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Straight Talking - February 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.

Welcome President Obama 

Despite my well-known Republican sympathies, it would be churlish not to welcome in-coming US President Barack Obama.  But I did notice that both the Dow Jones Index and Senator Ted Kennedy collapsed on Inauguration Day.

Government dumping on local communities 

The longer I spend in politics, the more time I seem to spend supporting local protest groups, who feel that government impositions are being dumped on them, and are damaging their communities and their quality of life, but that no one cares and no one listens.  Several examples: 

Heathrow Third Runway - We heard on Jan 16th that the government plans to go ahead with a third runway at Heathrow, sweeping away two local villages.  Now I agree with the business community that Britain needs better international transport links, or we risk losing our share of traffic, and damaging tourism, business and the City of London.  I am open to persuasion as to whether the Third Heathrow Runway is a better option than Boris's Thames Estuary alternative (and I am worried that the Party seems to be going negative on air transport).  But whichever way the decision goes (and an incoming Conservative government could cancel Runway 3), I feel deeply sorry for those Heathrow residents who may have to give up their homes and accept only grudging compensation in return.

Wind Farms - Chris Heaton-Harris and I have both done a great deal of work to support local protest groups against the wind farm planning applications which are breaking out like a rash across the region, especially along the M1 and A14 corridors.  Whatever view you take of the Great Carbon Myth, wind farms are simply unsustainable, in either economic or environmental terms.  There are many things we need to do to reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels, but building wind farms is not one of them.  We saw earlier this year, during the long cold snap, the way that wind farms produced scarcely any power at all, just at the time when we needed it most.  Wind farms are the worst kind of gesture politics.  They may salve the consciences of the chattering classes, but they blight lives and villages and local communities.  They further reduce property values.  They pose health risks to nearby residents.  We should not build them at all, and especially not within two miles of existing dwellings. 

Travellers' camp sites - Friday Jan 16th saw me, along with David Tredinnick MP, in a packed protest meeting at the Plough Inn in Earl Shilton.  Local residents are up in arms about a proposed travellers' camp in the village.  We have the EU seeking to earn our gratitude with a succession of Declarations and Charters of Human Rights, but the good people of Earl Shilton feel that while we all have equal rights, some minority groups are more equal than others.  As one asked: "I couldn't get planning permission for a dwelling on that site, so how come they can?".  There's no answer to that.  I was told that during a consultation on a similar proposal in Bedfordshire, 4000 objections were sent in, but 3,900 of them (including one from the Police) were rejected as "racist".  I don't know what the powers-that-be regard as "racist" in this context, but I guess it would include observing that around travellers' sites, crime tends to increase and property values tend to go down.  But these are facts, proven time and again, not racist comments.  If you or I want a home, we have to buy one or rent one. It is difficult to see why minorities should have preferential treatment. 

Pennbury "Eco-Town" - On the evening of same day, Jan 16th, I spoke alongside Edward Garnier MP at another packed protest meeting, in Oadby, Leics, this time against the proposed Pennbury eco-town.  See the footage.  I estimate there were 500 people there.  This project is promoted by the Co-Op, which owns part (but not all) of the land.  This will involve 15,000 new houses (and will completely surround the pretty village of Great Glen).  Four local authorities commissioned a report on the proposal from highly-respected consultants Halcrow Group.  The report was damning.  Plans inadequately thought through, over-optimistic estimates for local jobs, inadequate roads and infrastructure.  They could hardly find a good thing to say about it. 

One priceless insight: the plans assume one parking place for every two dwellings.  That's right, you get half a parking place.  They say that residents will use buses and bicycles, and will walk.  And presumably pigs will fly.  We need to reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels, and it may well be that in ten years we shall all be driving electric cars, or hydrogen cars.  But you can bet that half a parking space per dwelling will be less than half of what's needed.  There is no doubt in my mind that the Co-Op is not interested in saving the planet, nor in benefiting the people of Leicestershire.  Their objective is to maximise their return on the land assets they own.  It's called "Corporate Social Responsibility".

In all these cases, local people and local authorities know perfectly well that if they say "NO", they will be over-ruled by government.  There is a deep sense of powerlessness in the face of the State that bodes ill for democracy.

