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Straight Talking - March 2007

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.

Cameron on course for Downing Street?

For a year now, Conservatives have been ahead in the polls, although not by a big enough margin to allow a working majority. But on Feb 20th, there was an ICM poll for the Guardian showing a 13% lead for Cameron over Brown -- enough to form a government.

One poll doesn't guarantee an election victory, but it's a very positive sign. Those of us who campaigned for Cameron in the leadership election will take particular satisfaction from it. Not all of us will agree with everything that Cameron is doing, but right now we have to get behind him, keep up the momentum, and ensure that the promise of that opinion poll is fulfilled.

Crikey! Cameron is Cool!

On Feb 23rd, I spoke to the Lower Sixth at Leicester Grammar School. I am on the euro-realist schools' Speakers' Panel run by the think-tank Civitas, and I have done a number of events for them.

After my speech, one of the girls asked, breathlessly, "Have you met David Cameron? Is he as cool as he looks?". She may well be old enough to vote by the General Election, so I take this as a very positive sign. I yield to no one in my respect for David's predecessor as Party leader, but nobody ever asked me if he was cool!

Steve Norris: EU is "Corrupted and corrupting"

Former London Mayoral candidate Steve Norris, was interviewed on Doughty Street (if you haven't visited it yet, please do, on www.18doughtystreet.com).

He was asked about the EU, and his reply is worth quoting at some length: I strongly support close and constructive dialogue with our European neighbours and I believe there are some issues -- climate change being a prime example -- where co-operation among European nations is invaluable. But the evidence over many years is that the EU is a corrupted and corrupting organisation that denies democracy and works against the interests of member states in preference to the interests of its bureaucrats. I want to see the powers of the Commission reduced, not enhanced. I strongly support the proposition that it would be intolerable for the UK government to come to any decision on an EU Constitution without a referendum.

He added: "If it were Conservative policy to leave the EU, I should have no problem with that".

Absolutely right. Spot on. Some Conservatives dismiss euroscepticism as an obsession of the unreconstructed right in the Party. But Norris, always regarded as on the left of the party, gives the lie to that idea. Opposition to EU integration is not a narrow right-wing interest. It's plain common sense.

British troops to leave Iraq

We will all feel a great sense of relief and satisfaction that British troops will be pulling out of Iraq at last (though we may continue to be worried about the state of affairs we leave behind). But is it too cynical to wonder whether Blair's main motive for making his announcement now is to deny his successor a key move which Gordon would wish to make to distance himself from the Blair legacy?

So many of Blair's decisions have been more about the micro-politics of the Labour Party than about the British national interest. This looks like another example.

The Great Global Warming Swindle

I sent out an e-mail alert for this Channel 4 programme (broadcast March 8th) before I had seen it. But now that I've watched it, I believe it may be the most important piece of television this year. Key points include:

1    All CO2 climate change models indicate that the upper atmosphere (about 10km high) should warm the most. But evidence from both satellites and weather balloons shows the opposite -- warming is primarily a surface phenomenon, and warming in the upper atmosphere is markedly less. It is fundamental to the scientific method that we start with an hypothesis, we make a prediction, then we test the prediction. The CO2/warming hypothesis fails at the first key test.

2    Al (for Alarmist?) Gore, in his famous propaganda film "An Inconvenient Truth", rightly points to a strong correlation between global temperature and CO2 levels. But he fails to mention that over geological time CO2 levels lag behind temperature by around 800 years. If correlation implies causation, then clearly temperature drives CO2, not vice versa.

3    Over the last hundred years or so, temperature shows an excellent correlation with solar activity, and a very poor correlation with CO2. The most obvious conclusion is that the sun drives temperature, which in turn (but much later) drives CO2.

And new research published in March shows that polar bear numbers in the Arctic have doubled in the last twenty years, so Gore was just plain wrong to talk about the decline of the bears.

The film also draws attention to the enormous damage that anti-CO2 policies will do in the third world, condemning millions of poor people to go without the most basic amenities -- electricity for lighting, refrigeration and so on.

The Counter-Consensual Climate Conference

Plans are well under way for my one-day Conference on climate issues in Brussels on April 18th, with an excellent speaker team headed-up by Lord Lawson of Blaby. Details attached. Make a diary date -- and arrive in good time so we can check you in to the parliament!

The EU: The more you know, the less you like it!

The instinctive reaction of any europhile to a negative opinion poll is to say "Oh well, perhaps we haven't explained it well enough. It's these euro-sceptic papers. We need to spread the word more".

My rhetorical response is that I spend a large part of my time telling voters about the EU, and the more I tell them the angrier they get! Now my humorous one-liner is backed by research. A study undertaken amongst 16 to 24 year olds in Milton Keynes showed exactly the opposite. Those who knew little about the EU were more positive, citing its supposed ability to address cross-border issues like the environment and terrorism. Those with a more extensive knowledge were much more negative, quoting the democratic deficit, accountability, corruption and inefficient bureaucracy. So let's have more information on the EU. The more you know, the less you like it. And what you don't know can still do you a lot of damage.

