What's New
Speeches & Articles
Newsletter - Jul 2012
Contact Information
Photo Album
Parliamentary Highlights
MEPs' Transparency

The Freedom Association
Visit the
Freedom Association

Straight Talking - September 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.

Ken Clarke’s candidacy

I have tried to say as little as possible about Ken’s leadership ambitions, to avoid appearing divisive, but his recent remarks about the euro demand comment. It is good, of course, that he finally recognises that the euro has failed. Most of us have known this for some time. Indeed many of us have been predicting it since the late 90s, and can now say “I told you so”.

But Ken was Chancellor of the Exchequer. He is an expert on the economy. Yet he now admits that for years he has been recommending a course of action on the euro that would have been profoundly damaging to our country. At best, this is a massive failure of judgement, at worst a cynical attempt to boost his leadership bid.

And the EU project is wider than the single currency. Will Ken now back the Party’s current EU policy, that we should repatriate powers in key areas from Brussels to Westminster? If he became leader, would he guarantee to end the damaging association between Conservative MEPs and the rabidly integrationist European People’s Party? I doubt it.

Ken gets his facts wrong

I was interviewed on the BBC's World at One on Sept 1st, regarding Ken Clarke's Damascene conversion on the euro, and I made the points outlined above.

In his response, Ken alleged that my Conservative whip "had been withdrawn by Michael Howard". This of course is totally false, and is damaging and prejudicial. I have written to Ken requesting a public retraction.

Ken is notorious for being careless with facts and details (he never read the Maastricht Treaty, for example). This is another example. Read the transcript of the interviews

North Korea: Five days in the workers’ paradise

In early July I went with a delegation of the European parliament on an official visit to North Korea. This was an extraordinary opportunity – it is extremely difficult for Westerners to gain access to this closed country. In my business career, before I entered politics, I had spent four years living and working in Seoul, South Korea, but had never been able to visit the North.

The North Korean régime claims to be communist, but it is more like a mediaeval feudal despotism. It has one of the worst human rights records in the world, with up to 1% of the population in forced labour camps. It is entirely closed to information from the outside – radios and televisions are pre-tuned to government propaganda stations, and there are severe penalties for tampering with the tuning or bringing in clandestine sets.

NK’s economy, infrastructure and agriculture are in terminal decline, and the country is hugely dependent on foreign aid from China, Japan and South Korea. The EU has given 600 million euros over the last ten years. Nevertheless, the NKs’ political philosophy, “Juche”, is about self-reliance!

The Lincs Echo ran a double-page spread on the visit on July 23rd.

Read the full story, and view photographs of the trip

Hate Mail

I brought back from Pyongyang an extraordinary stamp showing two NK soldiers bayoneting an American. I issued this to regional media as a separate press release, and it was passed on to the Daily Mirror, who ran it nationally on July 22nd.

Misinformation from Philip Whitehead MEP

In his recent newsletter, Philip sought to imply that with my new status as an unattached MEP, I was costing the taxpayer extra money. The truth is rather different. Philip, as a member of the Socialist group, attracts around €65,000 of “information funding”. As an unattached member, I attract only around €38,000. But most of Philip’s money is absorbed in the bureaucracy of his Socialist group in the parliament, whereas all mine is available directly for use in the region (look out for advertising in the coming months). So from the taxpayer’s point of view, I actually cost €27,000 p.a. less to run than Philip – but I have far more to spend on information services for East Midlands electors. Sounds like a win-win deal to me!

Love Europe. Hate the EU!

One of the first things I have done with my funding is to create a bumper-sticker. But that raises the problem of condensing a political philosophy into a few words. I could easily write a 1000-word essay on why the EU is bad for Britain – indeed I have done (see web-site!). At a pinch, I can get it down to 200 words. But a bumper-sticker? The best I could do was “Love Europe. Hate the EU!”. (Please let me know if you have a better idea).

It’s always wise to clear these things ahead of time with the parliamentary authorities. At first, they rejected my proposal, on the grounds that “it was not political, nor was it information; it was merely the Member’s sentiment”. I asked if they would have rejected “Love Europe, Love the EU”? And I told them that if they could think of a better slogan reflecting my political views, I would be happy to use it. At that, they gave approval!

If you’d like a sticker, please send an SAE to me at 11, Central Park, Lutterworth, LE17 4PN.

But aren’t Europe and the EU the same thing?

I have been surprised that several people, including a radio interviewer, have been confused by the slogan because they think that Europe and the EU are roughly the same thing. No they’re not!

Europe is a continent which is home to a dazzling diversity of ancient nations, with their own languages, traditions, customs, cultures, cuisines and countryside. It is the cradle of Western civilisation. It would be difficult not to love it.

The EU on the other hand, is a relatively recent political construct which is squeezing the lifeblood out of European economies, damaging our prosperity, and undermining representative democracy. It is not so overtly totalitarian as the Communist or fascist systems, but it is far more insidious, and its ultimate aim is the same – to put an end to our country’s independence.

Europe is nations and peoples. The EU is a flawed and failing political experiment.

Quote of the Month

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says “Prodi’s euro has screwed everybody. Italians are facing real difficulties”.

Facing a general election in Italy, and behind in the polls, Berlusconi’s strategy is emerging. He is going to blame the euro for Italy’s dire economic situation, and he is going to blame former EU Commission President Romano Prodi (his socialist opponent in the election) for the euro. Like most political slogans (and bumper-stickers!) this is probably an over-simplification, but it contains enough truth to be a problem for Prodi. And for the euro!

