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Straight Talking - September 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.

Dave goes for the referendum! 

Many Conservatives have been asking me "When is the Party going to start campaigning effectively on the Renamed Constitution?".  Now it has.  David Cameron has announced an Opposition Day debate on a referendum, to take place after the Westminster summer recess.  This is the sort of action we were waiting for.  Well done Dave!

Ming Campbell asks for an In-or-Out poll

The Lib Dems (and others) are proposing not a vote on the Constitution, but an In-or-Out poll on leaving the EU.  This is a cynical ploy.  They don't want a Constitutional referendum because they know they would lose it.  They want an In-or-Out poll because they think they might win.  They should not be so sure.  See my blog entry.

EU calls for 20 million new immigrants 

EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini has called for the EU to solve its demographic collapse by allowing 20 million Asians and Africans to come to Europe.  He seems to have missed the point that in the UK at least, population is already increasing as a result of uncontrolled immigration, putting huge pressure on our social infrastructure.  He could hardly have chosen a better issue to alienate British voters from the EU.  More on this on my blog.

Gummer's plan: A Non-Conservative Manifesto

I have just read the trailed highlights of John Gummer's "Quality of Life" report, and I am hopping mad.  It reads like a joke caricature of a Non-Conservative Manifesto.  With Zac Goldsmith on the team, the ritual genuflection at the altar of climate hysteria was predictable, but it gets worse.  More taxes.  More complex tax allowances.  More regulation.  More quangoes.  More nanny-State.  All the things which we as Conservatives oppose.  A full critique is available here.


On Saturday October 27th, a cross-party demonstration will take place in Parliament Square at noon, followed by a Rally in the adjacent Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre.  Voting papers will be put into symbolic ballot boxes, and a range of speakers from across the political spectrum, from a number of political parties, pressure groups and trade unions, will be speaking -- I believe I may be on the platform myself.

The organisation is chaired by Conservative MP Bob Spink.

Over and over again, people tell me of their frustration with Gordon Brown's refusal to listen, and they ask me "What can we do?".  I tell them to write to their local papers and to their MP -- and I and The Freedom Association have made a postcard featuring my "Where's our Referendum?" ad, demanding that their MP calls (and votes!) for a referendum.

But now there's something else you can do.  Make a statement.  Visit www.proreferendumrally.co.uk.  And come along and support the event.

Write to the paper!

Speaking of writing to the papers, I was very touched recently when someone on my newsletter list wrote back saying "Thank you for the newsletters -- they give us some facts to help us write to the local press".  Please feel free to plagiarise any issue that interests you!

Visit the blog! 

My new blog seems to be getting some traffic.  It was even attacked by the Guardian recently, so I must be doing something right!  And it was Blog-of-the-Week on Conservative Home, Sept 17th/21st.  Please join the debate on: http://rogerhelmermep.wordpress.com/

Now the Finns want a referendum 

My good friend Esko Seppänen MEP from Finland has used his parliamentary information fund to do an opinion survey based on 1000 respondents.  He finds that 65% want a referendum with only 30% against.  But of course the Finnish government, like our government, is stubbornly refusing.  What is it with these governments that refuse to listen?

How has it come to this?

On Sept 10th, the BBC reported that the EU had decided that Britain could keep its traditional measures, pounds and ounces, inches and feet.  So far so good.  But how has it come to this, that Britain, until recently an historic, independent nation with a proud history, must now go cap-in-hand to foreign powers to ask permission to continue to use our traditional measures?

The previous day it was reported that the Foreign Office is considering plans to drop Her Majesty the Queen from British passports, replacing the stirring words "Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State Requests and requires..." with some banal nonsense about the rights of EU citizens.  The Royal Coat of Arms would be replaced by the EU stars.  It ceases to be, in any real sense, a British passport at all.

This proposal is, apparently based on Article 20 of the EU Constitution.  Yes, that's the Constitution which was rejected by the French and the Dutch in 2005.  It's dead but it won't lie down.  They just won't take NO for an answer.

Two more reasons to demand a referendum on the Renamed Constitution, and a wholesale reappraisal of our relationship with the EU.

Ancram speaks out

Michael Ancram, former Shadow Foreign secretary (and scheduled speaker at a TFA fringe event in Blackpool -- see below) has written a paper entitled "Still a Conservative", in which he calls on the party to stop trashing its Thatcherite heritage, and to have the confidence to speak out on tax, crime, immigration and Europe.

