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Straight Talking - March 2009 Second Edition

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.

55% say “leave the EU!” 

In a stunning new BBC poll (and despite our current economic problems), 55% of respondents answered "YES" to the question: "Should Britain leave the EU but retain a close trading relationship?"  See Dan Hannan and Charles Clarke argue over the result at:

“Is the euro sustainable?”

As we face an economic crisis, one or two of the usual suspects are creeping out of the woodwork to suggest, ever so tentatively, that perhaps we should join the euro after all.  I doubt if many “Straight Talking” readers will fall for it, but if you’re at all tempted, I recommend this new paper from the Bruges Group.  Written by Richard Conquest, a distinguished economist who has worked for major global banks, it makes the point that the whole euro project was about political posturing, not economics.  Find it on: www.brugesgroup.com/IsTheEuroSustainable.pdf

The single currency was supposed to achieve economic convergence in the euro-zone.  It has done the opposite.  Productivity and unit labour costs have diverged to an unsustainable level.  Bond spreads between euro-zone states clearly show that the markets expect a crisis.  The “PIGS” (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain) are facing desperate difficulties.  If they had independent currencies they could at least devalue, as the least-worst option.  But they’re locked in and have nowhere to turn.

Thank heavens we never joined this disastrous macro-economic experiment.  

Fame at last!

On March 13th, my "Shirt Off Your Back" advertising campaign was featured in the Guardian Diary column, no less.  And in less negative terms than you might have expected.  The campaign seems to be driving traffic on this site as well: 300 visitors per day in January; 400 in February; 440 in March.

Like so much in politics, the ad was not my original idea.  I borrowed it from those good guys at the Young Britons' Foundation. Thanks, guys!  

Conservative tax policy

Let's be honest.  This hasn't been our finest hour on tax policy.  We said we'd keep Labour's new 45% tax rate, even though we know it will raise no extra revenue, and will damage the economy.  We've cast into doubt our pledge on the Death Tax which in October 2007 sparked our revival in the opinion polls.  This is terrible folly.  And a member of the Shadow Cabinet has rubbished our plans to recognise marriage in the tax system.

This will not do.  Conservatives are instinctively in favour of small government, low taxes -- and the family.  We need to be clear and credible on tax.  We need a little more reliance on principle, and a little less concern for positioning.  

US economists question Obama's Stimulus Package

A group of American economists have signed a declaration from the CATO Institute, criticising the view that more government spending is the way to improve economic performance.  
View the declaration here.  

Thanks for the reassurance, Darling!

I think I shall scream if I hear Chancellor Alistair Darling tell us one more   time that he'll do "whatever it takes, for as long as it takes" to solve the global financial crisis.  The tragedy is, he clearly hasn't got the faintest idea what it is he needs to do.

But it's good advice in politics, when you're in a hole, to stop digging.  And when you're buried under a debt mountain, stop borrowing!

Recent highlights...

March 6th: Meetings at Newcastle University and Durham University, YBF and Conservative Future.

March 13th: Lunch with Bill Cash MP in Stoke on Trent and his Patron's Club.

March 15th: Visited the Union of Country Sports Workers' Race Day at Southwell, Notts (I'm a member of the union).  Picture on the blog.

17th:  Launch of new TPA book "The Great European Rip-Off" in Brux -- also on the blog.

March 20th: Lunch with CWO in Skegness, Lincs.  Dinner with Grantham & Stamford in Bourne, with Emma McClarkin.  Photos on the web-site.

March 21st: Campaigning in Derby with Stephen Mold.  

...and coming this weekend:

The Fernie Team Chase event at Tur Langton on Sunday March 29th.  The scheduled race for just after lunch, at 2:10, is the Roger Helmer MEP foot chase.  Bring your Nikes!  

Political correctness, Brussels style

MEPs have received a booklet advising them on "appropriate language" when dealing with gender issues.  Apparently we shouldn't use the terms "Miss" or "Mrs".  We shouldn't even say "man-made".  That's discriminatory.  We have to say "synthetic" or "artificial" instead.  Yet bizarrely the terms "waiter" and "waitress" can remain in use, because there is no satisfactory gender-neutral alternative!  ("Server", perhaps?).

My good colleague Philip Bradbourn (W. Mids) has responded in robust terms to the parliamentary authorities, insisting that he'll speak his own language in his own way, and not take advice from them.  He's also demanded to know who authorised the booklet, and how much it cost.  Well said, Philip!  See my letter to Hans-Gert Poettering.  

The Heartland Climate Conference in New York

On March 8th/10th, I joined about 800 scientists, politicians and commentators for the International Climate Conference in New York, sub-titled "Climate Change: Was it ever a crisis?".  For the full story, check ConservativeHome and also this piece by Peter Foster.

Meantime, a couple of heart-warming one-liners from the Conference: "New Hampshire is being settled by refugees from the neighbouring state of Taxachussets" ... "If Thomas Jefferson were alive today, he'd be turning in his grave" ... "To solve America's energy problem, we don't need fancy new initiatives.  We need Freedom".  (This latter a reference to the massive regulatory barriers in the way of anyone wanting to drill for oil, or build a nuclear power station, or a coal-fired power station, or an oil refinery).  

Rally Driver joins the sceptics

In the European parliament it is surprisingly easy to get out of the lift at the wrong floor and breeze into the wrong office, thinking it's your own.  Last week I was quietly working away around 8:00 a.m., when in strode Ari Vatanen MEP, with a suitcase in his hand and an astonished look on his face.  Ari of course was a world-famous Finnish rally driver, and is now a member of parliament for France.