Looking Forward ... A Conservative Vision

Michael Howard has called for a wide-ranging policy debate following our election defeat in May, and I am happy to oblige. Along with several MEP colleagues, I have contributed to a booklet covering a range of policy issues. The full text is available here.

Neil Parish writes on agriculture, Dan Hannan on “The New Localism”, Martin Callanan on Education, and his American researcher Morgan Long on Health. Chris contributes a tongue-in-cheek piece on taxes, suggesting that those who say they’d pay more tax to support this, that or the other public good should be offered the option to pay extra! Needless to say, I write about Europe. And we got US Congressman Tom Feeney, a thoroughly sound conservative, to give us a view from Washington.

I managed to get two bites at the cherry, when Morgan (who edited the booklet) realised we needed a foreword, and I contributed a piece called “Conservative Policies, Conservative Principles”.

Sir Edward Heath passes on

I was sorry to hear of the death of Sir Edward Heath. He was, after all, a distinguished Conservative parliamentarian, and he did win an election for the Conservative Party.

But I was a little surprised to hear obituarists banging on about his integrity. It is clear that when he campaigned for British entry to the (then) Common Market, he was – how shall I put it? -- a little less than straightforward with the British people. He presented it as simply an issue about trade and jobs, with “no threat to our essential national sovereignty”. In fact he knew perfectly well that the plan was for full political, economic and monetary union. He not only knew it – he supported it.

The sad truth is that Ted Heath tried to persuade us, by deceit, to give up the independence and self-determination of our country, and he very nearly succeeded. It was incongruous to see the British Union Jack on his coffin at his funeral in Salisbury Cathedral. The flag of a different Union might have been more appropriate.

We now see his EU project in crisis, with the rejection of the Constitution. There is a real prospect of starting again and changing the EU into the kind of flexible free trade area that most Conservatives could live with. So while I regret the passing of Sir Ted, I am happy to consign his European ideal to the last century, where it belongs.

At last – a fair TV documentary on hunting!

James Delingpole's Channel 4 documentary "The Aristocracy" on Sunday July 24th was remarkable. He was dealing with the upper classes, but much of the hour-long programme dealt with fox-hunting (he rode with the Cotswold, rather bravely considering his limited riding experience), and visited the “Nobs and yobs” at the last legal Waterloo Cup, run in February at Altcar, near Blackpool (I watched avidly but unsuccessfully to see if I could spot myself in the crowd!). I have never seen hunting treated so fairly on television. Delingpole made the case for hunting on aesthetic and cultural grounds, on civil liberties grounds, and on the benefits to environment, landscape and conservation. Maybe the tide of public opinion is turning. There was certainly a real sense of “You’ll miss us when we’re gone”. Now would the BBC ever have made such a programme, I ask?

Triumph rises from the ashes

In July I had the privilege of visiting the Triumph motorcycle plant in Hinckley, along with David Tredinnick MP. It has literally risen from the ashes of the disastrous fire in 2002, and is an astonishing success story. It recently delivered the 200,000th bike following its resurrection, and is a hugely successful business. It is exporting British bikes to most of the world’s major markets. Well done to the management and the workforce.

The London Bombings: July 7th

I have little to add to the millions of words that have been written on the London bombings. Just one point. I was struck by the way the media agonised over the discovery that the 7/7 bombers were “British”. Well they may have held British passports, but they were not British by any criterion that I would recognise. Their identity, their loyalty, their aspirations lay elsewhere.

Maybe we should be less willing to give British passports to those who despise our values, our country and our way of life.

Kilroy was here … I think

Four of the six East Midlands MEPs have written to the President of the EU parliament to complain that Robert Kilroy Silk is taking his salary and expenses as an MEP, but not doing the job. He is rarely seen in Brussels, and rarely seen in the region either (his home is in Spain).

(Bill Turncoat Dunn was invited to sign the letter, but declined to do so. Perhaps he feels he should not criticise MEPs who get elected on one party ticket and then defect to another party!).

Interviewed on BBC Radio Derby, I made the point that the media frequently complain that they can’t get in touch with RKS. At the end of my piece, the interviewer said “We tried to get a comment from Mr. Kilroy-Silk, but we were unable to get in touch with him”!.

The EU Constitution: a US view

The Heritage Foundation in Washington is a think-tank that produces excellent conservative commentary on world affairs. I especially recommend their “Backgrounder” of June 20th on the rejection of the EU Constitution. Find it at www.heritage.org/research/Europe/bg1862.cfm

Written by John Hulsman, whom I have met many times (he was in Brussels a couple of months back), he concludes that the rejection of the Constitution marks the end of “ever closer union”. He urges the USA to develop a pragmatic transatlantic policy framework, based on the reality of independent European nations, not on the myth of European Union. He calls for a Global Free Trade Alliance, and for a renewed commitment to NATO. Well worth reading.

Washington Folklore: the Willard Hotel

In my July newsletter, I reported on my recent visit to Washington. But I missed one entertaining detail. We stayed at the Willard Hotel, which was used extensively by President (formerly General) Grant, in the 19th century. Apparently those who wished access to the ear of the President would wait in the hotel lobby in the morning until he came down. This, they say, is the origin of the verb “to lobby”, and hence of the noun “lobbyist”. If you doubt it, there is an official tourist information board with the story outside the hotel.

Little could President Grant have realised that he had spawned an industry. Today, there are said to be ten thousand lobbyists in Brussels, and thirty thousand in Washington.


That's it for this Strasbourg session. Please remember to check this website more background on current parliamentary business, full details of proposals being voted at the Strasbourg plenary session, and a host of other issues.