See: www.civitas.org.uk/blog/2007/02/more_knowledge_more_euroscepti.html

Cost of red tape hit a record high £55.6 billion

– EU regulation most costly

The Sunday Times reported (Feb 25th) on the new “burdens barometer” compiled by the British Chambers of Commerce. According to the figures, which are to be published this week, the cumulative cost of regulation on British business is now £55.6 billion, up from £44.8 billion last year. The barometer shows that one of the biggest costs on business comes from the EU’s working time directive.

Quote of the Month

"Europe split over best way to mark 50 years of unity"
. From the Feb 26th Open Europe press summary.

Think about it. Then just remind me -- how do you spell "oxymoron"?

A point on the death penalty

The most plausible argument against capital punishment is the risk that innocent people are hanged, which is a dreadful thing. But the counter-argument is the death of victims murdered by previously convicted murderers who have escaped, or been paroled, or otherwise released.

I've always wondered how serious a problem this was, and I recently got my good friend Philip Hollobone MP (Kettering) to ask a Parliamentary Question. The answer was 24 known cases over 1994/2004, or an average of well over two a year. When we agonise over the innocent suspect convicted, let's also remember those 24 innocent victims who would be alive today if their murderers had been hanged for the first offence.

New Labour fails to grasp the problem...

Blair agonises over global warming and African poverty. But he seems curiously reluctant to engage the right policy instruments. If he really wants to reduce carbon emissions (and I agree we should reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels), he needs a major new programme of investment in nuclear capacity (remembering that "wind turbines are garden ornaments, not power stations!").

And we won't solve African poverty until we dismantle the EU's iniquitous and protectionist Common Agricultural Policy.

...or grasps the wrong ones

Blair promised "education, education education", but now offers us a lottery for school places. And in the meantime, doctors are furious about chaotic application procedures for hospital posts.

Businesses seem to recruit perfectly well without help from the government. Why can't schools and hospitals do the same? The government simply has no business to involve itself in the micro-management of health and education. It is spectacularly bad at managing these issues, and it earns nothing but anger and resentment. It's about time it learned to back off and leave it to the professionals.

Washington, March 5th/7th

I went with Chris Heaton-Harris and Syed Kamall to renew contacts in Washington. We conducted a panel on EU issues at the Heritage Foundation, visited the Cato Institute, met senior members of the Administration, spent an evening with the American Legislative Exchange Council and a morning with Americans for Tax Reform (Grover Norquist's famous Wednesday Meeting), met various Congressmen and business contacts and had our photographs taken in the Vice-President's Ceremonial Office in the Old Executive Building next to the White House.

After the stuffy statism of Brussels, it was refreshing to be amongst unashamed conservatives.

A quote from the Heritage Foundation (Nile Gardener): The European continent faces a stark choice between a Europe based around the principles of free markets, free trade, limited government, national sovereignty, and decentralized power; or a federal Europe that worships at the trough of socialism and supra-nationalism. The U.S. policy must support a Europe of nation-states.

On my return to the UK I heard that Congressional hearings into global warming were delayed a second time by heavy snowfall in Washington. How do you spell "IRONY"?

A petition you may want to sign

There's a petition on the 10 Downing street web-site calling for Britain to leave the EU. If so, why not visit it now at


EU propaganda: Your help needed!

Our good friend Dr. Lee Rotherham is compiling a dossier of EU propaganda. Please help him. Send any choice examples you've noticed to him at

The DEFRA débâcle: an affront to farmers

Recently the Nationwide Building Society was found to have failed to protect sensitive account information relating to many of its 11 million members, and was required to pay a fine of £980,000. Commentators pointed out that because Nationwide is a mutual society, members effectively pay the fine. So they get hit twice -- first by the errors of the society, and secondly by the fine.

British farmers are facing much the same injustice. After the spectacular failure of DEFRA and Margaret Beckett to administer the Single Farm Payments properly, the EU Commission is threatening a massive fine, and we hear that the government is making a provision of an extraordinary £300 million against this liability. But who pays? The Treasury. And the tax-payer. And what will Gordon Brown do? He will seek to recover as much as he can from the DEFRA budget -- which has already meant swingeing cuts to the budget of British Waterways, and is likely to hit environmental and agricultural budgets directly.

It is lunacy and injustice that the very people who suffered from the initial mismanagement should now be hit (at least in part) with the fine. If anyone should suffer, it is those directly responsible, like Margaret Beckett herself. Yet she was in fact rewarded with one of the highest Offices of State.

It is intolerable that we should now pay this Danegeld to foreign institutions. The government should simply refuse to pay (as other member states have done in similar circumstances -- we are still waiting for compensation from France over their illegal beef ban). If the Commission threatens to withhold funds from the UK, the answer is simple. We pay them far more than they pay us. If they withhold EU funding from the UK, we should simply withhold UK funding from the EU. They would soon see sense.

Well done Rory Bremner!

We all laughed at the story about Rory Bremner phoning Margaret Beckett and pretending to be Gordon Brown. But as a recent letter in the press said, "Someone pretending to be the Chancellor phones up someone pretending to be the Foreign Secretary. Why the fuss?".

Dan Hannan's Blog

My good friend and colleague Dan Hannan MEP (South East) is one of the soundest men in the European parliament. His articles for The Daily Telegraph are uniformly excellent. So is his new blog. I highly recommend it: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/politics/danielhannan/


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