.

The death of democracy

I've criticised the lack of democracy in the EU for years (and Bill Newton Dunn -- remember him? -- claims to have invented the phrase "democratic deficit", though he's done little to correct it).

The European parliament is (largely) a self-selected bunch of passionate europhiles (like BND), who will always vote in favour of "More Europe", no matter how damaging and expensive, and no matter what their constituents think.

Within committees, the self-selection process is repeated. The Unemployment Committee is full of trade unionists and socialists. The Environment Committee is full of eco-freaks and green activists. The Women's Committee is full of women, while the Foreign Affairs Committee is full of foreigners!

The EU institutions have a towering contempt for voters. Again and again they tell electorates to go away and vote again when there's a "wrong" result in a referendum. Or in the case of the Constitution, rejected by France and Holland, they call it something else (The Lisbon Treaty) and insist it doesn't need a referendum after all.

But in this euro-crisis, they've excelled themselves. Germany has engineered the removal of two democratically-elected Prime Ministers from Greece and Italy (and Berlusconi was at least colourful, whatever else you think of him) and their replacement with dyed-in-the-wool EU apparatchiks.

In the EU, democracy is no more than a cosmetic veneer, a luxury for the good times which can be abandoned when the going gets tough. Simon Heffer has been vilified for describing the emerging European State as "The Fourth Reich", but one can see his point.

The "Better Off Out" case is becoming incontrovertible.

The wisdom of Enoch Powell

I did a meeting in Haslemere, Surrey, recently, and someone gave me a copy of Enoch Powell's 1973 book "Common Market: Renegotiate or Get Out". Last night over dinner I started to read it. His insights are extraordinary. Things he predicted, outlandish at the time, have indeed come to pass -- in particular he said that the single currency could never work without a common government, a common fiscal policy and massive fiscal transfers from rich to poor countries. Was he right, or was he right?

A quote: "I am no uninhibited admirer of the system which we use in this country to ensure that more manpower and more capital is occupied in agriculture, and consequently less in other forms of production, than would be the case without state intervention; but it is positive sweetness and light compared with the system forced upon the Common Market by the large peasant populations of Germany, France and Italy".

Enoch was a great thinker and a true conservative. There are too few like him today.

Terms of Endearment

The Tax Payers' Alliance has published a paper proposing terms for the probable renegotiation of our EU membership terms as part of the proposed Treaty changes. Entitled "Terms of Endearment", it's written by Lee Rotherham, whom I've known for many years. Find it here (pdf format).

Let me quote a key insight: "The threat by Germany to go it alone (in a new €urozone-only Treaty) and bypass a poker-playing Britain is shallower than first appears. The €urozone countries could, of course, at any time set up a new treaty arrangement that covers their needs. But they would have to do it without using EU buildings, EU staff, EU budgets or EU paperclips. Excluding the European Commission from any arrangement would be a massive practical complication. It also makes the club look less European and more German".

The tribulations of resignation

I had always anticipated that resigning would be a straightforward business. Just send an e-mail saying "Resigning December 31st", and that's it. Except that it's not. So far as the parliament is concerned, there has to be a standard form, signed in triplicate in the presence of witnesses, to confirm the act of resignation. I haven't done that yet.

Then I've been asked by our Delegation Leader Martin Callanan to stay on until January 20th, the end of the first Straz session of 2012, to cover off some key mid-term votes -- which I happily agreed to do. There is a possibility of a short delay before my successor arrives, rather than a seamless hand-over.

Meantime there are some administrative matters regarding the succession, which are being handled by Central Office, and taking longer than anticipated, and I certainly don't intend to sign on the dotted line until those matters are resolved. So for those of you who kindly asked me to stay a little longer (there were some!), you may get your wish.

