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Straight Talking - October 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's cast-iron guarantee

Writing in the Sun on Sept 26th, David Cameron wrote: "Today, I will give you this cast-iron guarantee. If I become PM, a Conservative government will hold a referendum on any EU Treaty that emerges from these negotiations". No ifs. No buts. No "provided it's not in place by then". David has given his word, and he deserves our congratulations. See the Telegraph.

Meantime, the villages are making the running

Broughton Astley in Leicestershire, England's largest village, will hold an official village poll on November 1st, calling for a referendum on the Renamed EU Constitution. Collingtree is also planning one. They deserve our congratulations and support.

An amazing turn-around

I have never seen anything like the change of mood that took place at the beginning of October. Part of it was Gordon Brown's spectacular own-goal over the election. But after that, it was down to David Cameron's magnificent speech at Conference. Up till September, we were being criticised for not being effective enough in opposition, and not having any policies (especially, not having any conservative policies!).

Suddenly at Conference, David set out a programme of clear, sensible, moderate centre-right policies, on tax, on immigration, on crime, on welfare, on schools'n'hospitals -- even on Europe. It's what Conservative activists -- and the great British middle classes -- were yearning to hear. We've found a voice and a policy platform. Now we must stick to them.

Great Conference, great fringe meetings

I spoke at four fringes in 48 hours. On Sunday, it was the anti-Nanny-State event. On Monday, the CWF Transatlantic Relations fringe, with Gerald Howarth MP, Shadow Defence Secretary.

Climate Change: Then later on Monday, the first of the two TFA fringes, "Cool Thinking on Climate Change", at the Grand Theatre Studio. The room was overflowing, with extra chairs brought in. Speakers included former IEA Chairman Russell Lewis, and Ian Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington (although he's a Brit and an alumnus of Newcastle Grammar School -- we grammar school boys get everywhere!).

Ian made a powerful case that if we want to help the third world, spending money on CO2 reduction is the least cost-effective way of doing it. Far better to spend on water, sanitation, irrigation, education, medical care or even (heresy!) providing power to drive basic services -- lighting, refrigeration and communications, for example. And we would cope with any warming (if it happens -- and it hasn't for the last ten years) better by

developing resilience and appropriate responses rather than wasting vast sums on carbon sequestration. Our "Cool Thinking" bamboo fans were a great success -- see photo.

Referendum: The main event was our referendum fringe in the main Grand Theatre, with the huge "Where's Our referendum" banner dominating the stage. Former Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram spoke first, followed by our good colleague Ivo Strejcek MEP (Czech Republic) whom I had invited for the occasion. Then Philip Hollobone (Kettering) who had made the trip especially for the meeting, and finally myself. The message went out loud and clear: we demand a referendum, and we won't give up till we get one.

Christian Aid gets its lines crossed

Of nearly sixty fringe meetings with an environmental theme, only two were sceptical. At the every same time as our own, Christian Aid was running a fringe entitled "Global Warming: A question of Faith?". No doubt they meant that we had a Christian duty to mitigate climate change. But of course the answer to their question has to be Yes. It is a question of faith. Either you believe it, or you don't!

And a very Yorkshire fringe

While I was doing fringes on the Nanny State, Transatlantic relations, climate change and the referendum, I found that our leader Timothy Kirkhope also did a fringe, calling for the up-grading of the York by-pass. But they say all politics is local.

Blame Brown: a pocket aide-memoire for campaigning

In the golden glow of the Brown honeymoon, it was too easy to forget the long series of disasters with Brown's fingerprints all over them. Try out these lines on the doorstep!

Stealth taxes: Blame Brown! Over 100 stealth taxes, from the New Labour government that promised not to raise taxes. In Ronald Reagan's phrase: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. If it stops moving, subsidise it.

Northern Rock: Blame Brown! Brown's new tripartite financial regulation system has failed at the first serious test. We've seen the first run on a British bank for well over 100 years, and all mortgagees will suffer.

The Bloated State Sector: Blame Brown! State spending up from around 34% of GDP to over 40% -- on a level with Germany. A government that's borrowing even at the peak of the cycle. Building a debt mountain. Leaving Britain less competitive in a globalised world.

Pensions fiasco: Blame Brown! We had the finest pension system in Europe in 1997, when Brown took over. Now it's bust, with elderly workers facing penury. If the government were a private company, they'd be in jail by now.

