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Straight Talking - July 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.

Where's Our Referendum?

Don't let them sign away more powers to Europe!

This was the message I took to Westminster, and rolled out across the East Midlands, during the key weekend of June 22/23, while Blair was negotiating his surrender in Brussels, in a final act of betrayal. We parked an Ad-Van with massive posters in Old Palace Yard, directly opposite the Palace of Westminster, where I was joined by Dan Hannan MEP and a group of activists from The Freedom Association, the Bruges Group, the Democracy Movement, the European Foundation and the Taxpayers' Alliance.

More pictures are available here.

Then we went on to the five key cities in the region. In Leicester I was joined by parliamentary candidate Andrew Bridgen, while in Derby, where we parked (with permission!) in the Cathedral precinct, we met two Conservative parliamentary candidates -- Heather Wheeler, and Pauline Latham (who is also Mayor of Derby, and sportingly agreed to be photographed in her Mayoral regalia. Non-partisan, of course!).

The campaign was backed by display ads in the five key regional papers.

Along the way we did interviews with papers, local radio, and in London and Nottingham , BBC TV. We also seem to have blitzed the internet and the blogs, with Dan Hannan's Telegraph blog in pride of place.

For those who have asked why I didn't take the campaign to Newark, or Spalding, or Mablethorpe, all I can say is that the work we did required a great amount of effort (and money), and resources only go so far.

Taking the campaign to Brussels

We took one of the huge 18' x 10' posters from the ad-van to the European parliament in Brussels, where we hung it from one of the footbridges over the main mall in the centre of the building. I was joined by colleagues including Chris Heaton-Harris, Martin Callanan, Geoffrey Van Orden and Syed Kamall. The TV footage is winging its way to the East Midlands.

Tony Blair the shopaholic

We are all familiar with the cliché of the shopper who goes to the January sales and comes back crowing that she saved £100, when in fact we know that she actually spent £200. Blair is a bit like that. When he came back from Brussels, all the spin was about his Red Lines -- what he hadn't given away. OK Tony, but tell us what you did give away!

He won't, so I will. He gave away 40+ vetoes including such vital areas as asylum and immigration, energy, tourism, transport, civil protection, health and welfare. He agreed a full-time EU President and (in effect) a Foreign Minister. He agreed a legal personality for the EU, enabling it to sign treaties in its own name, and potentially to replace the UK seat at the UN. This marks the key point at which the EU crosses the threshold and becomes more like a state, and less like an association of states.

And outrageously he caved in to a French demand to down-grade the EU's commitment to free competition. If you asked me to identify anything good about the EU, it would have to be its commitment (or its lip-service) to free trade. And Blair gave it away.

A view from the States

"As a measure of European politicians' disregard for their constituents' wishes, the new Treaty is unparalleled. Despite the overwhelming popular sentiment against it in many member-states, and outright rejection in two, the stillborn Constitution has been largely transposed into the Reform Treaty, which the EU hopes to ratify in all member-states by 2009".

Wall Street Journal, June 26th, op-ed piece (no by-line)

Jo Leinen lets the cat out of the bag

Jo Leinen MEP is perhaps the most prominent federalist in the European parliament, alongside Andrew Duff (an East Anglian Lib-Dem). Leinen has circulated a "Reflection" on the constitutional process, in which he argues point-by-point for the original Constitution -- the word, the symbols (flag and anthem), the loss of vetoes, the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the President and the Foreign Minister, the legal personality -- in fact the whole nine yards.

He calls on us to reinstate Jacques Delors' vision of "A Soul for Europe". He is very critical (rightly) of the verbal sleight-of-hand that is being used to deceive voters into believing that what's left is a harmless treaty.

One of his phrases sprang out at me, and it characterises the whole process. "Here as well, a subliminal deception of the public takes place".

Well said, Jo. There we have it, straight from the federalist horse's mouth. The whole process has been an attempt at subliminal deception. But fortunately, we've seen through it.

See my June 25th speech to the Constitutional Affairs Committee (chaired by Jo Leinen)

Open Europe compares the Treaty with the Constitution

Open Europe has prepared a list of forty-odd key elements of the Constitution which appear more or less unchanged in the Treaty. I've posted the list here.

An early general election?

The media are awash with talk of an early General Election, perhaps Spring 2008, or even October 2007 (so much for the Party Conference!). But there is an angle here for the EU Treaty. If the Election is held before the Treaty is ratified, the people will have a clear choice: vote Conservative, get a referendum. Or vote Labour, and go without. I reckon that's worth 5 points in the voting.

