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Straight Talking - May 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.

Angela Merkel and the Constitution

The German Presidency has sent out an interrogatory to member states about reintroducing the EU Constitution. It proposes "using different terminology without changing the legal substance, for example with regard to the title, the denomination of legal acts and the Minister for Foreign Affairs", and also "replacing the Charter of Fundamental Rights with a short cross reference having the same legal value" (my emphasis).

This is dishonest. It is downright deliberate deceit. They will tell us that it is a new, less threatening "treaty" when they know that the legal effect is unchanged. They will subvert the independence of our country with a lie. Words fail me. But to be forewarned is to be forearmed.

Thoughts of an East Midlands Constituent:

John Haynes of Welford, Northants, writes to the Daily Telegraph as follows: (April 29th): "Sir, Tony Blair has announced that we will not be allowed to vote on whether or not we want to surrender the remainder of our sovereignty to a European super-state. I thought that we decided on that in September 1939". (My emphasis).

Well Done the Czechs!

News reports indicate that the Czech Republic intends to veto any new EU Treaty or Constitution which awards more power to Brussels. The statement was made by our good friend and colleague Jan Zahradil MEP, who holds a senior post in his party at home.

A huge opportunity for Gordon

Around June 18th, Tony Blair is expected to sign the new European Treaty, which will be the failed Constitution in all but name. But he will tell us that it's "just administrative tidying up" and "not worth a referendum". It is practically treasonable that an outgoing Prime Minister, bereft of power, respect or authority, should seek to give away, in perpetuity, powers that belong not to him but to the British people.

But Gordon Brown is seeking to distance himself from the Blair legacy. What better way to do so than to repudiate Blair's last act? Or better still, deliver a referendum on it. That would be hugely popular, and a brilliant political coup de théâtre.

But if he doesn't, then the Conservative Party should promise a referendum on the Treaty (even if it has already been ratified under Labour), and undertake to campaign for a NO vote, and to give effect to the will of the people. If any single policy is worth an extra 30 seats on Cameron's majority, it is this. And it would scupper UKIP. Imagine you're facing a UKIP waverer on the doorstep. "If you want a referendum on the Constitution, you have to vote Conservative". Open and shut case.

And at last -- a good policy from Labour!

David Cameron says we should support the government when it's right -- although that happens rarely. But as I write, they are expected to announce an energy strategy including a new commitment to nuclear energy. Whether you're concerned about CO2 emissions, or about energy security, the only serious way to reduce our dependency on imported fossil fuels is to build new nuclear capacity. So I support the government's position on this. I hope David Cameron will as well.

The Kyoto rip-off: How Russia is milking Europe -- twice

You want to burn our gas? Pay us. You want to pay a little more for the right to keep burning our gas? Pay us twice. What a great racket!

Not only are we dependent on Russia for gas supplies, but under Kyoto's perverse arrangements, we also have to buy carbon credits from Russia for the privilege of burning the gas. And because of anomalies in the initial allocation of credits in Europe, British companies are paying continental companies around £500 million a year for carbon credits (as Open Europe reported recently). In theory, market mechanisms for allocating carbon emission rights sound good. In practice, they are an absolute shambles.

Rebutting Al Gore's disaster movie

Environment Minister Ed Miliband wants to send out thousands of copies of Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" to schools, and a father of two in Kent is taking him to court for breaching the Education Acts, by sending unbalanced propaganda to schools.

Gore's movie is impressive if you don't know the answers to the points he makes. For ten key points in rebuttal, see my paper "Cool thinking on Climate Change"

I will be attending a screening of the Gore movie, and presenting my rebuttal, on Friday June 22nd at the New Venture Social Club in Beeston, Nottingham at 7:00 p.m.

Quote of the Month (1)

Ed Hussain, reformed former Islamic fundamentalist plotter, on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "In the name of multiculturalism, we have created mono-cultural ghettoes".

The euro -- how long until the divorce?

It has been clear for some time that huge imbalances are opening up in Euroland. Unit wage costs in Italy have increased by around 40% relative to Germany since the launch of the single currency, and the pips are starting to squeak. Broadly speaking, the Euro-Med countries (including France) are heading for deficit, while Germany heads for surplus. Resumed growth in Germany will call for higher euro interest rates. Spain, which has been suffering from loose interest rates since the turn of the century, is now facing a property bust, and needs lower rates. All this when the euro is reaching painful and historic highs against the dollar and against Asian currencies.