Public services: Blame Brown!More money thrown at health and education, with very little to show for it. Productivity slumping in the NHS.

Targets Culture: Blame Brown! Nurses, teachers, police all say the same. They can't get on with their work for all the box-ticking imposed by Gordon Brown's Treasury. What a way to run a country!

Welfare: Blame Brown! He's created a complex system that's expensive to run, makes huge errors, undermines initiative and incentive, and turns millions into clients of the Labour government.

Armed forces: Blame Brown! Soldiers are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan who would have lived if the Treasury had funded the right equipment. We can't send our soldiers to fight unless we're prepared to pay for the kit.

Gold sales: Blame Brown! In 1999 Brown decided to sell half our gold reserves to prop up the euro currency. He sold at the bottom of the market, losing tax-payers around £1.5 billion.

Referendum commitment: Blame Brown! The greatest betrayal of all. He breaks a clear manifesto commitment and puts our independence and self-government at risk. Enough is enough. He has to go.

EU Propaganda Watch

Unless you want to get very angry indeed, don't visit www.captaineuro.com

A threat to our best universities

Before I start, I should declare an interest: I was at Cambridge 1962/65. I was also a grammar school boy: I came from the state school sector.

The left-leaning Institute for Public Policy Research says that Oxbridge is failing on its targets for intake from state schools, and says the universities must "stop blaming lack of applications". And of course the BBC parrots this view, accepting uncritically that the disproportionate number of independent school pupils getting into Oxbridge is proof positive of privilege and discrimination.

It is no such thing. It is not the job of the Universities to promote equality. It is their job to promote excellence. Far from castigating Oxbridge, the government should get off the backs of academia and stop treating universities as tools for social engineering.

The reason for the imbalance is because of the dramatic difference in the quality of education between the state sector and the independent sector. The right policy response is to look at state education and start asking serious questions about why it is bad and getting worse. Short answer: simply because it is the State sector, and because Whitehall is appallingly bad at delivering public services.

Al Gore wins Nobel peace prize

The papers made a lot of this story, but few mentioned that Gore was hoping for the science prize, and was a bit miffed to get the less highly-regarded peace prize (although he deserves the Nobel Prize for science fiction!). This in a week when a British court had ruled that key elements of his disaster movie were unproven or false. As a recipient of the Nobel peace prize, he will sit alongside Kofi Anan and Yasser Arafat. Hmmm.

There's a story going round that Gore intends to spend half the prize money on environmental causes -- and the other half paying his electricity bill!

For more on the court case over the Gore film, see my blog, and http://newparty.co.uk/articles/inaccuracies-gore.html

Worth a Visit: GREENIE WATCH - http://antigreen.blogspot.com/

Quote of the month

Stuart Wheeler (major Conservative Party donor), writing about the "con­sensus" on climate change: "It was agreed all round, both by the English and the French, that Joan of Arc should be burned at the stake, but 500 years later she was made a saint. I do not think that we climate change sceptics are likely to be canonised, but I do think we are likely to be proved right".

Telling the truth about hunting

Bambi has a lot to answer for. Our children are bombarded with cartoon images of anthropomorphic animals, who speak and empathise like people. Bears are cuddly big brothers, who live on honey and carry your books home from school --not grizzly predators who rend smaller animals limb from limb. Rats andfoxes are not vermin. They aretiny human beingsin furry coats who deserve our love and protection. Wolves and lions are heroic figures who eschew the taste of blood.

Hardly surprising, then, that a generation of urban children, whose idea of "play" is a computer game, and whose vision of nature is based on cartoons and BBC documentaries, are turning to vegetarianism, and are apt to see hunting as wicked. These kids don't know that milk comes from cows, eggs from hens or bacon from pigs. Hardly surprising that they see the hunter as villain, and the fox (which in reality may just have consumed a newborn lamb, placenta and all) as hero.

These issues were aired at a meeting in Strasbourg on September 25th, organised by the European parliament's Hunting Intergroup, with presentations from Ms. Cristina Caretta; and from Roberto Basso of Natural History Museum of Jessolo, Italy; and Ralf Pütz of the Deutscher Jagdschutz-Verband (so splendid in the original German that I won't attempt to translate it!). They all expressed their concern that animal rights zealots, building on a general politically-correct mental outlook, were presenting a wholly false picture of rural life and country sports.

