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Straight Talking - December 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.

Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

Cameron wins by a mile!

The Party has a new leader who looks the business, who appeals to voters across the board as well as within the Party. So let's have no more talk of reducing Labour's majority, or hung parliaments. We're fighting to win, with no prizes for coming second.

David Cameron won by two-to-one over a strong and experienced rival. He has an incontestable mandate. He expects, and deserves, our full support. There will be those who have reservations about particular issues, but the Party will not forgive them if they rock the boat now.

A Christmas conundrum

What do Boris Johnson, Theresa Villiers, Steve Norris, Nirj Deva and Danny Kruger have in common? See below!

Quote of the Month:

EPP President Hans-Gert Poettering's December 6th press release on the British proposal for the EU budget: "The EPP group is not prepared to accept any agreement that does nothing to promote Europe's ambitions".

This is the EPP group that David Cameron has pledged to take us out of. Now you know why!

Those who argue in favour of our link with the EPP group say that we need to be close to the "centre-right" German Christian Democrats, especially now that Angela Merkel is Chancellor. This is the lady who proposes to revive the German economy by raising VAT from 16 to 19%! The lady who has declared that the EU Constitution is not dead, but must be brought back and ratified. Not much of a partner for British Conservatives.

Meantime my good colleague Syed Kamall MEP of London has pointed out that if we were outside the EPP but proposing to join, there would be a chorus of protest about corruption and racism. The German CDU recently ran an overtly racist anti-immigration campaign "Kinder statte Inde" -- "Children not Indians". The head of the UMP, Jacques Chirac, would be facing criminal charges if he were not the President of France. And Silvio Berlusconi, our Italian EPP partner, has been dogged by a range of scandals.

We will be better off out, for this and many more reasons.

Ken Clarke goes head-banging

Ken has chosen to rain on David Cameron's parade, by using thoughtless and insulting language normally associated with the europhile left. His comments have been neither gracious nor helpful.

Meantime it has been reported that some Tory MEPs are threatening to defy Cameron on the EPP issue. Funnily enough, most of them have positions in the parliament which they feel they owe to the EPP. Somehow the glittering prizes become more important than Party or country. It's what we used to call "going native".

The Kyoto protocol -- more hot air!

I have argued against the Kyoto protocol for some time. Its objectives are fine, but its methodology is doomed to failure. Now my opinion gets the backing of a new report from the internationally recognised macro-economic think-tank Global Insight, showing that full implementation of Kyoto would result in devastating reductions in GDP, and increases in unemployment, for European economies. EU officials in Montreal are now discussing even more swingeing targets for emissions, which would result in economic devastation (see www.iccfglobal.org for the report).

Tony Blair has said, quite rightly, that advanced economies will not tolerate immediate and severe economic costs in exchange for speculative long-term environmental benefits, and for once he is right. Any fool can solve the emissions problem by forcing us back to a pre-industrial economy. The challenge for world leaders is to find ways of addressing climate concerns without reversing economic growth.

Don't trust the label. Look in the box!

All too often people decide they like the objectives of something like Kyoto, or of EU legislative proposals, so they lobby for their adoption, without ever bothering to consider what the proposals actually mean. A recent example is the EU's chemicals legislation, REACH, (Registration, Evaluation and Approval of CHemicals), which we voted in Strasbourg in November. Its objective is to give us a cleaner environment, and no one can argue with that. But its effect will be to prevent industry from using perfectly safe chemicals, to put companies out of business and people out of work, and to drive production and business and jobs off-shore to third countries with lower environmental standards.

If this were the only way to get the result, it might even then be worth it. But it isn't. There are quicker, cheaper and more effective options. REACH is another huge and unnecessary blow to the EU's "Lisbon Process", which was designed to increase the competitiveness of European economies.

I've had the Women's Institute, and the World Council of Churches, lobbying me on REACH. I wrote back to the WCC saying "I suspect that you have not read the proposal, and that you have not considered alternative approaches. You should do so, before you claim divine authority for a deeply flawed European directive". See this article for more on this.

A brush with Judy "Bad Hair Day" Mallaber (and boy, does she need a brush!)

On Nov 26th I had been invited by the Bakewell Chapter of Amnesty International to attend a meeting at the Friends Meeting Hall, to hear about their "Stop Violence Against Women" campaign. I don't buy the whole of the Amnesty agenda (see "Capital Punishment" below!), and I have not made women's issues a main focus of my political activity. But like all decent people I am opposed to violence against women (and indeed against men), so I was happy to attend, to learn about the campaign and to offer what support I could.

All went well until the photo-call planned for the end of the conference, when delegates and guests were to line up behind a campaign banner which had been crafted during the course of the event. Judy Mallaber, Labour MP for Amber Valley, decided to turn a good-natured charity event into a petty party-political spat. She insisted in a loud voice that she wasn't sharing a photograph with a Tory, that I had not previously campaigned on women's issues (I'm flattered that she follows my work so closely), and that I was only there for the photo-op.

She didn't quite say that all Conservatives were male chauvinist pigs, but that was the impression she gave. Her inappropriate and gratuitous outburst clearly embarrassed and dismayed the organisers, and the audience, most of whom heard it clearly. I resisted the temptation to respond in kind -- after all, she was doing herself quite enough damage without my help -- but I did quietly ask the organisers to remind her that I was there, like her, because I had been invited. This they were happy to do. And I asked Philip Whitehead MEP, who was also there, "How do you spell 'Harridan'?" Two Rs, apparently! See photo on the web-site at www.rogerhelmer.com

Ms. Mallaber needs to learn that her party does not have a monopoly on compassion. And that she can't always succeed in turning charity events into benefit performances for the Labour Party.

