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Straight Talking - March 2012

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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Moving to UKIP

I think that everyone who reads this newsletter will understand already why I finally decided to make my move to UKIP. For years I have disagreed fundamentally with the Tory leadership on the EU. They roll out the eurosceptic rhetoric at election time, and then forget all about it.

We had seen too many false dawns and dashed hopes. William Hague; IDS; Michael Howard, and now David Cameron, who has done nothing about the Party's repatriation commitment, and who has told me face-to-face that he doesn't want an EU referendum because we're "better off in the EU"
The irony is that most East Midlands Conservatives broadly agree with me on these issues. That's why they selected me as their #1 euro-candidate three times running. The Tory Party doesn't agree with them. UKIP does.

I find that I hardly need to ask what UKIP's policy is on any issue. Whatever seems a common-sense approach, whatever resonates with reasonable British people -- that'll be the policy.

Kippers in Skegness

Anyone who still imagines that a UKIP Spring Conference might be a meeting of a couple of dozen mavericks and gadflies in the back room of a country pub had better think again. I’ve done a dozen Tory Conferences in my time, and the first thing that struck me about UKIP’s event in Skegness was that it looked -- and was -- the real McCoy. Five hundred or so delegates packed the Empire Theatre on the sea-front, and unlike a Tory Conference, they were all members and activists -- they weren’t 50% lobbyists. We had some pretty serious people as well. MEPs, Councillors, a former policeman who will be standing as an elected Police Commissioner.

I received a hugely warm welcome -- I could hardly walk down a corridor without every second person keen to shake hands.

It’s worth mentioning that the Conservative Party’s Spring Conference was cancelled owing to lack of interest. They seem to have had a “Spring Forum” in London, but by all accounts it was a half-hearted affair for a small invited audience.

Tim Congdon: The star speaker in Skegness was the distinguished economist Tim Congdon (who took over from me as Chairman of the Freedom Association). He had come along despite a severe dose of flu, and after a quiet start he warmed to his theme. He took us on a quick tour of OECD projections for EU and world economic performance, stressing the key aperçu that EU economic output is on a downward trajectory, with the Rest of the World enjoying all the growth. The EU is also smaller than the Anglosphere, and shrinking in relative terms. It may be that 40% of Britain’s overseas trade is with the EU -- but that’s just a measure of the way that our European obsession has distorted our trade patterns, and left us under-performing in the Rest of the World, where the growth is. His message to the voters: We joined the “Common Market” in 1973 because we thought it would be good for trade and jobs. We were wrong. It’s clear in 2012 that the EU is holding us back, and that we should be Better Off Out.

Alexandra Swann: Alexandra is an incredibly bright (and engaging) young lady of 23, who until recently was National Vice-Chairman of Conservative Future. Over dinner the previous evening she had been telling us how bad she was at public speaking, and how she dreaded large audiences. Yet she gave a cracking conference speech and had the audience eating out of her hand. Her message was that many young Conservatives are increasingly unhappy with the EU, and the Party’s stance on Europe. Nigel Farage introduced her with the words: “The Swann has migrated to UKIP”. As I pointed out later, it was good to have her there to demonstrate that it wasn’t only Grumpy Old Men (like me) who leave the Tory Party to join UKIP.

And of course I too gave a speech. I won’t tell you it was a good speech -- but you can judge for yourself. On my blog you'll find a photo of me with Alexandra, and Nigel Farage, and Stuart Wheeler, former Tory Party donor, now Treasurer of UKIP. All four of us, former members of the Conservative Party. As Peter Oborne rightly says, UKIP is “The Conservative Party in exile”.

Spokesman on Industry

I was delighted when Nigel Farage invited me to speak on Industry for UKIP. In fact he asked me to speak on "industry and manufacturing with special reference to the damage which green policies are doing to UK competitiveness". But Spokesman on Industry is less of a mouthful.

Again, readers will know what to expect. British industry faces a huge range of issues, starting with energy costs, the EU's emissions trading scheme, carbon taxes and floor prices and so on. These taxes, and the price of energy, inflated by renewables policy, are already driving energy-intensive industries off-shore.

The Coalition talks about re-balancing the economy towards manufacturing, but adopts policies that have the reverse effect. A ton of steel made in the UK creates 1½ tons of CO2. A ton of steel in China creates 4 tons of CO2. So our policies are driving business and jobs and investment out of the UK, and increasing emissions. This is a lose-lose situation.

Meantime EU employment policies (I sit on the Unemployment Committee in Brux) are doing huge damage, and more generally EU regulation is costing tens of billions a year. As UKIP Industry spokesman, I shall continue to argue against EU membership, and against climate hysteria.

Note the contrast: in the Conservative Party, they wanted to keep me quiet and even insisted on disclaimers -- my last DVD says "The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Conservative Party". Now with UKIP (and holding the same views) I become the spokesman.

