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 - October 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.

A Fantastic Party Conference

The Party Conference in Blackpool was one of the most exciting in years. With the issue of the leadership on the table, there was a real sense of purpose and progress. The leadership election has focussed media attention on the Party in a way we haven't seen for a long time. Much of the coverage was positive, and gave our candidates a high profile.

Leadership: Time to choose

Chris and I plan to issue a joint statement on the leadership issue in a few days. We believe that the Party is fortunate to have two such excellent candidates. Either would make a good leader, and a good Prime Minister. Differences in policy are relatively minor, so we may have to focus on personality and electability. Here the differences start to emerge. Perhaps only one of the Davids has that elusive star quality.

The Cornerstone Group

Edward Leigh MP has formed the Cornerstone Group of around 25 MPs committed to traditional Conservative values, flat taxes, national self-determination. They have just published a second booklet of political essays, including one by our own John Hayes MP, and they kindly invited me to contribute my thoughts on Europe. The booklet is available here and also on their site, www.cornerstone.blogs.com.

Blair comes to Strasbourg - again

In June, Blair came and introduced the six-month British Presidency. Facing an unsympathetic audience, he won them over with a skilful speech. But now they're feeling cheated, and believe that Blair's Presidency has failed to deliver, as they made clear on October 26th.

As a Non-Inscrit member, I again became the first British Tory to speak, with a full two minutes! I pointed out how his early promise to take Britain to the heart of Europe had failed; his referendum plan for the EU Constitution had effectively scuppered that project; and his Presidency was a non-event.

I said he was "surveying the shattered wreckage of his European dream". I rarely get to speak to Tony Blair, but I enjoy it when I do! See the speech and press Release

Kyoto and the environment

There were several debates and hearings on the environment during w/c Oct 17th, and I attended two of them. The Kyoto protocol is a bit like the Stability and Growth Pact, or the Lisbon Process, or "subsidiarity". That is, people talk about it interminably, in terms of great respect, yet no one does much about it -- least of all analyse how it's going and whether it can work.

Let's get Kyoto in perspective. Fewer than a quarter of the world's countries have signed up. Of those who have, fewer than half will achieve the targets they are committed to. When emissions-trading gets into full swing, there won't be enough carbon credits to go round, so the market won't work. And I'll be astonished if any country, ever, actually coughs up for the penalties in the system.

We need to cut emissions. We need to develop alternative fuels. We need to recognise that only new nuclear capacity will meet the requirement for CO2 reduction. Kyoto's objectives are fine, but its methodology is designed to fail.

Kirkhope's Kangaroo Kourt

The saga of my suspended whip rolls on. On Sept 27th, I was invited to address a "Review Panel" to explain my position. Several East Midlands Conservatives described it as a "kangaroo court", and with justification. Timothy Kirkhope MEP simply made up the rules of procedure as he went along. He was prosecutor, judge and jury in his own cause. At one point he insisted that I take no one with me -- surely a minimum requirement of any disciplinary proceeding in the 21st century.

Eventually he relented and allowed in my good friend and colleague David Sumberg MEP, a former lawyer, as a legal representative. But he insisted on keeping Pauline Latham, who had kindly agreed to come to Strasbourg at some expense as an observer, outside the door -- a gross discourtesy to a senior member of the voluntary party, and to an experienced euro-candidate.

A promise kept

At my selection meeting in Nottingham in July 1998, I made a promise. "If you send me to Brussels, I will stand up in the parliament and say what you would want to say, if you were there".

So I did. And Kirkhope withdrew the whip!

Now the Germans can decide who can be a Conservative MEP!

On October 12th, I got my answer. I could re-enter the delegation. But first I had to perform a list of circus tricks. I had to apologise for a letter to the Telegraph, in words to be agreed with the Chief Whip. I re-read the letter. It was reasonable, measured, and based on self-evident facts. Which bit, I asked, should I apologise for? I was to be bound by a letter regarding EPP membership extracted under threat of de-selection from euro-candidates in 2004 by Liam Fox, then Party Chairman. But Liam has now publicly repudiated the EPP relationship -- so how can we still be bound by the agreement?

Worst of all, I have to apply, by myself without the support of the delegation, to re-join the EPP, who will almost certainly refuse, and provide evidence of re-admission! Kirkhope has thus given German Christian Democrat Hans-Gert Pöttering a veto on my rejoining the delegation! Now the EPP may decide, not only who may join the EPP, but who may join the Conservative MEPs! I thought I had been selected by East Midlands Conservatives. Clearly Kirkhope takes a different view.

A bad Conference for Kirkhope

On Monday October 3rd, Kirkhope tried to get my Conference pass withdrawn, but the organisers sent him off with a flea in his ear. On Monday afternoon at the East/West Midlands reception, practically half of the crowd were wearing "Re-instate Roger" lapel badges. And at the MEPs' reception, immediately afterwards and in the same room, many of the badges were still in evidence -- and for some reason, Kirkhope decided not to speak! I am hugely grateful to all those who chose to show their support in that way -- thank you all so much.

