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Straight Talking - March 2008

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 receive the newsletter second-hand and want to go onto the e-mail list (or if you want to be deleted), please e-mail me on

Alternatively you can subscribe with this form.

A vast breach of faith

On March 5th ("a day which will live in infamy"), a Conservative amend­ment which would have ensured a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty (a.k.a. the Renamed Constitution) was voted down in the Commons by 311 votes to 248 -- a government majority of 63.

No fewer than 98% of sitting MPs, including Conservative, Labour and Lib-Dem, were elected in 2005 on an explicit manifesto commitment to hold a referendum.  The excuse advanced by some of them that the Lisbon Treaty is substantially different from the failed Constitution is a transparent deceit, as many EU leaders have admitted.  Our parliament has given away powers which were not its to give -- our fundamental right to govern ourselves -- and they have done so in breach of their solemn commitment to the British people.  This is a vast breach of faith.

29 Labour MPs and 15 Lib-Dems supported the referendum.  They deserve credit for keeping their promise in the face of blackmail from the Whips.

There is considerable doubt whether the position will be reversed in the Lords.  But their Lordships have an honourable and counter-intuitive record of reflecting common sense and the will of the people rather better than the elected House.  We shall see.  Meantime, see my Open Letter to one of the Conservatives who let us down and failed to vote for the amendment, Ian Taylor, on my blog at http://rogerhelmermep.wordpress.com

88% want a referendum -- 89% would vote NO!

The February postal ballot results from "I Want a Referendum" produced stunning results.  Turnout was 36% plus -- over 40% in Gedling -- better than many local elections, and certainly better than the turnout in the 1999 euro-elections when Chris Heaton-Harris and I were elected.  150,000 people voted.  88% wanted a referendum, 89% would vote NO to the Renamed Constitution.

I had supported the Gedling launch of the ballot (see last month's news­letter), and I was delighted to be able to speak at the rally in the Central Methodist Hall at the "I Want a Referendum" Mass Lobby of parliament on Feb 27th.  See my speech here and the photos here .

Meantime it's good to see the Lib-Dems ripping themselves apart over the Treaty.  Their new leader, former MEP Nick Clegg, attracted ridicule by asking for a referendum on a different question; by imposing a three-line whip for an abstention; and by threatening to discipline Lib-Dem MPs simply for keeping a manifesto commitment.  (Remember when it was our Party which seemed to be divided on Europe ?).

See Neville Baxter's comment on the Gedling poll here.

Lisbon Treaty debate

In Strasbourg last month, I unexpectedly got an extra minute of speaking time, and I was able to use it to good effect to refute some of the points made earlier in the debate.  See my full two minutes on YouTube via the link on my blog

The tally of hits on the blog is now over 15,000.  Please visit it, and add your comments.

They gave a party, but nobody came

On March 12th, they celebrated the 50th anniversary of the parliament, with a big ceremony and an orchestra.  It's a bit of an iffy anniversary, since while a sort of assembly existed since 1958, the parliament proper was first elected in 1979.  But the 29th anniversary doesn't have quite the same resonance.  They've spent a great deal of money on elaborate audio-visual coverage of the event.  But I am reliably informed that no media group has expressed any interest in using it.

Threat to temporary Workers

Having spent a lot of time in the past few years fighting the EU's Agency Workers' Directive in Brussels , I am disappointed to see that our own Trade Unions are pressing the government to adopt the measure anyway.  Yet another example of the way that good intentions (why shouldn't temporary workers have the same rights as everyone else?) are fraught with unintended consequences and will harm the very people they are intended to help.  This proposal will reduce the availability of temporary jobs (which for many thousands of workers are a route back into the labour market).  It will make our labour markets less flexible, reduce our competitive advantage against continental and other competitors, increase unemployment and make us all poorer.  Will they never learn that socialist solutions just don't work?

Capital punishment

We have recently seen two appalling cases of murders of young women by depraved sex offenders.  Stephen Wright murdered five women in Ipswich .  Mark Dixie murdered a teenager, Sally Anne Bowman, in a frenzied attack.  I cannot bring myself to write down what he did next, but you probably know.  A recent opinion poll in The Sun showed that 99% of readers favoured capital punishment in these cases.  They are right.