Five thoughts on Tax & Welfare

These were five little aphorisms that arrived in my e-mail In-Box. I thought they were worth sharing:

1.   You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the rich out of it

2. What one person gets without working for it, another person must work for without reward

3. The government cannot give anyone money that it does not first take from someone else

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it

5. When half the people realise that they get paid without working, and the other half realise it isn't worth working because the money goes to someone else, that is the beginning of the end for any nation

How the IPCC got hi-jacked

Lord Lawson's excellent Global Warming Policy Foundation has commissioned a report on IPCC procedures from Professor Ross McKitrick, a hero of the resistance against climate alarmism.

Entitled "What is Wrong with the IPCC? Proposals for Radical Reform", it carries a foreword by The Hon. John Howard, former Prime Minister of Australia. He writes, in part:

"Professor McKitrick’s report focuses on the reporting procedures of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The intellectual bullying, which has been a feature of the behaviour of some global warming zealots, makes this report necessary reading if there is to be an objective assessment of all of the arguments. The attempt of many to close down the debate is disgraceful, and must be resisted.

"Ross McKitrick has written a well-researched and articulate critique of the IPCC’s methods. It deserves careful study, especially by those who remain in an agnostic state on this issue."

Download a copy (pdf format)

An op-ed describing the report was published in theNational Post.

The coincidental release of a new tranche of ClimateGate e-mails recently adds additional evidence to the strong case that the IPCC is in need of serious and far-reaching reform. The disappointing results of the process that was initiated by the IAC report last year only serve to indicate how much more needs to be done.

More on the "Green Jobs" scam:

Thanks again to Benny Peiser and the GWPF for this:

One of the big arguments which proponents of the "green jobs" scam often bring out is the argument that China, thanks to the support of green tech companies, will own the future, while the USA is left behind. Think again. According to a report on Bloomberg, the Chinese solar power industry is on the ropes; massive over-investment has run up against flat demand. Margins have turned negative at some companies where solar panels can only be sold below cost. . --Walter Russell Mead, Via Meadia. 25 November 2011

Fuel Poverty is now government policy

The excellent Renewable Energy Foundation has published a new report "Energy Policy and Consumer Hardship". It concludes that by 2020, the EU's Renewable Energy Directive will be imposing extra costs of £15 billion on consumers -- equivalent to 1% of GDP. Around a third will come from households, adding an average £170 a year to bills. But for 2½ million homes relying on electricity for heating the figure will be £320.

Two thirds of this extra cost will hit industry. As they say: "The policy cost burden will also degrade industrial competitiveness, with negative effects on wages and employment rates, thus having an indirect downward pressure on average household income."

See the full report and recommendations (pdf format)

Recently on the blog

Come off it Esther! We don't need "Grey Pride", or a "Grey Cabinet Minister" for the elderly

Wind turbines: Just as pointless in Romania as they are at home -- but a great way to access EU cash!

Ill treatment of dogs: While in Romania, I had the opportunity to lobby their Secretary of State for the Environment on the problems of animal welfare in the country:

Another big lie about the EU: When we leave, we won't be bound by EU rules:

A great leftist error: Higher tax rates don't always raise extra revenue. They may drive business away. That's why the Tobin Tax would fail:

Quote of the Month:

Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph, Dec 3rd: “Mr. Helmer probably expresses the views of the majority of the Conservative Party”.

Culture Corner

I’ve always been a great fan of John Betjeman (OK, so call me a low-brow!). And at this time of year I usually turn to his poem “Beaumaris”. The first line seems just right for the season:

“Low-shot light of a sharp December
Shifting, lifted a morning haze;
Opening fans of smooth sea-water
Touched in silence the tiny bays:
In bright Beaumaris the people waited --
This was Laurelie’s day of days.

He goes on to describe Laurelie’s wedding, and how she followed a local custom by throwing pennies from the balcony for the children of the townsfolk. It ends on a nostalgic and subdued note:

Life be kind to you, Laurelie Williams,
With girlhood over and marriage begun:
Queuing for buses and rearing the children,
Washing the dishes and missing the fun,
May you still recall how you flung the coppers
On bright Beaumaris in winter sun.


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