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Straight Talking - July 2005

Love Europe. Hate the European Union

Roger Helmer's electronic newsletter from Brussels

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 want to go onto the e-mail list please click here.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Messages of support (see my article "Making a stand for transparency") regarding my suspension from the Tory Whip keep pouring in, from Conservatives in the East Midlands and up and down the country. Thanks to all of you who have written to Michael Howard, Francis Maude and Timothy Kirkhope demanding the reinstatement of the Whip.

Thanks especially to those constituencies who have passed resolutions backing my stand, and have communicated them to the Party Leader.

I have had huge support from other MEPs. Nirj Deva (SE) and Martin Callanan (NE) have covered the issue in their newsletters, and generated new waves of support in their regions. Chris Heaton-Harris (a co-signatory of the Motion of Censure, and our leading man on combating EU corruption) has been fighting my corner.

And thanks to the growing number of MPs who have expressed support. Not all of them see eye-to-eye with me on Europe. But they all agree that Conservatives should be in the forefront of the campaign to uncover cronyism and corruption in the Commission, and they all agree that no Conservative parliamentarian should be disciplined for taking a robust stand on a clear manifesto commitment.

A message from Doctor Who

I think that the latest Dr. Who series on BBC1 is one of the best pieces of television I have seen for years. I was particularly struck by something the Rose Tyler character (Billie Piper) said in the last episode. The Doctor had sent her back to the safety of her family, while he faced mortal danger. She was desperate to get back and help him, but her mother urged her to stay at home and lead "a normal life". "Why do you want to go back?", asked mother.

She replied: "It's a different way of life. Make a stand. Don't let them tell you what to do. Be prepared to say NO!".

Well said, Rose. I can relate to that.


I have never been able to find a symbol of the East Midlands -- so I commissioned one from a local artist! The East Midlands Print features iconic buildings and coats-of-arms from the six counties. It is a triumph of heraldry, calligraphy and draughtsmanship. And a 12"x16"copy suitable for framing can be yours for a mere £10 plus £2 p&p!

Full details, and information on how to order can be found here.


David Cameron breaks cover: In a key speech on education, David Cameron abandoned radical Conservative ideas from our General Election campaign -- ideas like choice and vouchers, which are not only exciting, but are also proven in other countries. Instead, he said (I paraphrase) "We will do roughly what Labour are doing, but we'll try to convince the public that we can manage it better".

He's missed the point. Management from Whitehall is the problem, not the solution. The key difference between us and Labour on public services is simple -- we agree that the government must pay, but Labour thinks that the government must also manage delivery. We, on the other hand, know that government delivery and central planning are a recipe for failure. We must pass control back to the professionals. It's not good enough for David simply to re-package the status quo ante. That won't work at the chalk-face, and it won't work at the ballot-box either.

Ken Clarke to stand again? Several constituents have asked me what I think of a possible Ken Clarke candidacy. But I suspect they had a pretty good idea of the answer before they asked the question!

So what's the good news? At this early stage, I rate David Davis and Liam Fox. Both are sound on the issues, both play well on TV. But there's a long way to go yet.

A good read

I'm reading "The Right Nation" by John Micklethwaite and Adrian Wooldridge of the Economist. It's an analysis of the success of conservative politics in the USA. I might write more on it when I've finished it, but in the meantime they quote a couple of bumper stickers that appealed to me: "Love my Country. Hate my Government". And "We need to down-size the government 'till we can drown it in a bath-tub". Maybe a bit draconian, but their hearts are in the right place!

And a couple of quotes from the Gipper. "Sometimes our right hand doesn't know what our far-right hand is doing". And "A liberal is someone who thinks being tough on crime means longer suspended sentences".

June votes in plenary

A selection of the things that the parliament voted through in June:

•    A motion calling for the scrapping of the British budget rebate

A motion seeking to ban offshore holding centres for would-be immigrants -- which would destroy Conservative immigration policy

A motion calling for an EU seat on the UN Security Council -- which would call into question the UK seat

Needless to say, we voted against all these things. But our so-called "centre-right allies" in the Stalinist-sounding European People's Party voted for each and every one! With friends like these, who needs enemies? I'm delighted to be out of the EPP. I'd be even happier to see the whole British delegation out.

LIVE8 -- will it work this time?

The towering optimism and goodwill of the LIVE8 project are matched only by its naivety and economic illiteracy. All the G8 leaders need to do is listen to the music, wave a magic wand called "aid", and poverty will be history. If only!

The Telegraph reported recently that in the last forty years, the west has poured £220 billion (yes, BILLION!) into Africa. Yet in the same period, the kleptocratic leadership of just one African country, Nigeria, has plundered and looted a similar sum from the nation's treasury. With larceny on this scale, Africa is not so much a leaky bucket as a black hole.