Kirkhope was more surprised, perhaps, to find the same badges and some A5 fliers setting out the issue at his own Yorkshire reception on the Tuesday, an event he shared with the North East region.

On Tuesday, he became seized of the idea that there were plans afoot to disrupt his Conference speech on Wednesday afternoon. And persistent reports suggest that he may have 'phoned the police to ask for protection. Yes, you read that right. 'Phoned the police to ask for protection!

I can now reveal the truth. There never were any flour bombs. No one ever planned to throw anything. So far as I know, no one planned even to heckle. (And I was fifty miles away at Manchester airport at the time!). Kirkhope seems to have been jousting with shadows and wasting police time. He was listening too much to corridor gossip and groundless rumour. Yet he disrupted the Conference programme and brought his speech forward an hour and a half to avoid the threat.

As I wrote to him later, if the reports are correct his behaviour suggested a practically clinical level of paranoia. In any case he inadvertently provided a richly comic sub-text for one of the most exciting and positive Party Conferences of recent years. Well done Timothy.

Further details can be found here.

Chris Heaton-Harris's coup de théâtre

If you've been following the regional press, you'll know that Chris and I offered a bottle of champagne for the first sighting of Robert Kilroy Silk (aka the Seldom Seen Kid) in the East Midlands. The prize was never claimed, so Chris made a point of presenting the unclaimed prize to Kilroy, when the latter finally emerged from hibernation and came to the September plenary session in Strasbourg.

Chris deserves enormous credit for the whole scheme, which has highlighted the absence of Kilroy, and rightly embarrassed him in front of the whole parliament. It was knock-about stuff, but with a serious purpose. It raised the profile of Kilroy-Silk's dereliction across the regional (and national) media. The public have a right to know, and Chris's action ensured that they do indeed know.

Meeting Philippine Ex-President Ramos

I had the privilege of dining in the parliament's Presidential Suite on October 5th with Philippine ex-President Fidel Ramos, who proved a charming and courteous guest. I first visited Manila in 1972 just after the notorious President Marcos came to power (remember Imelda and her shoes?), and I have visited frequently and taken an interest in the country ever since.

As often happens with such guests, Ramos made a point of flattering his hosts and saying that ASEAN would aim to learn from the achievements of the EU. I had the opportunity to ask a question, and I expressed the hope that ASEAN would also avoid the EU's pitfalls, like the European social model, over-regulation, low growth and sky-high unemployment.

The Poles come to Melton Mowbray

On Friday October 7th I was invited to address a town twinning meeting in Melton Mowbray, on the subject of EU environment policy. Most of my audience were Polish, and I was able to talk to them about the outcome of the recent parliamentary elections in Poland, won by the Law & Justice Party, under the campaign management of my good friend Michal Thomas Kaminski MEP, as good a conservative as you will meet anywhere.

"If you voted Law & Justice, well done, fantastic result", I said. "And if you didn't ... maybe next time?". But I think they did -- the remark was greeted with warm applause.

Before the meeting started a Polish pianist serenaded us with delightful Polish music -- see this press release.

Speaking up for circuses and hunting

On Oct 12th, I was scheduled to speak in plenary at 9:30 p.m. As usual, it ran late, and it was after eleven when I got to my feet for my 90 seconds. I remarked that it was very appropriate to debate circuses in the European parliament, since the parliament itself is the biggest travelling circus in the world! The Pack Report (Doris Pack is the rapporteur) seeks to recognise the circus as "part of European culture"

And I drew a parallel with the hunting issue. Both hunting and circuses are under attack from the animal rights movement. In both cases there are legitimate animal welfare concerns, which should be properly addressed. But neither activity should be banned on those grounds. I condemned our Labour government's unjust and counter-productive ban on hunting.

Rather to my surprise, the President of the parliament, as I sat down, remarked that "Many MEPs would agree with my point of view".

Visitors to Brux

On October 17th we had Hilary Heason of the British Geological Survey (headquartered in Notts) to visit. It's amazing what the BGS gets into -- from finding iron deposits in Afghanistan (a better business for Afghans than growing opium) to finding safe places to bury nuclear waste. I look forward to visiting Hilary at the BGS set-up in Notts soon. Plus a very welcome group from Alan Duncan's Rutland & Melton constituency. Thanks to them for coming, and to my friend and colleague Nirj Deva MEP (SE) for coming to talk to them.

And on October 25th we had a delegation of US state legislators and corporate partners from ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, organised by our former colleague Sally McNamara. ALEC is a major public policy institute based in Washington.

I was delighted that ALEC decided to honour me by signing me up as the first overseas member of their new International Legislators' Membership programme. After the leftists and federalists of Brussels, it's refreshing to be amongst real conservatives -- whether in the East Midlands or in the USA.

The decorators are on the 14th floor!

The Parliament decorators are currently on the terminable 14th floor corridors replacing the dull grey carpet and wallpaper with -- guess what? More dull grey carpet and wallpaper!! All at your expense of course!

Quote of the month

A letter in the Sunday Telegraph of October 9th from a Mr. Edwin Bateman of Sedburgh, Cumbria. "Turkey should be allowed to join the EU, on condition that Britain can leave".


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.