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Straight Talking - December 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.

A MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR to all "Straight Talking" readers!

A special Christmas Greeting

Germany brings back EU flag and anthem

Germany, along with 15 other member-states, has added a last-minute declaration to the Lisbon Treaty, recognising the EU flag and anthem. So one of the trivial changes between the Constitution and the Treaty, on which Gordon Brown relied for his U-turn on a referendum, is already falling apart.

Admittedly the German declaration will have no legal force or practical effect. But then the decision to drop the flag and anthem from the treaty had no practical effect either.

Mass Lobby for a Referendum

The "I Want a Referendum" Campaign (backed by Open Europe) is planning a mass lobby of parliament early in the New Year.

If you are able to come down to Westminster on a week day, in either January or February 2008, to tell your MP in person why they should vote for a referendum, please e-mail to register for the event. The precise date will be announced nearer the time.

Referendum Protest greets EU Charter

Wednesday Dec 12th saw the formal signing in Strasbourg of the EU's "Charter of Fundamental Rights" by the heads of the European parliament, the European Council and the Commission. But the formal occasion was overshadowed by a noisy demonstration by MEPs demanding a referendum for their constituents on the Renamed Constitution, due to be signed by Heads of Government in Lisbon on Thursday.

Around fifty MEPs, including myself, had come to the Chamber wearing T-shirts bearing the word "REFERENDUM!". We were a cross-party group from many countries.

As the three heads of institutions sat down on ceremonial chairs in the centre of the Hemicycle for the signing, we rose to our feet and raised placards with the Referendum slogan. And in four separate locations around the Chamber, we also raised ten-foot banners with the same word, in full view of the photographers and TV cameras assembled for the ceremony. At the same time we started chanting the one word "Referendum!".

The parliament's ushers made sterling but courteous and well-mannered efforts to remove the banners and placards, without great success, and after a while the protest subsided and order was restored. But as the main body of MEPs rose to applaud the signing, the protest and the chanting resumed, redoubling in volume as the EU's National Anthem was played.

After the protest, I was challenged to say why I had "sought to deny the speakers the right to be heard". I replied that the 75% of the British people who want a referendum also had a right to be heard, and I had been articulating their demand. I added that it was ironic for EU leaders to boast that the "Charter of Fundamental Rights" was guaranteeing freedom and democracy for European citizens, while member state governments elected on a promise of a referendum had broken their word. "What sort of human rights do we have if we're not even allowed to decide who governs us?" I asked. The determination of the EU to press ahead with the Constitution in the teeth of public opinion shows a huge contempt for democracy and for the people.

In a speech immediately after the protest, a leading Liberal MEP said it had been like "The storming of the Reichstag". In response, I quipped that the Brussels-based Fourth Reich was causing us nearly as much trouble as the Third one.

The MEPs demanding a referendum are in a minority in the parliament, but we represent a majority in many European member-states including the UK. As a British Conservative, I am delighted that our Party policy is to demand a referendum, and I am proud to have raised the demands of East Midlands voters for a say on the treaty on this high-profile occasion.

Apocalypse Cancelled

Finally some "cool thinking" on climate change. Read more here and here. (Adobe Reader required)

The Bali Conference on Global Warming

Bali Discovery Tours reports that because of the expected influx of private jets in Bali for the UN Conference on Climate Change, the airport will not have enough parking space for all of them. A great way to save the planet.

As a Telegraph editorial put it (Dec 3rd): "The Bali meeting is not really about doing anything. It is about feeling smug; and getting paid for it".

Scared to Death

Forgive me for returning to a book I mentioned last month, but I am really very impressed by it. I was daunted at first by its nearly 500 pages of fairly dense print, awash with references and footnotes. But it proves to be a gripping read, better than many a suspense novel. And it deals with topics which will resonate with East Midlands Conservatives, such as Edwina Currie's "salmonella in eggs" scare. We remember Edwina with varying degrees of affection for her stint as Conservative MP for South Derbyshire. See the book here, and for more information go to this link on my blog.