Common-sense policies on climate & energy

With the Tories, my robust and common-sense position on climate and energy was an embarrassment, to be kept quiet as far as possible. Now with UKIP, I’m not only in line with Party policy, but I’ve actually been asked to speak on industry for the Party, with particular reference to the damage done by green policies.

UKIP opposes wind farms: Let’s say it out loud. Let’s shout it from the roof-tops. UKIP opposes wind farms. In recent months, Conservatives have been coming across to UKIP not just for the traditional reason of the EU, but because they’re furious about the turbines cropping up like mushrooms, practically in their back gardens. In local terms, the rush to wind energy is despoiling the land that we love. It’s blighting villages and communities and homes and lives.

But there is a bigger issue. Wind power is also undermining our economy, and eroding competitiveness. Green policies are costing jobs, and industries, and investment. And it’s not just the economy. Renewable energy is driving up costs for households, forcing families and pensioners into fuel poverty. It is not too melodramatic to say that pensioners will die of cold as a result of Chris Huhne’s and Ed Davey’s policies (imposed, of course, by Brussels).

UKIP is not against renewables in principle. Where they are economic, and compatible with the grid, there is a place for them -- notably for hydro-electric power where topography allows. But we are implacably opposed to high-cost political posturing instead of an energy policy. We don’t want our country (or our inshore waters) littered with spinning post-industrial junk.

The last argument for the wind industry is that the price of fossil fuels will go up, and wind will then become competitive -- and that we don’t want to be too dependent on imports. They need to look across the Atlantic. America has discovered massive shale gas deposits -- up to 500 years’ worth on some estimates. The US is looking forward to a new industrial renaissance driven by cheap, indigenous gas. We in Britain also have substantial shale gas reserves, which we should be urgently extracting. So also has Poland -- which has just had the courage to veto Brussels’ daft plans for even tighter emissions limits.

The future is nuclear, gas and coal. Suddenly, climate change is looking so last-century.

Brussels closes Kingsnorth: A perfectly good and viable coal-fired power station in Kent, Kingsnorth, was closed down this week, with the loss of 123 jobs. There was nothing wrong with it, and no shortage of coal. But it’s fallen foul of the EU’s Large Combustion Plant Directive (which I voted against, to no avail). Half a dozen other coal plants will go the same way by 2015. And meantime several of our nuclear plants are approaching the end of their lives. Anyone who imagines we can replace these real power stations with wind-farms is away with the fairies. Our green policies are not only undermining our economy and threatening us with fuel poverty. They also prejudice our energy security. We shall be cursing Brussels (and Chris Huhne) when the lights go out. I issued a release on the Kingsnorth closure in my capacity as UKIP Industry Spokesman.

A Heartening Victory: The Churchover Wind Farm Campaign (near Rugby) has finally won! I helped to launch the original campaign, with Chairman Lorne Smith, a long while ago, and I was invited back on Sunday March 11th to celebrate the victory. Sadly I wasn’t able to go as I had another engagement. But I am delighted for them. Well done Lorne and his team. I’ve sent a message of congratulation. I think the tide is finally turning. Even government ministers know in their hearts that there is no case for wind. But they fear the loss of face if they go public.

A special message to East Midlands Conservatives

I’ve had a wide range of reactions from Conservatives to my decision to move to UKIP -- a decision which came after a lot of deep thought and heart-searching. I’ve had one or two caustic reactions. One in particular, Ashley Fox MEP (SW), has accused me of “betraying my friends”, (not something I am known for), particularly with regard to Rupert Matthews. So let me say it one last time: I did everything I possibly could (and a great deal more than I was required to do) to secure the succession for Rupert. I failed only because of the deliberate recalcitrance and pig-headedness of Party Chairman Baroness Warsi. She has quite rightly been given a roasting over her handling of the affair by Tory MPs at the 1922 Committee.

I did not decide to stay on and serve out my full term, until I was quite satisfied in my own mind that Rupert had no realistic prospect of succeeding to the seat.

But the great majority of comments and calls (including those from Brussels and Westminster parliamentarians) have been along the lines of “Sorry you’re going, but I quite understand your decision. Good luck and let’s keep in touch”.

I know there are Tory Party members who are actively thinking in terms of making the same move. Equally, there will be those who will be angry -- even though I had offered in good faith to resign in favour of the next-in-line Conservative, Rupert Matthews, who was selected on the list in 2008. Some people’s politics are tribal -- “My Party, right or wrong”. Some, on the other hand, try to follow consistent principles. That’s what I try to do, and I believe that those principles (which haven’t changed in decades) are better served today by UKIP than by Cameron’s Conservatives.