This issue was covered splendidly by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Telegraph of May 1st.

Bill Turncoat Dunn gets his numbers wrong...

I was at a Question Time event at a Mansfield school on May 1st, and was asked about the economic "benefits" of Britain's EU membership. I made the usual point about Commissioner Verheugen's admission that regulatory costs across the EU are €600 billion a year -- nearly four times the Commission's own estimate of trade benefits. When Bill responded, he said "Roger Helmer is a disgrace. He keeps repeating that figure even though he knows it to be false". As you can imagine, I was not best pleased.

Returning to the office next day, I checked the quote, which comes from an interview in the Financial Times of Oct 10th 2006. The key paragraph reads: He (Verheugen) said new evaluation methodology of the administrative costs of EU legislation - including "gold plating" of laws by some member states - put the annual burden for business at up to €600bn ($756bn, £405bn) compared with the original estimate of €320bn. That figure does not include the compliance costs of the laws.

The irony is that even the Commission's earlier, lower estimate is still double the estimated trade benefits!

... and his macroeconomics!

I had pointed to the damage that the euro is doing (see "How long to the divorce?" above). Bill said "I don't know how Helmer can say that the euro is doing economic damage. After all, a currency is just notes and coins, that you buy stuff with. How can that damage an economy?".

I was genuinely flabbergasted that Bill, who pretends to be an authority on EU issues, could show such spectacular ignorance of the most elementary monetary theory. Of course a currency is much more than notes and coins. It is interest rates and monetary policy (as we should know from our ill-fated attempts to track the D-Mark in the 90s). It is a promise to pay, backed by a central bank and a nation state. Or it should be. The problem of the euro is that it is the world's first orphan currency. It is not backed by any lender of last resort, or any nation state. If it is a promise to pay -- whose promise is it?

Join the Freedom Association -- Save £5!

In my last newsletter I announced that I had been elected (on Saint George's Day) as the new Honorary Chairman of The Freedom Association (TFA). TFA is a non-party multi-issue campaigning organisation concerned with conservative values, or as our US friends say, "Jeffersonian principles" -- liberty with responsibility; enterprise and free markets; low taxes and limited government; family and nation (and strong national defence).

Many Conservatives will recognise these as core conservative values, which some feel that the Party has to some extent lost sight of as it presents its modernising agenda. TFA will continue to focus on these areas. As we face the prospect of a new EU Constitution, the fight against EU integration will a key campaigning issue -- but not the only one. We will oppose, for example, ID cards and regionalisation, and speak out for personal freedom wherever it is threatened.

As a special offer to "Straight Talking" readers who'd like to join TFA, you may now take advantage of a £5 initial discount on the annual membership, normally £25. To apply, visit www.tfa.net and ask for the Roger Helmer £5 discount.

Sorry, David, but you're wrong, wrong, wrong!

Wrong in educational terms. In social terms. And in political terms. I was horrified to hear that David Willetts says the Tory Party is against academic selection and grammar schools (or at least this is how it came over in the press). I don't know which Tory party is against grammar schools, but it's certainly not the one I know.

It is profoundly anti-conservative to espouse something new that maybe ought in theory to work, while abandoning a tried-and-tested approach that does work, and has done for decades.

He seems to assume that the high proportion of middle-class children in grammar schools is evidence of discrimination. Nonsense. It's evidence of heredity. Bright and successful parents tend to have bright and successful children.

It is difficult to see the point of the announcement, because if you read the small print, we're actually proposing to do what we've done for many years -- keep existing grammar schools while not promoting new ones. Why announce "No Change in Policy" in a way that offends most Conservatives? Or was that the point of it? I agree with Simon Heffer, who said "The Party is right that grammar schools are failing poor children -- but only because there aren't enough of them!".

A visit to the Samaritans

On May 11th I went with my press officer Laura Norman to see the excellent work which the Samaritans are doing at their Leicester regional headquarters. Dedicated volunteers provide a 24/7 phone service for members of the public who are suicidal, or in despair, or needing someone to share a problem with. Their office has been in place for 40 years, and in that time they have helped many thousands of people, and saved many lives.