Read my lips: NO NEW TAXES!

I welcome much of Iain Duncan Smith's paper on social breakdown, and especially his policy proposals on recognising and supporting marriage. It is appalling that Gordon Brown says "we cannot recognise marriage in the tax system because it would be unfair to single parents": the tax and benefit system today is hugely biased in favour of single parents, and is unfair to married couples!

But I was shocked at IDS's suggestion of higher taxes on alcohol. Apart from being an electoral albatross, it is wrong in principle. We're Conservatives, for heaven's sake! We believe in lower taxes. If the answer is higher taxes, then we're asking the wrong question.

Welcome back Alan Johnston!

We all rejoice at the release of the BBC's kidnapped Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston. But it has provided a PR-Fest for Hamas. Shortly after Johnston's release, a senior Hamas leader said it showed that "No one in Gaza is above the law". Coming from an organisation which only weeks ago overturned an elected government by force of arms, I thought that was a bit rich!

Join the Bloggers!

Please visit my blog at http://rogerhelmermep.wordpress.com/ and add a few comments!

Downing Street Petition

Don't forget to sign at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/EU-treaty-NON/

The phone call that didn't come

I spent a few days by the phone in late June waiting for the call from Gordon Brown inviting me to take up the post of Europe Minister in his new, big-tent administration of all the talents. But it was not to be. We have to learn to take disappointment on the chin. The ministerial phone call didn't come for Quentin Davies, either....

...and speaking of Quentin....

You might be interested by these quotes from his 2005 election address:

"Now we know the (Labour) reality: taxes have gone up ... 63 new taxes. Health service ... worse ... waiting times up to 90 or 95 days ... diseases caught in hospital doubled ... NHS dentistry disappeared.

Schools, police, small businesses over-run with bureaucracy ... our pension system in crisis ... immigration and asylum completely broken down ... instead of achievement we have spin, trickery, stealth taxes and dodgy dossiers".

OK Quentin. And now you support Gordon Brown's vision for Britain, do you? How times change.

June/July events

June 15th: South Leics Business Lunch at the Travel Inn, Leicester, organised by Peter Goodwin, on "The EU: Good for Business?"

June 21st: Visit to the national HQ of The Gideons in Lutterworth. These are the people who leave Bibles in hotel rooms: they distributed 63 million copies worldwide last year

June 30th: Visit to the RNIB stand outside Wilkinson's store in the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre in Nottingham, supporting their campaign for lifestyle changes designed to reduce risk of eye problems

June 31st: Visit to the Meynell & South Staffs Hunt Puppy Show at the invitation of celebrated hunting man and Master of Foxhounds Johnny Greenall, at the hunt kennels near Sudbury

July 4th: Successful Climate Conference in Brussels with celebrated climate physicist Prof Fred Sanger. See release on the web-site

July 7th: Speaker at The Freedom Association Summer Party, Cheltenham. The event took place on a perfect July evening at Lord Neidpath's picture-perfect Cotswold stone manor house, and I spoke in a Tithe Barn that must have been 500 years old. The estate has the Stanway fountain, said to be the highest gravity-fed fountain in Europe.

See the photo album for photos of all these events.

Saying one thing at home ... and another in Brussels

The Daily Telegraph's Spy column recently took one of our colleagues to task for saying diametrically opposite things in the UK and in Brussels. But Labour's Richard Corbett has done better (or worse!). Let me quote a letter to the paper from Muriel Parsons of the Campaign for an Independent Britain (whose new Chairman is the excellent Conservative MP Bob Spink):

"It is confusing to have two Labour MEPs called Richard Corbett. One of them minimises the importance of the new EU Treaty, claiming 'These reforms do not require a referendum', while the other stands up in the Brussels parliament and praises Angela Merkel for 'salvaging the bulk of the Treaty' -- which surely means we must have the referendum we were promised.

"The Two Ronnies provided much innocent amusement, but the Two Corbetts are not such a good act". Well said Muriel.

Climate Change

On June 22nd (after a full day on the referendum campaign) I was off to Beeston, Notts, for a public meeting organised by Nick Palmer MP and the local Labour Party to promote Al Gore's disaster movie (so for those who have asked -- Yes, I have now watched it all the way through!). I was the token sceptic, and all things considered, I got a pretty fair hearing.

Professor David Cope, the parliamentary adviser on science issues was also on the panel. I had expected him to be a fully paid-up climate alarmist, and I was pleasantly surprised when he turned out to be very fair. He even suggested that we should take five years out to review the evidence and to evaluate proposed solutions, before rushing in to vastly expensive and ill-considered climate mitigation schemes.