Some say, send food and medicines, not cash. Yet tyrants like Robert Mugabe use aid distribution as a tool of oppression. Food goes to their cronies, and the military, or is sold to middle-men for cash, while opponents of the régime go hungry.

Debt relief is little better. It rewards profligacy and penalises thrift.

But two of Saint Bob's ideas bear a closer look. While aid undermines enterprise and creates dependency, trade fosters independence and self-confidence, dignity and prosperity. At the very least we must abandon our shameful export subsidies and import controls which deny third-world farmers a living.

But the key issue is governance. African countries must end corruption, and create democratic, honest and transparent institutions. Without them, the aid we send is sent in vain.

A Week in Washington

I spent w/c June 27th in Washington, with Chris Heaton-Harris, Martin Callanan, Dan Hannan and our Conservative friend from Poland, Michał Tomasz Kamiński. We met a series of think-tanks and NGOs, as well as a dozen Congressman, plus the State Department. After Brussels, where we are an endangered species, it was a delight to be amongst conservatives.

Believe it or not, we heard that before our visit to the State Department the EU Commission office in Washington briefed them against us, warning that we were mavericks who represented no substantial body of opinion. (This news did not come from the State Department, by the way, which was the soul of discretion). The Commission's disregard for democracy and public opinion (never mind for the voters of the East Midlands and their elected representatives) is astonishing.

My reading of the mood of the US administration is this. I believe that the Commerce Department and the Defence Department clearly understand that much that the EU does is bad for America. Commerce is particularly concerned about damaging regulatory proposals, like the REACH chemicals directive, while Defence worries about the undermining of NATO, the proposed lifting of the China arms embargo and the Galileo GPS project.

Sadly, however, the State Department hasn't got it. They still talk (despite all the evidence) about a united Europe being a strong partner for the US in spreading Western values around the world. But then, as a wag remarked, the State Department has a desk for every country in the world -- except America!

Wanted -- an East Midlands Advertising Agency

Does anyone know a good ad agency in the region, sympathetic to Conservative values, who could manage a modest budget in regional media? If so, please let me know.

Opinion polls in Germany

A May 26-27 poll of 1,001 people by the Forsa organization for Germany's Stern magazine found they would rather have the mark than the euro by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin. The margin of error was 3 percentage points. (Thanks to Sally McNamara at ALEC in Washington for drawing my attention to this one).

Arch Europhile German Christian Democrat Elmar Brok MEP recently admitted "If we'd had a referendum in Germany before the French result, it would have been YES. If we had one now, it would be NO".

Celebrating a great Lady

On June 14th, I was privileged to attend the Pearl Anniversary dinner at the Dorchester, celebrating thirty years since Margaret Thatcher became Leader of the Party. Organised by Conservative Way Forward, it attracted the good and the great of the party (as well as a few foot-soldiers like me!). As Chairman Christopher Chope MP remarked, the new leader of the Party was undoubtedly in the room -- we're just not quite sure yet who it will be!

With our group was Polish MEP Michał Tomasz Kamiński. Still only mid-thirties, he used to listen to BBC World Service as a teenager on a clandestine radio, and became a fan of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. He decided then he would become a Conservative politician. Now he is master-minding the campaign which will return a centre-right government in Poland this autumn. For him (and for us) the chance to attend a dinner with Lady Thatcher was a moving and emotional experience.

What a Lady. She took a basket-case economy and turned it into one of the strongest in Europe. She rescued liberty and prosperity by rolling back the state. She fought and won the Falklands War. Best of all, alongside her old friend Ronald Reagan she accomplished the disintegration of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact, and the destruction of the Berlin wall.

We drank her health with pride in our hearts and a lump in our throats. But it was heartening to see such a broad cross-section of our Party committed to honouring her memory by carrying forward her principles.

An Italian take on the euro

Italy's Northern League, a party in Berlusconi's coalition, has called for the re-adoption of the Lira! Italy's Welfare Minister Roberto Calderoli has said of the euro "They built the roof before they built the walls" (referring to its status as an orphan currency without the backing of a nation state), and said "We can either apply euthanasia (to the euro), or we can let it die by itself".

Watch this space.