Blog round-up

Here's the latest from wordpress.rogerhelmer.com 

What’s Welsh for “Recession”?: We hear that the Welsh Assembly wants to impose obligations on Welsh companies to operate bilingually -- what spectacular folly.

How’s your commitment to equality and diversity?: You couldn't make it up. A nurse has been suspended and threatened with dismissal ... for offering to pray for an elderly patient.

"British Jobs for British Workers": How Brown wishes that he'd never said this now.

Joy in Heaven: Simon Heffer’s interview with Labour’s beetle-browed ex-Chancellor, Lord Denis Healey.  

Quote of the Month: 

"The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt.   People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance." - Cicero - 55 BC   

Cash for questions

With the Labour Peers' scandal in the House of Lords, cash-for-questions is on the agenda again.  So let me make a short personal statement.  Over the last ten years, I have met many companies and lobbyists concerned about proposed EU legislation.  Where I have agreed with them, I have been prepared to table questions to the Commission, and occasionally to table amendments, reflecting their concerns. I consider it a key part of my role to listen to the concerns of constituents (including industry) about the implications of legislation, and to do what I can to mitigate the damage.  And in ten years, I have never been offered, or accepted, cash or any other inducement in exchange for my work.  

Kilroy makes a killing

For a mere £12, 750 you too can live like our very own perma-tanned celebrity and part-time MEP, Mr. Robert Kilroy-Silk. The sum will buy you a week in his luxurious villa in Spain.  

EU drives up electricity costs

The UK's largest energy analyst Inenco says that the EU's carbon trading scheme will force up electricity prices in the UK by 20% -- that's double the rise admitted by the government.  That's in addition to the 14% (and rising) increase we've seen as a result of the EU's (and our government's) dash for wind.  Is this smart thinking as we face a recession?  

Song of the Month:

"Stop Global Whining" by The Right Brothers.  

The BBC and the Gaza appeal

I almost feel sorry for the BBC.  Whatever they decide, they seem to be wrong.  There is no doubt that there is terrible suffering amongst the people of Gaza, and it would be churlish to point out that their problems have their origin in their Hamas "government", which they elected.  But whether you think the BBC should have aired the Gaza Appeal or not, I think we have to respect what's left of the Beeb's editorial independence.

However, we might have greater respect for the BBC's independence and impartiality had they not spent the previous few weeks of the conflict acting as unashamed cheer-leaders for the Palestinians, and as the primary accusers of Israel.  It's also worth bearing in mind the wealth of evidence that much of the aid sent to Palestine, both by the EU and by private organisations, is diverted to racist, anti-Semitic propaganda, or even to terrorist purposes.  

Could the EU invade Britain? Lessons from history

In recent months my historian colleague Rupert Matthews has been looking at the political and constitutional debates that took place in the USA in the build-up to the attempts by some states to secede from the Union – a move that sparked the American Civil War. He wondered how they look compared to the position of Britain and the EU today.

In 1861 several states voted democratically to leave the USA. The Union government said that those votes had been held illegally, and resorted to war to keep the states within the Union. Roll forward to 2009, and look at the current EU. Could the EU deploy military forces to try to stop Britain seceding? The answer lies in the Treaty of Lisbon (aka the EU Constitution).

First, the newly created High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will also head the European Defence Agency (EDA) and have a right of initiative for proposing EU-led military operations. Second, Article 28b allows EU armed forces to be used to deal with any “crisis”. An event will be defined as a crisis by the Council and Commission. Article 28a allows the EU armed forces to be used to protect the strategic interests of the EU; again these are to be defined by the Council and Commission. Finally Article 188r allows armed forces to be deployed to any part of the EU without the agreement of the government of the member state in whose territory they are deployed.

These provisions are scattered widely through the Treaty (probably deliberately), but taken together they create an EU armed force that can be deployed anywhere in the EU for any purpose decided upon by the EU Commission and Council.  Never mind getting Ireland to vote again – the tanks might be on the streets. Are we being unduly alarmist? Well maybe. So perhaps somebody could tell us why the EU wants these powers?  