I drew the audience's attention to an article in The Times of the same date, headlined "Wildlife flourishes on melting ice". It said that melting ice-bergs increase biological activity and could promote "sequestration of organic carbon to the deep sea, a process unaccounted-for in current carbon budgets".

The EPP gets the message

The EPP Group (of which most Conservative MEPs are members) has published its considered opinion of the EU's policy on climate change. One sentence sprang out at me: "However, unless something radical is devised, the EU will soon have to admit that it cannot achieve its Kyoto goals, or any other goals beyond that one."

That's what I've been telling them for months. I guess the penny had to drop sooner or later.

More scientists challenge global warming alarmism

The views of another prominent scientist, Professor David Bellamy, have come to my attention. He points out that claiming Armageddon on the basis of short-term temperature cycles is unjustified, and says that average world temperatures have had a tendency to fall, rather than rise, since 1998. Prof. Bellamy is happy to be branded a heretic (heretics throughout history have stood up against dogma based on bigotry), but not to be called a "denier". Deniers (he says) don't believe in the facts, but "there are no facts linking the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide with imminent catastrophic global warming". I completely agree.

Quote of the month

Petr Mach, Executive Director at the Centre for Economics and Politics (Prague), and advisor to Czech President Vaclav Klaus, speaking of the EU's Lisbon Process, which was designed to make the EU "the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010": "Had the objective of the Lisbon Agenda been to make the EU the least dynamic and competitive economy by 2010, we might conclude that we are on the right track".

Education and social mobility

The Today programme has run a debate on social mobility, asking why after ten years of a Labour government, it is harder today for bright kids from poor backgrounds to succeed than it was decades ago. Yet they've failed to see the obvious conclusion. I can tell them in two words: comprehensive education. The ideologically-driven policy to force equality in schools has had the perverse effect of entrenching privilege (which is why Graham Brady was right about grammar schools).

But the Sutton Trust, which did the research on which the debate is based, has the wrong end of the stick. It complains that children who do well at school usually have well-educated middle class parents, as though this were evidence for privilege and discrimination. It is no such thing. It is evidence of heredity.

The fact is that bright kids tend to have bright parents. And bright parents tend to be well-educated and well-off. But of course there are also bright kids from poor backgrounds, and the real crime is that we used to have an education system that gave them a ladder to success, yet now we have deliberately kicked that ladder away. As a grammar-school boy, I got a much better education in the fifties than most state schools deliver today.

Smarter than the Sutton Trust, the highly-respected Economic Research Council, in a June 26th report, calls for new grammar schools to bring back opportunity and social mobility. They (and Graham Brady) are right.

White collar crime

A new report suggests that white-collar crime is more widespread than we like to think. While it includes over-claiming on insurance and failing to return excess change, it mostly seems to involve cheating on tax, whether by mis-reporting income, or by paying the bricky with folding money.

No one can or should justify dishonesty. But the fact is that people are (mostly) happy to pay taxes they see as fair, but seek ways to dodge unreasonable imposts. That is why when Russia reduced tax levels from 90% to 19%, revenues (counter-intuitively) went up.

Gordon Brown's taxes are now pushing up to the levels where citizens are tempted to take evasive action. I don't condone such behaviour. But I understand it. Thank you, Prime Minister.

The European Ideas Network (EIN)

The EIN is a project within the EPP (European People's Party Group), run by our good colleague James Elles MEP of the South East, which has brought together big hitters from politics and industry to discuss EU issues. It has done some excellent work.

But I was a bit taken aback by a paragraph from James' recent report "The World in 2025", where he sets out the challenges facing us and continues: "To meet these challenges, the EU has to be able to implement its actions effectively" (this is the standard euro-euphemism for the EU Constitution), ..... and "ensuring the financial resources needed to be effective" (standard euro-speak for EU taxes).

I'm sure James didn't intend those meanings, but we have to be so careful with words. For more on the EIN, see www.europeanideasnetwork.com

Farmyard Flatulence -- a postscript

Last month I reported on farcical attempts to reduce methane and CO2 emissions from livestock, which could put further pressure on our farmers. Now I hear of a similar move in New Zealand, and the Kiwi farmers didn't take it lying down. Their campaign was called "Farmers Against Ridiculous Taxes". Neat acronym.

Don't believe me? Visit www.fedfarm.org.nz/speech_notes/CorneyUSA2005.html

My Website

In June my website got over 26,544 visits, with an average of 884 per day. detailed stats are available here


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.