Ann Widdecombe comes to Northamptonshire

On December 8th, Ann Widdecombe addressed the Christmas dinner of the Northampton North Constituency. She was in her usual feisty form, despite a bad cough, and was trenchant in her criticisms of this failing Labour government. "These days you go into hospital and you come out with a disease!"

During questions, the global warming issue came up, and as usual, Ann was uncompromising. Given the rapid growth of emissions in developing countries like India and China, she said, anything we did in the UK would be a waste of time. In a stunning simile, she added "You might as well throw a sugar lump into Lake Windermere and say you'd sweetened the water".

Quote of the month

Simon Heffer in the Daily Telegraph, Nov 28th: "Enoch said that all political careers end in failure, but Mr. Brown's career as Prime Minister seems to have begun with it".

Energy: Good News and Bad News

Good news: Labour set to go ahead with new nuclear build programme. David Cameron has said that when Labour get something right, we should have the courage to say so. The government is right to press ahead with a new investment programme for nuclear capacity, and I salute them for it. It will save massive CO2 emissions (if you think that's important), and it's vital for our economy and for energy security.

Bad news: New off-shore wind farms. These new wind-farms will deliver an unreliable trickle of very expensive energy. They will require conventional back-up on stand-by for when the wind drops, so the CO2 savings will be small. But the higher costs to consumers and industry will be very damaging. The Danes are already cutting back on development of wind-power because the variations in wind levels unbalance their electricity grid.

Wind turbines are garden ornaments, not power stations. They don't save the planet. They just ease the consciences of the middle classes.

Nuclear Safety

A news report (Dec 4th) says that over 200 coal miners have died this year in South Africa, and the miners propose to strike in protest at safety standards. That's 200+ deaths in one year, in one country, yet it's more deaths than the total caused by the Chernobyl event.

Chernobyl was an old, ill-maintained, Soviet-style reactor, yet it's the example that the anti-nuclear lobby trot out over and over again. I don't mean to play down the seriousness of an event in which over a hundred people died, but let's get it in perspective. Tens of thousands, sadly, have died, and continue to die, in coal mining and hydro accidents. Inundation associated with hydro projects causes huge suffering to poor people, displaces populations, and threatens agricultural land, the environment, wildlife habitats and cultural relics.

Nuclear power remains the safest mainstream base-load power generation technology we have. That's a fact, not an opinion.

The travails of Africa

It is hard to find words to describe the awfulness of the situation in Darfur. Yet the BBC is now reporting that the scale of human suffering in Somalia may actually be worse. Somalia has not had an effective government for many years. Instead it has a patchwork of tribal power, local war-lords and insurgent groups. Millions live in abject poverty, hunger and fear. Meantime, Southern Rhodesia (aka "Zimbabwe"), once a happy and prosperous country, the bread-basket of Africa, goes from bad to worse under Mugabe's appalling régime.

It may not be politically correct to say so, but it seems to me that these countries would benefit greatly from a decent Colonial Administration and a few good District Officers.

Of course the European Union (of which we are all proud to be "citizens") invited Robert Mugabe to its Euro-Africa Summit in Lisbon (Dec 7th -- 9th). This demonstrates the EU's influence for good in the world, apparently.

EU Threat to Traditional Rural Cider

There is an EU review in process which threatens the continuance of a tax exemption for cider-makers producing less than 70 hectolitres a year. If the exemption is removed it is likely that many small, rural cider makers who make high quality cider by traditional methods will be forced out of business. Sign the petition to save rural cider here.

Well done Collingtree; well done Rod Sellers

On 15th November, a poll of electors in the little Northamptonshire Village of Collingtree, voted by a majority of 97% (152 - 5) for a National Referendum on the EU Constitutional Treaty before it is ratified by Parliament. Despite a wet and cold November night, 17% of village electors made the effort to vote in person, as postal or proxy votes were not allowed.

The Parish Poll had been called under the provisions of the 1972 Local Government Act which states that a poll must be conducted by the held when enough local electors in the Parish call for one.