There was a consensus that the hunting world needs to argue its corner, and that we all need to do more to get a countervailing argument to young people. And there was a lively debate on the way forward. The Germans appear to have a rather comprehensive programme of teaching materials and activities for schools, and I added that I believed that our own Countryside Alliance has a similar programme. We also need to promote school visits to farms (I remember the story of an urbanteacher who was reluctant to allow her charges into the milking parlour because "She didn't want them to see the cows being killed for their milk". Honest.)

Children need to realise that hunters, far from being the villains of the story, have far more interest in conservation than urban folk who see no wild animals but scavenging foxes. The hunting fraternity plays a vital role in conserving wildlife, and protecting and improving habitats. In some European countries, hunting tourism (in the broad European sense to include shooting, stalking and fishing) also plays a key part in local economies -- and provides another strong incentive to conservation.

At a deeper level, we need to recall that we are descended from ten thousand generations of hunter-gatherers; people who lived close to nature and relied on it for survival. Modern fox-hunting, stylised and choreographed as it is, may beno more thana faint reflection of our archetypal hunting ancestors. But it is a link with ourevolutionary nature, however tenuous, that we abandon at our peril.

Recognition for the Helmer Blog!

Iain Dale (http://iaindale.blogspot.com/2007/09/guide-to-blogging-2007-top-100-right-of.html) has conducted a poll of right-of-centre political blogs, and I was delighted to see that although mine has been running only a couple of months, it came in the top third of the hundred he analysed, at #31. At least that leaves room to get better! As they say in politics, much done, much still to do. Visit my blog at http://rogerhelmermep.wordpress.com/

Rare cameo appearance from the defector

We don't hear much from Bill Newton Dunn these days, but there he was at a recent meeting of the soon-to-be-defunct regional assembly EMRA, complaining that he had invited comments from constituents about some current issue, and was disappointed that none was forthcoming. A Conservative councillor caused great mirth on the Tory benches by asking "Why should we imagine you care what we think, when you didn't even care which Party had elected you?".

International Leaders' Conference

Usually when Ineed a political fix, a total immersion in liberty and free markets and low taxes and limited government, I go to Washington. You certainly don't see too much of those concepts in Brussels. But this October we brought conservative values to the heart of darkness, in the European parliament. Along with my good friend and colleague Syed Kamall MEP (London), I co-hosted a Conference in Brussels which attracted heavyweight conservative minds from across the water. We had Bridgett Wagner and Peter Brookes of the Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org); Tom Palmer and Dan Mitchell from Cato (www.cato.org); Grover Norquist (of Washington's famous Wednesday meeting) from Americans for Tax Reform (www.atr.org).

The event was organised by Joel Anand Samy and Natasha Srdoc of the Zagreb-based Adriatic Institute (www.adriaticinstitute.org), who had worked their socks off to make it happen -- as had my political advisor Emma McClarkin, whodid the admin from the Brussels end. In addition, we had support from the European Enterprise Institute (www.european-enterprise.org) and the British Chamber of Commerce in Brussels (www.britcham.be). We also had Ruth Lea and Sara Rainwater of Global Vision (www.global-vision.net).

We had excellent sessions over two days on tax reform, security,energy security and transatlantic relations. A star of the event was Dr. Maurice McTigue, now an academic at George Mason University, but formerly a government Minister in New Zealand. His account of how they restored fiscal responsibility, paid down debt, dramatically reduced the size of government and the level of regulation, was stunning -- proof that conservative prescriptions work. Another key speaker was Mart Larr, former independence campaigner and Prime Minister of Estonia. It was he who introduced the hugely successful flat tax in Estonia, a concept which is now spreading like wildfire (twenty countries so far, and more to come).

Wesaw screenings of two films. "The Singing Revolution" (www.singingrevolution.com) followed the extraordinary and inspiring story of Estonia's peaceful but successful revolt against Soviet occupation. "Freedom from Despair", by a remarkable young American/Croatian director, Brenda Brkusic, tells a parallel tale of Croatia's freedom struggle under Tito, seen through the eyes of her father (www.freedomfromdespair.com).Those of us in the West who believe in freedom can surely neverforget the suffering of those in Eastern Europe who were so long denied their freedom,or their heroism as they risked everything for liberty.

Xmas Stocking Filler

For "a lot of sensible fun", I recommend Warwick Cairns' new book, About the Size of It, published by Pan Macmillan at £12.99.A full and convincing account of why our well-tried and trusted traditional measures make human sense. See link: http://www.warwickcairns.com

The EU Constitution: a view from the USA



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.