I’ve had Conservative Councillors admitting to me that they voted UKIP in the last Euro-elections. Asked if I’m not sufficiently eurosceptic for them, they reply “Oh yes, Roger, you’re alright, but we want to send a message to Central Office”. That message hasn’t got through yet. Cameron is committed to pro-Brussels polices, and opposes an EU referendum, and I believe he would continue to take that line even with a Conservative majority in the parliament. So I think a great number of East Midlands Conservatives will take the opportunity to send an even louder message to Central Office in 2014.

I still believe exactly the things I said when I was selected in 1998, and 2003, and 2008. I hope that Conservatives in the region will keep that in mind.

“Helmer wanted to choose his successor”

I must shoot down this accusation which I see from time to time on the blogs. A few people are trying to present my spat with Baroness Warsi in terms of me wanting my candidate, versus Warsi wanting her candidate. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Rupert Matthews was selected as third on the East Midlands Conservative list by a postal ballot of 3000+ party members in 2008. He was their choice, not my choice (though I thought he was an excellent choice, and I’ve done my best to support him). By turning her back on Rupert, Warsi is showing contempt for thousands of Party members. She has clearly been over-promoted. She was probably still in nappies when Rupert started campaigning for the Party, and she wasn’t Party Chairman when he was selected. She’s shown that she understands neither the European electoral system, nor the Conservative Party. She should go.

A Blast from the Past

Remember Bill Newton Dunn? My move to UKIP has brought him out of hibernation, and he’s been in touch with regional media. He reminds me that for years I used to call him “Bill Turncoat Dunn”, and now that I too have switched parties, he says I should resign from the European parliament immediately. Well not quite, Bill.

Bill never offered to resign from the parliament. I not only offered -- I fully intended to do so. Indeed when I wrote my resignation memo in October, I thought I had resigned. I didn’t realise at that stage that there was a formal procedure I had to follow. I remained willing to resign, if Warsi would confirm the succession, until the end of February. It was only the obduracy of the Party Chairman that prevented me from doing so.

And of course, I never set out to deceive my selection committee about my views on Europe, as Bill did.

In any case, Bill has been telling me for years that I should leave the Conservative Party and join UKIP. He can hardly complain now that I have followed his advice.

Support from the window seat

On Monday after the UKIP Conference I was sitting in the lounge at Birmingham airport when I got a call from the BBC to do an interview. There was no land line available, so I had to do the interview from where I sat, on my mobile -- with the interviewer asking me to speak louder. I was explaining why I'd joined UKIP -- the EU; climate & energy; defence; immigration and so on.

When I'd finished, I turned to the people sitting behind me, and apologised for making so much noise. "Never mind", said one of them, "We agreed with you!"

Losing the Whip -- again!

On the Tuesday after the Spring Conference, I received a letter from the Conservatives' Chief Whip, a very sensible and reasonable lady called Julie Girling (SW). She informed me that in view of my resignation from the Party and my attending the UKIP Conference, she was withdrawing the Whip "with immediate effect".

I thought of writing a tongue-in-cheek reply about stable doors and bolting horses -- but then I thought better of it and decided to let sleeping dogs lie!

UKIP MEPs: The web-site

One of the areas where UKIP is out-performing the older parties is in electronic media. UKIP MEPs have a cracking web-site at www.ukipmeps.org . Videos of recent events and speeches are immediately accessible, and they tell me that plenary speeches typically go up in about an hour. I'm impressed. Worth a visit.

Petition on marriage

There's a new organisation called the Coalition for Marriage which is campaigning against Dave's same-sex "marriage" plans. If you, too, think it's a step too far, you might like to sign their petition.

UKIP has announced a typically common-sense policy, which I endorse, on same-sex marriage.
Find it here.

David and Goliatha (sic)

Mike Buchanan has kindly sent me a copy of his improbably-named book “David and Goliatha”. I don’t claim to have read all of it, but I like what I’ve seen so far. He challenges the leftist/feminist dogma that wage differentials between men and women are indisputable evidence of gender discrimination, and are therefore ipso facto evil. This is a view shared, by the way, by the EU Institutions, and is currently the subject of a big publicity effort with huge posters and graphics outside the Brussels parliament.

Buchanan is also concerned that our Prime Minister, better known for appeasing the Guardian editorial office than for original thinking or deep analysis, is following in the footsteps of horrible Harriet Harman, that feminist flag-waver. Never mind “Heir to Blair”. More “Hoff spring of Harriet”.

He quotes Cameron as saying “We need to make up the scandalous gap between pay for men and pay for women”. His reply: “The gender pay gap isn’t scandalous, nor has it anything to do with discrimination. It results from the different choices men and women make in their lives, which reflect their different natures”. To which one could add the fundamental biological differences between men and women in terms of procreation and child-rearing.

These are points that need to be made, and it takes a certain courage, in these politically-correct days, to make them. But well done Mr. Buchanan. At least you should upset the bien pensants at the Guardian.

David and Goliatha, by Mike Buchanan, LPS Publishing, £9:95 (paperback). ISBN 9780956641625


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