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Straight Talking - January 2009

Love Europe. Hate the European Union

Roger Helmer's electronic newsletter from Strasbourg

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.

Happy New Year? 

We can and should work and hope for a Happy and Prosperous 2009, but we should also be in no doubt of the very serious economic crisis we face.  The year will be characterised by redundancies, bankruptcies, unemployment, and home repossessions.  And we should be in no doubt where the blame lies: on Gordon Brown's doorstep at Number Ten, Downing Street.  Of course we face global problems, but Brown's profligate spending and borrowing have left our own cupboard bare.

Brown's claims about prudence, about "The end of boom'n'bust", ring hollow today.  It was his tax-and-spend profligacy that got us into this hole, yet he has the gall to tell us that more borrowing and spending will get us out of it.  He wrongly accuses the Conservatives of being the "do-nothing Party", while he leads the "more-of-the-same" Party.  He reminds me of nothing so much as the drunk whose only hangover cure is another bottle.  

Quote of the month

"Enough idle crystal ball-gazing: here's one prediction that's being backed by millions of pounds.  Hedge funds are betting on a disintegration of the eurozone, and specifically that Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal will pull out of the Single Currency".

Louise Armitstead in the Sunday Telegraph, Jan 4th.   

The currency that fell to earth? 

It's hugely dangerous to pontificate about exchange rates, because your words can be overtaken by events almost before the ink is dry.  But as I write (Jan 7th) I see that the euro is worth 90.5 pence.  That's down from a peak of around 98p (if I remember).  Of course we could be back to parity in no time, but if I were a betting man (I'm not), I think I should bet that we'd be back to around 70p by the mid year.

What's happening?  My analysis is: it soon became obvious to the markets that the UK, facing the global recession, was badly placed and in a deep hole.  It was less obvious that the euro-zone was in bad shape.  Now it's becoming clear that Germany and other eurozone countries are also facing a sharp down-turn, and that rifts are opening up in the single currency, so the euro is slipping against other currencies.

It is reassuring that most major newspapers are warning, rightly, against any talk of Britain joining the euro.  The risk of pound/euro parity was never an economic argument for joining the euro, but it seemed to exercise a fascination for simple minds.  That risk is now receding.

See my plenary speech at www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEJ1C-ufIJ4  

Blog round-up

Here's the latest on the blog round-up.  Read more on my blog at www.rogerhelmermep.wordpress.com

The arrogance of government: Part One: Brussels. As we all know, the EU can't take "No" for an answer. In her recent "EU Phrasebook: 27 ways to say No doesn't really mean No", Josie Appleton from The Manifesto Club looks at just how those EU officials manage to get around the awkward business of getting the "wrong" response from citizens.

The arrogance of government: Part Two: Westminster. Our Labour Government has just launched a campaign to fight growing levels of child obesity. But the last thing we need is another finger-wagging, intrusive campaign. What business is it of the government anyway?

A word of support for the social workers:  "Damned if they do and damned if they don't" seems to be the order of the day for social workers. Like politicians, they get a very bad press, but I wouldn't want to make the sort of decisions they face.

Prince Harry’s “Paki” comment:  The term "Paki" can amount to racist abuse.  It should never be used in a pejorative way.  But what is at issue here is a group of friends and comrades giving each other nicknames in a private context. And ultimately, context is everything...

Black marks for an Eco-Town: A recent study on the proposed eco-town at Pennbury in Leicestershire, has concluded that the developer's proposal is inadequately thought out, researched and justified.  I will be addressing a public protest meeting on Jan 16th.

No to Lisbon!  Criticism of the Lisbon Treaty is getting ever more creative!  

A long, cold winter

As I write (Jan 6th) the temperature outside in Brux is around -5OC.  It's not much different in the East Midlands.  In fact this has been the sharpest and longest cold snap in Britain for decades.  During much of it we've had a stationary high-pressure zone across much of the UK, and wind turbines have been sitting idle (perhaps a good thing given the well-documented risks of ice missiles flung from the blades in freezing weather).

Wind power fails, for days not hours, just when we need it most.  You could not ask for a better demonstration of its futility.

Of course one cold snap doesn't make a trend.  But the world has now cooled each year for three years.  So how long does it take to establish a trend?

One rather small silver lining to the credit crunch.  The public are starting to realise that while trillion-dollar plans to "halt climate change" were just about affordable in the good times, they would be lunacy in the chill winds of recession.  Time for a reality check.  

What the climate alarmists say about climate

I just came across a web-site with some extraordinary examples of what green activists are saying about climate change.  One example to whet your appetite: Sir John Houghton, first Chairman of the IPCC, said "Unless we announce disasters, no one will listen".  Indeed.  And they've been announcing disasters ever since.  See www.green-agenda.com

Workplace environmental reps

I have had letters from trade unionists asking me to sign a Written Declaration aiming to authorise the status of trade-union "Workplace environmental reps", employees who would have time off for green training, and would perform "green audits" in their work-places.  I am told that this would be a major step in the "battle against climate change".  I have tried to be as courteous as I can in my responses, but yesterday I'm afraid my patience snapped, and I replied as follows:

"Dear Ken, In the current economic environment, I think the very last thing we need is jobs-worths with clip-boards throwing grit into the wheels of industry".