Capital Punishment

Following the appalling shooting of PC Sharon Beshenivsky in Bradford, Lord Stevens, formerly Commissioner of the Met, says he has changed his mind and now supports the death penalty for murder of a police officer. Simon Heffer wrote a very thoughtful and well-argued piece in the Daily Telegraph also supporting capital punishment.

Some people have asked "Why only policemen? Aren't your life and mine of equal importance?". Yes, but we do ask the police to take special risks, so there may be a case for offering them special protection.

I personally support the death penalty for murder, subject to the usual caveats about certainty, and exclusions for provocation, self-defence and so on. I get rather annoyed by the holier-than-thou postures adopted by some anti-hanging MPs. I suspect it's more a case of squeamishness, and a reluctance to tackle difficult issues. I also disagree with those who argue that capital punishment is an infringement of our "right to life". We also have a right to liberty and property, yet we accept that the state, after due process following serious offences, can take away our property through a fine, or take away our liberty with a prison sentence.

Surely the same should apply to life? The rule of law depends in the end on a consensus. We don't commit murder, and we expect to be protected from murderers. Why should those who kill still expect their own lives to be protected?

The death penalty seems to me to be simple, natural justice. It may also be a deterrent. While you can prove anything with statistics, the fact is that the murder rate in Britain has soared since the death penalty was abolished. But I think there is a still stronger argument. Think about Myra Hindley, Fred West, Harold Shipman, Ian Huntley, and the murderers of Sharon Beshenivsky. They all seem to have been serial offenders. If people like that get out of jail after a derisory sentence, or if they escape, odds are they will re-offend. The one unassailable argument for capital punishment is this: if we hang them, they won't do it again.

It's bash-the-motorist time again

The government is looking for new ways to try to achieve its Kyoto commitment on emissions, and one idea they're studying is the rigorous enforcement of motorway speed limits, which they argue would reduce fuel consumption and emissions. What they seem to have missed entirely is that motorway driving is about the most efficient driving there is (and actually also much safer than driving on other roads). My own car does well over 40 miles to the gallon on long motorway runs, but only mid-thirties in urban and mixed driving.

Rather than persecuting the motorway driver, the government should be tackling congestion and traffic jams, which are the key cause of excessive emissions. At the last election the Conservative Party committed itself to considering an 80mph speed limit on motorways. I think this would make sense.

Commissioner Peter Meddlesome

European Commissioners are supposed to put aside their national interests, and consider only the benefit of the EU as a whole. Not all of them do this, but we cannot level such a criticism at our own Commissioner Peter Meddle­some. He has entirely turned his back on the British national interest.

He was inadvertently picked up by a BBC microphone telling a British civil servant that it would be "a disaster" if we did not reach agreement on the EU budget under the current British Presidency (plain English: he wants us to give up Margaret Thatcher's rebate). Apparently we should "lose our influence" in Brussels unless we throw another £4 billion into the EU's leaky finances. Funny how we are constantly expected to give up real assets in the here-and-now, in exchange for this nebulous "influence", which never seems to be around when we want it. Certainly Tony Blair hasn't shown much sign of influence during the current British Presidency.

I suggest that Tony should tell the EU "If we can't agree, we'll agree to differ. But not a penny more".

Jeffersonian principles in Washington

I attended the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)'s annual States and Nation Policy Summit in Washington on Dec 7th -- 10th. I am proud to have been appointed ALEC's Adam Smith Scholar, and to be their first international legislator member. I led a session on Transatlantic Relations, and shared a platform with US Secretary for Homeland Security Michael Chertoff.

I love the unabashed way in which American conservatives constantly refer to conservative principles. Liberty and personal responsibility; enterprise and free markets; small government and low taxes; family and nation. Or as Thomas Jefferson put it in 1801 "A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities". If we keep these principles in the forefront of our minds, and test every policy against them, we shan't go far wrong.

A short personal statement

OK. I'll admit it. I have a guilty secret. I like poetry. And when I saw that our Barrow-on-Soar branch in the Loughborough constituency was organising a poetry reading evening on Nov 18th, I couldn't resist. It was an excellent and well-attended event at the home of John and Sue Foster, with a great selection of poems, and a shepherd's pie supper. I read "The Golden Road to Samarkand" by James Elroy Flecker. On the basis of sharing best practice, I recommend the idea of a poetry evening to any branch looking for a new fund-raising event.

Tackling over-regulation

A new booklet, published by the Estonian think tank Research Centre Free Europe (don't worry, it's in English!), called "The Regulation Race" makes the case for diversity in regulatory regimes. I recently reviewed it for Freedom Today.

It gives us the intellectual backing for what we instinctively know – that modern nations prosper if they have regulations best suited to their own affairs, and that voters should have the right to compare their regime with others. This ability to contrast regulatory regimes is a motor for innovation.

It is only by such comparison and choice that there can be any real accountability – but the EU doctrine of regulatory “harmonisation” works in exactly the opposite direction.

The booklet is already something of an international hit – written by Austrians with a foreword by a German professor, published in Estonia and now translated and published in the Czech Republic.

A minor classic for only £3, it is available form “Research Centre Free Europe” PK4231, Tallinn EE 10510, Estonia, Estonia. Ordinary Sterling cheques are fine.

By the way, I write regularly for Freedom Today. See their web-site at www.tfa.net.

Why do EFTA countries do better than EU countries?

The Bruges Group has just published my colleague Dan Hannan's paper "The Case for EFTA". In his usual brilliant, lucid prose he demolishes the lazy assumption that EU membership must somehow be good for British trade and prosperity, and shows how instead it damages our wealth and our growth prospects and prevents us from matching EFTA's economic performance. Essential reading. www.brugesgroup.com

Christmas conundrum: the answer

They were all photographed at Party Conference wearing "Reinstate Roger" badges. Click here for the pictures!


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.