Local electors voted on the question “Do you want a national referendum on the EU Constitutional Treaty? Yes or No?”

The Co-ordinator of the Referendum Campaign, Rod Sellers, said “We are delighted that once again when people have a chance to have their say – they say ‘We want a Referendum’. We know that national opinion Polls show that 75% of us want Gordon Brown to have the courage keep his manifesto promise”.

Non-British Citizens to Vote in British elections?

I would like to thank Roy Hewson for bringing an alarming new blog to my attention. It seems that increasing numbers of foreigners are entitled to vote in British elections, and are being encouraged to do so. See the blog for yourself here.

A planet that really is undergoing climate change

For a striking image of the effects of climate change, click here.

Purdah Period

Because of MEP re-selection for the 2009 euro-elections, I will be subject to limitations on my activities during the "purdah period", which in my case runs from Dec 10th to Jan 19th. This means essentially that I will be unable to attend official Conservative Party events -- constituency dinners, branch coffee mornings etc -- in this period. Apart from that, I will of course continue to work normally, and to attend and speak at other events -- universities, schools, Women's Institutes, Rotary Clubs, Chambers of Commerce, Freedom Association, Democracy Movement. I apologise for any inconvenience to constituencies that this Party rule may cause.

The DVD: Putting Britain First

It's about a year since I launched my DVD on my work in the parliament and the region, and sent a stack of copies to every East Midlands constituency, yet I am still finding Conservatives who know nothing about it. If you'd like a free copy, e-mail your postal address and a request for the DVD to Kathryn at . I can promise you forty minutes of innocent amusement!

Recent highlights:

Some of the things I've been doing in the last few weeks:

Nov 20th: Selsdon Group Dinner, London
Nov 23rd: Northampton South Annual Dinner with Alan Duncan
Nov 24th: Countryside Alliance fund-raiser in Leicestershire
Nov 30th: Sherwood Patrons' Club
Dec 1st: Campaigning with Andrea Leadsom (South Northants)
Dec 3rd: Lincoln Ladies' Lunch, White Hart, Bailgate, Lincoln
Dec 5th: Cornerstone Group meeting; London, followed by Graham Brady MP's House of Commons Grammar School Reception.
Dec 7th: Thurmaston Con Club Christmas event
Dec 8th: Northampton North Christmas Dinner with Ann Widdecombe
Dec 9th: Great Billing Coffee Morning
Dec 10th: Purdah Period starts!
Dec 11th: Northampton North visitor group in Straz

Check out the photos of recent events

Eurostar reaches Saint Pancras

For mid-week visits to London from Brux, I'm finding that the new rail service into Saint Pancras is ideal (about the only euro-anything that seems to work!). I am simply delighted by the restored Saint Pancras Station, with its statue of Sir John Betjeman, who campaigned for its survival in the sixties when the modernists and iconoclasts threatened to tear it down and replace it with a nice modern glass-and-concrete box. The station is a towering achievement of Victorian brickwork, a real national treasure, and merely to walk through it lifts the spirit. For more, and a picture, see here.

Believe it or not

On Nov 29th we had a vote to approve the appointment of Mr. Cretin to the Court of Auditors. I am afraid I could not bring myself to vote for Mr. Cretin, but he was nonetheless approved by 564 votes to 26, with 39 abstentions.

Protect the Peak District

Support the residents of the Peak District to stop damage to the beautiful Longstone Edge from quarrying. Sign the petition here.


We are still receiving post at my old Lutterworth UK office address, so please check you have a note of our new address:

Boswell House
9 Prospect Court
Courteenhall Road

A Photography Lesson

Spy reports that David Bailey, the renowned photographer, was invited to photograph the Prime Minister. Sue Nye, on Brown's staff, asked why Bailey used old-fashioned film rather than a digital camera. "I've always thought digital photography is like socialism" replied Bailey. "It reduces everything to the same level". Story courtesy of the Spy Column (Dec 6th).


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.