Predictably, the press have reported this under the rubric "Tory splits".  And Central Office, rather ungraciously, dismissed it as "A blast from the past".  Not a bit of it.  Michael is simply expressing the deeply-felt convictions of most Conservative members and activists.  Yes, we presented too narrow an agenda in recent General Elections.  Yes, we are right to talk more about soft issues and public services.  Yes, David Cameron was right to see the need to "decontaminate the Conservative brand", and he deserves credit for doing so.

But at the same time we need to remember why we became Conservatives in the first place.  We need to re-state our beliefs so as to be relevant to the 21st century.  Low taxes, small government and market mechanisms are still the way to go -- and the way to deliver better public services.  We need the courage to say so.  Michael's intervention is timely, and I applaud it.

Is our Prime Minister being less than frank?

Gordon Brown, talking up his "Red Lines", keeps assuring us that the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights will not be justiciable under British law.  He's quite right.  But it will be justiciable under EU law, and will therefore be binding on us in our capacity as "EU citizens".  So it is a distinction without a difference.

This was the case with the European Convention on Human Rights before 1997, when the new Labour government enacted it into English law.  Then you had to take your case to Strasbourg, and now you can go to the British courts.  But either way it was still binding.  And in any case our British courts will call in aid the Charter, so it will be included in British jurisprudence via case law.

Brown's careful use of words is downright deceitful, and intended to be.

Quote of the month

Republican Presidential hopeful Fred Thompson, like Ronald Reagan before him, is a master of the pithy one-liner, the political aphorism.  Here's one on small government: "The government that is big enough to do anything for us is strong enough to do anything to us".  Worth remembering.

Annual Strasbourg Motor-Cycle Ride

On Sept 5th, Emma McClarkin and I joined the annual bike-ride organised by FEMA, the European motor-cycling association (remembering that we have the Triumph motor-cycle company in the East Midlands).  Photos here and on the MAG website.  It was a good evening, only spoiled by the bitterly cold autumn weather.

I rode out pillion behind a guy called Trevor Baird from the West Midlands who's with the Motorcycle Action Group, on a 1200 cc BMW.  He had heated hand-grips -- I'd forgotten my gloves!

The motor cyclists feel they're getting a raw deal from the EU.  They argue that they are more economical than cars on both fuel and road-space, and should be encouraged.  But they've been subjected to a nightmare new licensing régime.  They expect new rules requiring all-day headlights to cars, which they believe will make bikes less visible and increase accidents.  And they feel that their needs are ignored in road and infrastructure design.

We as Conservative MEPs are doing our best to take their interests into account, and it was good to meet them and hear their concerns.

Marching orders from Berlin

I have written previously (Aug 22nd) about the rotund German Christian Democrat MEP Elmar Brok.  He is practically a caricature German, who somehow seems to be in leder-hosen even when wearing a suit.  And he has strong views about Europe, and about Germany's place in it.  He was complaining last month that talk of a referendum in Britain was "unfair", since, he asked, had we not achieved all our "Red Lines"?  I replied that Gordon Brown's government might have agreed its red lines, but the people had not.

Now Brok returns to the attack, but this time he is no longer asking questions.  This time he is doing what he does best.  Laying down the law.  Supporting Commissioner Peter Mandelson's insistence that we need no referendum, Brok crows: "We will have a treaty.  The UK will have no referendum".  (Daily Telegraph, Sept 8th).   So now we know, straight from the horse's mouth.  And the scary thing is, he could be right.  The campaign for a referendum is gaining momentum, but this is one battle we have to win, or there will be no stopping the juggernaut of integration, not least because this treaty provides for future centralising moves to be agreed by the European Council, without even parliamentary ratification, never mind a public vote.  They have learned their lesson.  They know that getting the voters to agree to further integration will be difficult or impossible, so they are providing the tools to do the whole thing behind closed doors.  If we don't win this battle for a referendum, we will never have another chance. 