Independence Day

Last month I suggested that future historians, looking back on May 29th (the French referendum) might choose to call it Independence Day. This prompted the following response from Mary Reed, who worked as my PA several lifetimes ago (well, about 1974):

I got a kick from your comment because as a student of British folklore I know the date is one significant to many. As the rhyme goes:

29th May is Oakapple Day
Ring a ding, ring a ding
God save the king

The day celebrates the escape of Charles II after the Battle of Worcester (he hid in an oak tree in Boscobel House) and there are some interesting customs still carried out to mark the day, such as a procession of villagers carrying branches cut from their local wood to as I recall without looking it up Salisbury Cathedral, where they are required to cry Grovely, Grovely and all Grovely in order to keep wood cutting rights in Grovely Wood. (Doesn't Grovely fit certain aspects of the EU mess?). Chelsea Pensioners get extra rations of beer on the day and parade for inspection by A Royal Personage. Various busts of Charles II get oak leaf garlands and folk are supposed to wear an oak-apple or an oak leaf on the day or risk being pelted with mud. And so forth.

Meantime, I am entirely with you (who would have thought we would agree on political matters!) Get the UK out of the EU!

I'm not sure Mary would approve, but I shall be wearing a Stars'n'Stripes tie on the real Independence Day -- July 4th!

Lies in the French referendum campaign

A key concern of French voters was the "Services Directive", which they feared would allow Polish plumbers to come and take French jobs. To reassure them, M. Jean-Louis Debré, president of the national Assembly, announced that the Directive had been abandoned. At about the same time, Tony Blair told the House of Commons (March 24th) that the Directive would go ahead with minor amendments.

So I put a question to the EU Commission -- who was telling the truth? In this case, it proves to be Tony Blair. The French government spin that the Directive had been abandoned was, quite simply, a lie. But we can't allow the truth to stand in the way of the European project.

Bill Turncoat-Dunn's take on the Constitution

Bill says, in his latest newsletter: "But it seems wrong that a set of new rules which is vital for an efficient EU of 25 or more states, and which have already been accepted by nearly half the EU’s population, can be stopped because two states voted 'no'".. Let's ignore the "vital for efficiency" bit -- that's a lie we have heard repeated too often -- and concentrate on "can be stopped by two states". If you read the text of the Constitution, it can be stopped by just one state. And that's not "strange". It's the way Valery Giscard d'Estaing and his henchmen drafted it!

Does Bill think that the one or two states that vote NO should have the Constitution forced on them against their wishes? Does he not realise that if ratification goes on, there will be a string of NO votes? Does he recall that if more than five vote NO, the Council does not even have authority to consider how to "take it forward"?

And as for "nearly half the EU population have accepted it" -- no they haven't! Apart from Spain, all those countries that ratified did so through their parliaments. It's a fair bet that if they had referendums, some or all would vote NO.

Once again: flat taxes/low taxes

When George Bush lowered tax rates, everyone said revenues would go down. Just like here at home. When the Conservatives say "Lower taxes", Labour says "Which schools'n'hospitals will you close?". But as I keep saying (sorry to be repetitive), lower tax rates mean higher revenues. Counter-intuitive, but true. The following report appeared in the Wall Street Journal Europe:

US deficit lower than projected after tax cuts spark jump in tax revenues. The Wall Street Journal Europe reports that "government and private sector analysts agree that the shortfall is more likely to be about $350 billion than the $427 billion that the administration forecast in January". The paper reports that this is due to "economic recovery and higher-than-expected tax returns". CBO said in its budget report on Monday that for the first two thirds of the fiscal year through May, federal tax revenues had risen 15.4 per cent compared with the same eight months of fiscal year 2004. The CBO report also said that individual income tax payments were up by 20 per cent over the comparable 2004 period (WSJE, p.1).

Nice when your dearest convictions are supported by the facts!

A good read

My good friend Lee Rotherham has sent me a review copy of a new Bruges Group booklet, "PLAN 'B' FOR EUROPE: Lost opportunities in the EU Constitution debate". With a forward by John Hayes, MP for South Holland, it contains vital articles from key figures in the Constitution debate, like David Heathcoat-Amory MP, Jens-Peter Bonde, the Danish MEP, and our good colleague Jan Zahradil, the ultra-sound MEP from the Czech ODS party.

Essential reading for anyone interested in the EU Constitution, Lee Rotherham tells me that for readers of this newsletter it is available with free P&P, price only £7, from the Bruges Group at
216 Linen Hall, 162 Regent St., W1B 5TB. ISBN No 0-9547087-1-7

Web links

Especially worth visiting at the moment:

The Freedom Association - www.tfa.net

Brusselswatch - www.brusselswatch.com


That's it for this month. The week before last I was in Brussels. Last week Washington. This week Strasbourg. Next week Beijing, Pyongyang and Seoul, Korea. I'll be glad of my summer break. And I hope you enjoy yours. Please remember to check this site for more background on current parliamentary business, full details of proposals being voted at the Strasbourg plenary session, and a host of other issues.