The service is anonymous, so the volunteers and officers may never know whom they talked to. But they say the highest points in their work are when previously unknown people whom they have helped walk in off the street months or years later, and thank the Samaritans for saving their lives. These volunteers are doing a wonderful job and deserve our support. I hope you won't need it, but their help-line number is 08457 909090. See www.samaritans.org

Book Reviews

(1) The Welfare State We're In, James Bartholomew

This is an extraordinary exposé of the damage which welfarism is doing to the fabric of our society. The vast sums spent on social security remove the incentive to work. State pension provision and means testing guarantee poverty for many of our old people. A socially-engineered school system means large numbers of truculent and disaffected youths achieving nothing for themselves or society, and turning to anti-social behaviour and crime. Our NHS, "the envy of the world", is the last vast centrally-planned enterprise in the world (apart from the Chinese Army and Indian Railway), and delivers arguably the poorest health outcomes in the developed world.

Bartholomew points out that before the welfare state was developed, most people had adequate health-care. Before free schools, literacy rates were better than they are today. It's not just that welfare doesn't work. It actually makes matters worse, by destroying the incentives that drive successful public services. This book is an eye-opener.

(2) How to be RIGHT, James Delingpole

Delingpole lists dozens of politically-correct shibboleths and takes aim at them with irreverence, panache, humour, and an unashamedly right-on, right-wing set of attitudes. You will laugh till you cry.

The Strasbourg lunacy

For the April Strasbourg session, I flew from Stansted to Frankfurt Hahn, and the City of Strasbourg sent a taxi to collect me. It was a 500 km round trip, and the fare (picked up by the municipality) was €496. It said so on the meter. That was the extra mileage to get just one MEP out of 700+ to the Straz parliament. Meantime the annual commute costs £130 million, and emits 190,000 tons of CO2. When will we stop this nonsense?

Quote of the Month (2)

Her Majesty the Queen, addressing the American people on her state visit: "Ours is a partnership always to be reckoned with in the defence of freedom and the spread of prosperity"

Best not trust supranational institutions!

In an extraordinary show of hypocrisy, and defiance of world opinion and decent values, Southern Rhodesia (sometimes known as "Zimbabwe") has been elected to Chair the United Nations' Committee on Sustainable Development. Its nomination was backed by African nations, testimony to Africa's self-destructive streak (Gadaffi's Libya once chaired the UN Human Rights Commission).

Once the grain-basket of Africa, this country's corruption and mis-government have destroyed its agriculture to the point where it can no longer feed itself. Its economy is in self-destruct mode, with 80% unemployment and four-digit inflation. Not much sustainable development there.

The decision tells you a great deal about the UN. It is for the most part a corrupt and ineffectual body, whose main purpose seems to be to provide a platform for sanctimonious posturing by some of the world's most odious and anti-democratic nations. So no parallels with the EU there, then.

Quote of the month (3)

"Tony Blair was always able to feel the nation's pain, even when he had caused it himself" (Daily Telegraph, May 10th)

Croatia's Crony Capitalism

During the week of May 14th I went with political adviser Emma McClarkin to Croatia. The visit was organised with a free-market think-tank The Adriatic Institute, and I met a wide range of people including local entrepreneurs, inward investors, member-state ambassadors, chambers of commerce, the press, academics and lawyers -- these last in the "European House" in Diocletian's summer palace in Split!

They all agreed that Croatia has serious problems of corruption, and that pressures for reform as part of EU accession negotiations are failing to deliver. All, that is, except the government, which is in denial. I briefly met Prime Minister Sanader, and had a longer meeting with the State Secretary for economic strategy.

These problems have implications for Croatian accession. But why does it matter to the East Midlands? Only insofar as prosperity and stability on the EU's South Eastern borders are in all our interests. But a profoundly corrupt Croatia in the EU, and exporting thousands of its nationals to the UK, could be a problem. For more details, see my article "Echoes of Versailles in Zagreb".

Search for Madeleine McCann

Please forward this link to as many people as possible to help in the search and safe return of Madeleine. www1.sky.com/news/madeleinenew.pdf


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.