Recently they've been making a big song and dance over "3million.eu".  Apparently the .eu internet domain name now has 3 million users.  Out of something like 450 million EU "citizens", that doesn't sound like a lot to me, especially as many will simply be taken by companies to pre-empt "cyber-squatters", who register famous names and hold them to ransom.  I don't know whether they're counting the now-defunct www.HATEthe.EU, which I held for a while to celebrate my "Love Europe -- Hate the EU!" bumper-sticker (still available, by the way).

Quote of the Year:

"The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money" - Margaret Thatcher  

The Irish Question

Q.  When will the Irish hold their Third Referendum on the Lisbon Treaty?

A.  Sometime between the Second Referendum and the Fourth Referendum  

Good old Jozsef Antall!

Jozsef Who?  Jozsef Antall, apparently.  Never heard of him myself, but one of the parliament's flash new six-storey wings has been named after him.  I was there myself recently for the first time, for a meeting of the Unemployment Committee.  The place reeks of money.  Conference rooms, restaurants, elevators, panelling, massive artworks, electronic gizmos, all state-of-the-art, all top-dollar.  While people across Britain are cutting back and hoping to keep the wolf from the door, the message doesn't seem to have reached the European Institutions.  Is Brussels part of the real world?  I doubt it.

Literary Corner: The Book Reviews

First Lutyens and the Great War, published by Frances Lincoln.  I am a huge fan of Sir Edwin Lutyens, the great Edwardian architect who died a few days before I was born.  I have made a point of visiting his Viceroy's Palace in New Delhi, and his British Embassy Residence in Washington DC, as well as numerous buildings in England.  First gaining prominence during the "Edwardian twilight" before the First World War, with splendid country houses reflecting the Arts and Crafts movement, he later moved on to more classical styles.  He also became one of the foremost designers of War Memorials after the First World War (including the Cenotaph in Whitehall).

This magnificently illustrated coffee-table book brings together his War Memorials in Britain and overseas (the greatest at Thiepval on the Somme, which I have visited several times).  But I was especially struck by a local connection: he has no fewer than three major memorials in the East Midlands Region.

I was already very familiar with the splendid War Memorial in Victoria Park, Leicester, having attended a number of Remembrance Services there and stood afterwards beside the approach road watching civic dignitaries take the salute from servicemen with marching bands, and from the Scouts and the Boys Brigade.  The great arch carries the moving words from Lawrence Binyon's poem: "All that they hoped for, all that they had, they gave to save the world.  Themselves they scorned to save".  I am also very familiar with the unusual double monument in Northampton, behind All Saints Church on George Row.

But the War Memorial in Spalding, Lincs, was entirely new to me (though I have been to Spalding many times).  It consists of a triple-arched pavilion, splendidly sited at the end of a rectangular pool in a formal garden.  I shall make a point of visiting it when I'm next in Spalding.

Secondly, Red Hot Lies, by Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington.  Published by Regnery, this book is a Main Selection of the Conservative Book Club in the US.  I should declare an interest: Chris Horner is a friend of mine who has worked with me on climate-related issues, and spoken at events and seminars which I have organised in Brussels.  He takes pride in the fact that he was named in Greenpeace's "Field Guide to Climate Criminals".

To give you a flavour of the book, I can do no better than to quote from the blurb on the dust jacket: "The global warming lobby, relentless in its push for bigger government, more spending and more regulation, will use any means necessary to scare you out of your wits -- as well as your tax dollars and your liberties -- with threats of rising oceans, deadly droughts and unspeakable future consequences of 'climate change'.  In pursuing their anti-energy, anti-capitalist and pro-government agenda, the global warming alarmists -- and unscrupulous scientists who see this scare as their gravy train to federal grants and foundation money -- resort to dirty tricks, smear campaigns, and outright lies, abandoning scientific standards, journalistic integrity, and old-fashioned notions of free speech and open debate".

The stories Chris Horner tells of duplicity and skulduggery in the media would be almost unbelievable, but for the meticulous and detailed references and sources he quotes (179 sourced quotes in the first chapter alone).  This book is required reading for all those tempted to think that the apparent media consensus (or quasi-consensus) on global warming is strong evidence for climate alarmism.

Also on the dust jacket are commendations for the book from Steven Milloy, the publisher of www.JunkScience.com, from Senator James Inhofe (Republican, Oklahoma) -- and from some guy called Roger Helmer.  


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