We fell into conversation, and it emerged that he has just realised what a scam the global warming myth is.  He had a copy of Nigel Lawson's book "An Appeal to Reason" with him, and is writing a paper setting out his views.  He writes:

"What we see is nothing new. The temperature has changed much faster in pre-industrial times, so current changes are well within normal variations. Man may or may not have some impact on it but we can't just bring the climate to a standstill. We have to invest in science and research and quickly build much more nuclear. Our real problem is poverty and misery - not the temperature!".

Seems that reality is breaking through.

EU's opt-out ban will hurt local workers and businesses

The EU's proposal to end the British opt-out on the Working Time Directive continues to be a source of concern for many in the East Midlands.  In the last few weeks I have had letters from fire-fighters, midwives, farmers, and live-in carers to name a few, all pointing out the unworkable nature of a 48 hour working week, with no opt-out, which includes "on call time". Here is just one example:

"Because the [live-in carer] is at the 'workplace' 24 hours a day, and although adequate rest is fully assured, the interpretation of inactive 'on-call' time as working time has the potential impact of making this way of working unlawful"

Conservative MEPs are fighting a rear-guard action to save the opt-out, but we're not being helped by UK Labour MEPs who are defying their own government's position and trying to scrap it.  The outcome is still in the balance.  

Spanish Property Scandal

I've been doing what I can to support constituents caught up in the Spanish property scandal.  This week we will vote on the Auken report, which condemns Spain in robust terms, and demands a solution.

Check a petition to be handed to Gordon Brown and to the EU Petitions Committee, but also contains practical help and information.  The Petition will be handed to the Petitions Committee on the 31st March 2009, and the website is at www.spanishpropertyscandalpetition.co.uk.

The European Platform Against Windfarms

It's not just at home in the UK that there are reservations about wind farms.  I was interested to see details of a new European organisation: The European Platform Against Windfarms (EPAW).  

The group was set up in 2008 by members of various federations and associations from Germany, France, Belgium and Spain. Since then, groups in a number of other countries have come on board.

The aim of the group is to provide backing for campaigners who are: 

 •  opposing windfarm planning proposals

 •  questioning the effectiveness of windfarms in tackling energy problems

 •  protecting the environment from windfarm damage

 •  fighting the damaging effects of windfarms on peoples' day to day lives.  

If you're involved with a wind-farm protest group, do visit their web-site.

Threatened by wind farms?

Planning applications for wind farms have been breaking out like a rash across the East Midlands, especially in the M1/A14 corridors.  If your local community is under threat (or even if not) you might like to sign the Number 10 petition on http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/2000metres/.  You may also like to visit www.windfarmvictims.org.uk  

And more on wind:

Professor Ian Fells, speaking on the BBC's Inside Out Programme, challenges the rush for wind.  

Euro-elections: don't let Labour slip through the middle! It's only about ten weeks until the euro-elections, and the way the polls are going, we should expect to do quite well.  But we can't afford to take anything for granted.

I remember that five years ago I met good, solid Conservatives who'd never have thought of voting anything but Conservative in a General Election, or a local council election.  Yet they seemed very relaxed to admit they intended to vote UKIP in the euro elections.  I remember asking "Why would you do that?  Don't you think I'm eurosceptic enough for you?"  And the reply came "Oh we know you're alright, Roger, but we want to send a message to Central Office".

I think I understand where they're coming from.  Sometimes I too get frustrated, and wish that the Party would take a tougher line on European issues.  But let me explain why no Conservative should vote for a minor party in these elections.

First, the euros are the last national electoral test of opinion before a General Election, which must come within twelve months of the euros.  It is critical that we build momentum towards the General Election.  Even if you'd like the Conservative policy on the EU to be tougher, remember that only a government in Westminster can make a real difference.  UKIP isn't going to form a government.  They probably won't get a single MP in the General Election.  The Conservative Party has committed to some key steps towards breaking the momentum of EU integration, and bringing back powers to the UK, in Human Rights law, and in employment law.  We must do everything we can to ensure we get a Conservative government with a good working majority -- and that includes getting the best possible result in the euros.

Secondly, we need to try our best to get the third seat in the region, and to get Rupert Matthews returned as an MEP.  That means we need to get 50%+ more than Labour, and we need to get three times the Lib-Dem vote.  We can achieve that if Conservatives pull together, but not if some decide that gestures mean more than results.  A few Conservative votes diverted to minor parties could lose us the third seat, and give it to Labour or (worse still) the Lib-Dems. 

And thirdly, we have a united team of committed and capable euro-sceptic Conservative candidates.  None of them will go native in Brussels.  They deserve your support, and you can vote for them with confidence.  

Australia susses out the climate scam

Australia has become the first country with a new political party dedicated to fighting climate alarmism!

Meanwhile, the excellent Carbon Sense Coalition has been doing its best to get the message out there. Its chairman, Viv Forbes, released a severe indictment of wind power entitled Mandating Markets for Wind Power - a stealth tax on electricity consumers.  He highlights how wind farms are more about politicians' green credentials than about saving the planet.

He contrasts the unreliable and intermittent nature of wind power with cheaper and more reliable nuclear (as in France) or hydro (as in Norway).

The full statement can be read here.  

Lincolnshire Sausages – Protected Geographical Indication

Heading back to home territory, the Lincolnshire Sausage Association has kindly informed me that the application for Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) for Lincolnshire Sausages is now with DEFRA who have put it out for Public Consultation.

If granted, it will ensure that Lincolnshire sausages will only be able to be made in Lincolnshire, following the examples of Melton Mowbray Pork Pies and Cornish Pasties.

The application can be seen here and comments must be submitted to DEFRA by the 20th April 2009.  


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