Constituents repeatedly ask me: "What can we do?".   The answer: give full support to the range of campaigns that have sprung up.  And don't ask why we can't have a single unified campaign: that would take too long and inevitably be difficult to agree.  Let's just be glad that enough groups are prepared to put the time, money, effort and commitment into the campaign, and give them our support.  Sign up to the Daily Telegraph petition on www.telegraph.co.uk/eu (around 86,000 strong as I write).  Write to your local paper.  Write to your MP (nearly all of them were elected on manifesto commitments to a referendum on the Constitution).  Or send The Freedom Association's "Where's Our Referendum?" postcard to your MP (available on the TFA site below).  If you have time or money to commit to the campaign, try one of the following:

www.bullen.demon.co.uk/indexd.htm (Campaign for an Independent Britain)

 Now is no time to be down-hearted.  We forced a Labour government to promise us a referendum on the euro, and we saved our currency.  We forced them to promise a referendum on the Constitution, and, but for the French and Dutch referenda (God bless 'em!), we should have had to rely on that referendum to stop ratification.  Now it's third time lucky.  If we fail this time, the only debate will be whether we're to be governed from Brussels or Berlin.  It'll be one or the other, thanks to Brok and his colleagues.

High Peak Hike

Hats off to Parliamentary Candidate for High Peak Andrew Bingham and my Political Advisor Emma McClarkin for completing their 60 mile High Peak Hike this summer. They have raised a total of £2692.00 in aid of local charities Buxton for Youth, Hospice, Glossop Mountain Rescue and Breakthrough Breast Cancer and will be presenting them with cheques this Friday. You can see photos of their journey at www.hpca.co.uk/gallery.php. They have received lots of coverage in the region and done a great job in raising the profile of these important charities. Well done!

Fringe Events at Conference

The Freedom Association, FOREST and The Free Society present  
Nanny State? No Thanks
Sunday, September 30th, 7pm - 8.30pm.  Nelson Room, Trafalgar Suite, Hilton Hotel, North Promenade, Blackpool FY1 2JQ.
Admission: Free.   Contact: RSVP

Conservative Way Forward
Should the Special Relationship drive Britain's Defence & Foreign Policies?  Monday 1st October 2007, 12:45 -- 14:00.    Imperial Hotel, Room 3.

Admission: FREE (NB: This event takes place within the secure zone – a conference pass is therefore required
Confirmed Speakers:Andrew Roberts, Gerald Howarth MP, Roger Helmer MEP

The Freedom Association.  
Cool Thinking On Climate Change
Monday, October 1st, 2007. 5:30p.m. – 6:30p.m. The Studio, Grand Theatre, Church Street, Blackpool Speakers:
ROGER HELMER MEP (Hon. Chairman, The Freedom Association),
IAIN MURRAY (Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute, DC),
RUSSELL LEWIS (Former Director General of the IEA)
Admission: Free. Contact:

The Freedom Association. 
Where's Our Referendum?.  Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007. 1:00pm - 2:30pm.   Main Stage, Grand Theatre, Church Street, Blackpool  


MICHAEL ANCRAM MP (Former Shadow Foreign Secretary)
ROGER HELMER MEP (Hon. Chairman, The Freedom Association)
IVO STREJCEK MEP(Czech Republic)

Admission: Free.  Contact:  

Climate week at the UN 

Heads of government met this week at the UN in New York to discuss climate change.  The most common sense came from President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic.  Find a summary of his speech here

Millbank programme resumes

The next Millbank dinner (an excellent and long-established Dining Club in Nottinghamshire, if you don't know it) takes place on October 26th.  Recent speakers have included two of my MEP colleagues, Syed Kamall (London) and Martin Callanan (NE).  Each brought a robust Conservative message, and both were very well received.

Going nuclear in Finland

On August 30/31 I went on a fascinating visit to the Olkiluoto nuclear facility in Finland (see press release).  They have two reactors that have been running safely for decades, and are building a third.  This is all financed by commercial shareholders -- no tax-payers' money.  And they've cracked the waste problem.

This gives Finnish industry a huge advantage.  Lower and more predictable power costs.  And because fuel (uranium) is only a tiny percentage of the cost (unlike gas or oil), it's very good for their balance of payments.  It's effectively carbon-free (if you worry about that).  If we want Britain to stay competitive, we have to build more nuclear capacity.  It' as simple as that.

See my response to the Government's consultation on nuclear power on my website.


Because of re-selection, I may not be able to attend Conservative functions in the region between Dec 10th and end-January.  If you have an event you'd like me to address before then, remember that the new Blisworth office number (for UK diary) is 01604 859 746


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