I noticed that the latest one was from a gentleman who e-mails from a JobCentre Plus e-mail address.  Interesting that tax-payer-funded facilities are being used for this highly partisan trade union campaign.  

EU threat to food prices, food supplies and farmers

The European parliament has voted this week in Strasbourg on a proposal which will ban a wide range of substances which have been in use widely, and safely, in agriculture for many decades.  The highly respected UK Pesticides Safety Directorate, in a recent report, claimed that this new directive could have a dramatic negative impact on food production in the UK.  It could reduce crop yields by up to 50%.  This would have a huge effect on food prices in the shops.  It will lead to shortages, and probably to increases in imports from other countries with lower food safety standards.  It will lead to bankruptcies amongst farmers, and quite possibly the loss of whole categories of English crops, like carrots.

Another effect of the ban in the EU on many pesticides could be to reduce the availability of these substances elsewhere in the world.  I have heard from charities working in Africa who fear that currently controllable diseases, like malaria, would run amok without current pesticides, leading to greatly increased death rates, especially amongst children.

Chris Heaton-Harris and I, with others, co-signed three amendments which would have helped to limit the damage.  We called for a full impact assessment which would look at the effects on food prices, availability, import levels, and on the agricultural community.  We called for more derogations for member-states to accommodate local conditions and local agricultural practices and requirements.  And we wanted proper risk- and science-based assessments of chemicals used in agriculture, rather than the catch-all bans proposed in the legislation.  Sadly, the amendments fell.

It is daft to be risking huge damage to crop yields in these recessionary times, and while we are worrying about food security and even asking for bio-fuels.  

When "anti-discrimination" challenges our freedoms

I have received lots of letters from concerned constituents about the Commission's new anti-discrimination package, which is likely to reach the parliament in the coming months.  While well-intentioned, it is likely to have perverse consequences.  It could, for example, see funding cut from religious charities running old folks homes.

So far it's merely a proposal.  But all too often these proposals, with all their unintended and perverse consequences, end up on the statute book.

Of course we should have a proper respect for those who take a different view from our own on questions of morality and religion.  But it is clear to me that people and organisations with strong religious or moral views should not be bound to employ (or to provide services to) those who take conflicting moral or religious positions.  For example, an Evangelical School should in my view be entitled to select Evangelical teachers, and to reject applicants of other faiths.  A Catholic adoption service should be free to decline to place children with same-sex couples.  In hospitality establishments where there is likely to be a close relationship between proprietor and guests (boarding houses, bed & breakfast, small hotels) it seems perfectly proper to me that the proprietor can set his own standards for his establishment, just as the customer is free to choose that establishment or another. 

In their Gadarene stampede for "human rights" and "anti-discrimination", the EU institutions are overlooking the right of ordinary citizens to live according to their own beliefs and values.  I shall therefore oppose the measure unless it takes these factors into account -- although whether we shall win the vote is another matter.  

Lib-Dem mendacity in Ashfield

I have had drawn to my attention a Lib-Dem leaflet circulated in Ashfield, to which Bill Turncoat Dunn MEP has contributed an article.  In it, he says that "The top Tory MEP in the region denies that climate change is even happening".  This is of course a deliberate and malicious lie.  I have published articles, leaflets, and DVDs in which I discuss climate change at some length.  Anyone who denies that the climate changes is plain ignorant, although there is a legitimate debate to be had about why it changes, and what, if anything, we should do about it.

I have already sent a robust letter to the local paper.  If you see this leaflet in your area, please let me know and I will respond promptly.  

Israel and the Palestinians

I have also had many letters on the tragic situation in Gaza.  Most of them take the same very one-sided view as the BBC, and the recent Oxfam ad:  there is only one view of the matter, and only one party to blame, and that's Israel.

I think that before we condemn Israel, we need to ask a simple question.  If we were the Israeli Prime Minister, what would we do?  If we had rockets randomly targeted at civilians in our neighbourhoods?  Would we try diplomacy?  But that's been tried without effect for years.  Or sanctions?  They've been tried too.

Before we condemn Israel we must consider what available alternatives are left to the Israeli government, which has a duty to protect its citizens.

It was Hamas who decided to terminate the recent ceasefire, and Hamas who have organised the continual barrage of rockets into Israel, showing total disregard for the safety and prosperity of their own people by doing so.

So whilst I deeply regret the terrible suffering and loss of life in Gaza, I believe the primary blame attaches to Hamas, which is widely recognised as a terrorist organisation.

The EU is committed to ongoing diplomatic efforts to bring peace to this troubled land, and I certainly hope those efforts are successful.


That's it for this Strasbourg session. Please remember to check this website and post a comment on my blog at http://rogerhelmermep.wordpress.com