In neither case is there any reasonable doubt that the convicted men are guilty.  In each case they could be in goal for thirty years or more, costing the tax-payer many millions of pounds at a time when prison places are at a premium.  And their history of offending strongly suggests that if they were ever released, or (which may be more likely) escaped, they would re-offend.

There is one profound and unanswerable argument in favour of capital punish­­ment: once we've hanged them, they can't do it again.  Another argument which appeals to me is that the reintroduction of capital punishment would drive a coach and horses through EU Human Rights legislation.

Watch out!  Global Cooling!

Excerpt: All four major global temperature tracking outlets (Hadley, NASA's GISS, UAH, RSS) have released updated data. All show that over the past year, global temperatures have dropped precipitously. Meteorologist Anthony Watts compiled the results of all the sources. The total amount of cooling ranges from 0.65C up to 0.75C -- a value large enough to erase nearly all the global warming recorded over the past 100 years. All in one year time. For all sources, it's the single fastest temperature change ever recorded, either up or down.

See the full article

World Temperatures according to the Hadley Center for Climate Prediction. Note the steep drop over the last year.  A twelve-month long drop in world temperatures erases global warming.

Over the past year, anecdotal evidence for a cooling planet has exploded. China has its coldest winter in 100 years. Baghdad sees its first snow in all recorded history. North America has the most snowcover in 50 years , with places like Wisconsin

the highest since record-keeping began. Record levels of Antarctic sea ice, record cold in Minnesota , Texas, Florida, Mexico, Australia , Iran, Greece , South Africa, Greenland, Argentina, Chile -- the list goes on and on.

No more than anecdotal evidence, to be sure. But now, that evidence has been supplanted by hard scientific fact. All four major global temperature tracking outlets (Hadley, NASA's GISS, UAH, RSS) have released updated data. All show that over the past year, global temperatures have dropped precipitously.

Meteorologist Anthony Watts compiled the results of all the sources. The total amount of cooling ranges from 0.65C up to 0.75C -- a value large enough to erase nearly all the global warming recorded over the past 100 years. All in one year's time. For all sources, it's the single fastest temperature change every recorded, either up or down.

Scientists quoted in a past DailyTech article link the cooling to reduced solar activity which they claim is a much larger driver of climate change than man-made greenhouse gases. The dramatic cooling seen in just 12 months time seems to bear that out. While the data doesn't itself disprove that carbon dioxide is acting to warm the planet, it does demonstrate clearly that more powerful factors are now cooling it.

Let's hope those factors stop fast. Cold is more damaging than heat. The mean temperature of the planet is about 54 degrees. Humans -- and most of the crops and animals we depend on -- prefer a temperature closer to 70.

Historically, the warm periods such as the Medieval Climate Optimum were beneficial for civilization. Corresponding cooling events such as the Little Ice Age, though, were uniformly bad news.

But the warmists have a response!  Apparently they are describing the current exceptional cold as "suppressed warming"!

The Airbus/Boeing battle

On March 6th I attended a breakfast briefing with the Airbus top brass, on the status of their WTO dispute with Boeing.  Briefly, Boeing say that European launch funding for Airbus projects amounts to state aid in conflict with WTO rules, while Airbus say that research contracts for Boeing from NASA and the Department of Defence amount to the same thing.  The dispute has been with the WTO since the dawn of time (almost), and the WTO seems reluctant to rule -- perhaps because it fears that its judgement would be ignored, undermining its authority, or perhaps in the hope that the parties might grow up and sit down and talk.  It is in no one's interests to start a transatlantic trade war.

Meantime the WTO threat seems to be delaying developments at Airbus, which may be the main objective of Boeing and the US Administration.

Right now everyone is astonished that the Pentagon has placed a vast air transport order with Airbus, not Boeing.  In the middle of a US election campaign, this is dynamite, with talk of "giving American jobs to French workers", and threats that Congress will deny the funding.  Call me an old cynic, but I suspect that the Pentagon is simply making a gesture to put pressure on Boeing for a better deal.

The Fair Trade Scam

The Adam Smith Institute has published a paper, "Unfair Trade" , which makes the case that while "Fair Trade" produce may salve middle-class consciences in the West, its overall effect is to increase poverty and delay development.  It's essentially a marketing scam that enables supermarkets to increased margins, and customers to feel better.  But as with most well-intentioned interference with price mechanisms, it does more harm than good.  It may increase the incomes of the fortunate few, but it leaves other producers outside the scheme worse off.  And it fails to address market and regulatory distortion in poor countries.

But the press coverage has failed to mention the Elephant in the Room -- the EU's CAP.  It is profoundly protectionist, and for years has created surpluses which have become subsidised exports, undermining local producers in poor countries.  If we are serious about supporting third world countries, we should forget "Fair Trade", and start dismantling the CAP.

Give Europe Flack!

Now I have been re-selected, I am more or less free of the purdah rules -- except that I may not lobby for any euro-candidate, whether in the

East Midlands or elsewhere.  So with no recommendation one way or the other, I share with you a web-site for no better reason than that the name appeals to me.  John Flack, a candidate in Eastern England , can be found at www.GiveEuropeFlack.org.uk

The euro-team: don't forget to vote!

Several East Midlands constituents have asked for my advice in the current postal ballot for the ranking of our euro-team (if you're an East Midlands Tory and you haven't had your ballot pack yet, please check urgently with your constituency office).  It's a fair question.  One or two have pointed out that as I shall almost certainly be working in Brussels with whomever tops the list of new candidates, I might have some thoughts on the outcome.  I appreciate their kindness and consideration -- they have a point -- but of course the rules of the process mean that I am not allowed to express any preference!

But I can say this.  They are a very good team.  I am satisfied that all four of them are good Conservatives with sound views on the European issue.  And that each of them is well qualified to do the job.  I wish them luck.  Oh, and if you haven't voted yet, please get your ballot form in the post as soon a possible!


There is quite a debate in Europe about Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia .  While there are different views -- Spain , for example, is concerned that Kosovo should not be a precedent for the Basque country -- the broad consensus seems to support the right of the Kosovars to independence and self-government.  Odd, then, that those who seek independence and self-government for the UK should be branded Little Englanders, isolationists and xenophobes.

Career Choice for Tony Blair

The press reports (Feb 25th) that Tony Blair has agreed, on a pro bono basis, to advise the government of Rwanda on "policy and government efficiency".  Hmmm.  I wonder if they've read his CV.

Quote of the month: Now even the French are saying it!

"The strong Euro puts in doubt European monetary union." (Jean-Pierre Robin in a head-line in Le Figaro, Feb 29th).  Enough said.

Stop the War against Drivers

A new paper from Conservative Way Forward (they're the good guys) summarises the multi-faceted attack on drivers being waged by this govern­ment.  Speed cameras, new bus lanes, multiple occupancy lanes and lane cameras, fuel duty, congestion charges, sleeping policemen -- plus the EU's special contributions of limits on emissions (we shall all drive sardine-cans powered by 600cc engines) and mandatory daytime headlights (which will greatly increase casualties amongst motor-cyclists).

It's time for the nanny State to back off (if they have a reverse gear).  Check the details at www.conwayfor.org

EU Censorship: One up for the Beeb!

Anne-Margrete Wachtmeister is the Head of the Audio Visual Unit in the Parliament.  During the February Straz session, she saw a journo interview­ing one of the dissident MEPs, and immediately insisted that the material should not be used, "Because the film crew are employees of the Parliament and they should not be used to film dissent".

This exchange was overheard by Shirin Wheeler, the presenter of the BBC World "Record" program that covers the Parliament. She immediately threatened to block all further BBC coverage of the Parliament in Brussels and Strasburg if this attitude were not corrected.

The Parliament backed down.  We don't often have occasion to congratulate the BBC, but credit where it's due.  Shirin Wheeler took a principled and decisive stand.  Well done her.

Detailed story: http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/2999

Lethal Wind Farms

This video shows just how dangerous wind farms are, as turbines can lose their brakes and explode out of control in strong wind.  This particular wind turbine was in Denmark (Hornslet near Aarhus) and operated by a company with turbines in Isle of Wight.

Free Spirits Event

For anyone who happens to be in Newcastle for the Conservative Spring Conference this weekend -- please join me at the Free Spirits event being held at the Pitcher and Piano, 108 The Quayside, under the auspices of The Freedom Association (www.tfa.net ).  5:30 p.m. Friday 14th March.

Microsoft: The Commission claims the moral authority to choose between software providers for all:

Here is a great Acton Institute article on: "The EU Commission’s Monopoly of Knowledge".


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.