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Straight Talking - May 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 .

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"Labour's EU-turn" 

I was delighted to see the Conservative Party's new poster on April 28th, with the headline "Make Labour's next U-turn an EU-turn", and demanding a referendum on the Constitution, aka the Lisbon Treaty.  This is clearly going to be a main theme in our euro-campaign: pressing Gordon Brown over his broken referendum promise. 

We know that at least two-thirds of the British people agree that Labour should keep its promise, so the ad should strike a chord.  Moreover I am sick of being told that "Conservatives don't care about/are afraid to talk about the EU".  This poster gives the lie to that line of attack. As the election approaches, I feel like an old warhorse snuffing the smell of cordite, and I can't wait for the campaign.   

A straw in the Irish wind 

At a meeting of the Constitutional Affairs Committee in Brux (April 30th), we heard from Commissioner Walstrom, on the issue of "Communicating Europe".  She admitted that there was work to be done to convince citizens of the benefits of the EU.

The excellent Kathy Sinnott, an Irish MEP, recounted the story of a debate on the Lisbon Treaty which she had attended in a small town in Ireland.  Two speakers threatened death and damnation unless Ireland voted Yes.  Two others argued the No case.  Then they had a show of hands.  Out of around sixty people, some were undecided.  Around half voted No.  And four -- just four -- put up their hands for a Yes.  Of course the rural vote may not reflect the whole country, but it is an encouraging sign.

As Kathy was speaking I completed the final clue, 28 across, in the Telegraph cryptic crossword.  It was "Leprechaun".  

Notes from the Spring Forum 

Spring Forum took place this year in Cheltenham, at the racecourse, where I have previously gone for the Countryside Race Day meeting organised by the Countryside Alliance.  Like the Race Day, Spring Forum was a great success, and a lot of euro-candidates (and other candidates) were there.

Boris Johnson attacked Labour's 50% tax rate as an assault on London, and demanded it be reversed.  He's right: it's a spiteful, doctrinaire tax which will raise no extra revenue, but will make us all poorer by driving entrepreneurs and investment off-shore.  When Maggie Thatcher reduced the top rate of tax from 60% to 40%, revenues (and the share of revenues from the top 5% of earners) went up.  But while it's something we must do, it's probably not something we should put in the Manifesto.  Bad tactics.

Dan Hannan delivered a fantastic ten-minute speech (find the link at www.tfa.net) at the main event.  The Party won't allow Better-Off-Outers on its front bench, but it allowed Dan a prime slot in Cheltenham.  Why?  Partly as a recognition of the extraordinary success of his speech to Gordon Brown in Strasbourg last month (over two million hits on YouTube).  Partly as a result of pressure from the grass roots via Conservative Home -- which is a thoroughly good thing.

Dan also spoke at the Freedom Association's "Free Spirits" event at the D-Fly Bar in Cheltenham on the Saturday evening.  Run in conjunction with Conservative Future, it was a huge success, with a large, enthusiastic and young audience (the average age of TFA members seems to have come down by two decades in the last couple of years).  Find Dan's speech (and mine) on the TFA site.

Also at the Free Spirits event, and at dinner at the Royal Well afterwards, was Tim Montgomerie of Conservative Home, one of the most influential commentators in the Party.

Two of my assistants, Donna and Lydia, were snapped by the BBC press, and later spotted on the BBC webpages.  Donna points out that, with their usual flair for misreporting, the BBC have managed to spell her surname wrong (it should be 'Edmunds'). I was also interested to note that the title of the article changed overnight, from "Dave the miser" on the Monday, to "thrifty Dave" on Tuesday. Someone feeling pangs of guilt, perhaps?

The Prestbury House Hotel

I stayed at this delightful country house hotel near the Racecourse in Cheltenham, with fine views of the surrounding hills.  They are proud of their traditional British cooked breakfast, so I asked if it included black pudding (a favourite of mine -- hang the cholesterol!).  Rather shame-faced, they said No.  The health and safety regulations were so strict on a "blood product" and the risks (of legal action, not to health) so great, that it just wasn't worth it.

Blood product?  What about a nice rare steak or a rack of lamb?  Will that be next?  Thus does another great British tradition fall foul of the Food Police.

The EU's Working Time Directive: the case against

In this great report (pdf format), Open Europe sets out the case against the EU's Working Time Directive. It concludes, rather forebodingly, that losing our opt-out will cost the UK between £9.2 billion and £11.9 billion by 2011. Read the report to find out more.  

Nuclear technology: Alternative approaches 

On April 23rd I attended a meeting of the catchily-named "Forum for the Future of Nuclear Energy", a pro-nuclear inter-group in the parliament.  The title of the session also had a catchy name: "Nuclear Process Heat for the European Industry: Towards an HTR (High Temperature Reactor) Demonstrator”, with a presentation from Mr. Dominique Hittner, Chairman of the European High Temperature Reactor Technology Network (HTR-TN), AREVA, France. 

This may sound excruciatingly dull, but in fact it was rather exciting.  They were talking about relatively small, modular reactors designed to supply waste heat to other industrial processes.  The reactors can be teamed up with plants making cement, or chemicals, or other processes requiring large heat inputs (while also, of course, producing large and consistent quantities of electricity, which can be used on-site or sold to the grid).

They can for example provide heat and power for electrolysis of water, to create hydrogen -- a possible fuel for cars.  Cleverer still, a reactor plus electrolysis unit placed next to a coal-fired power station can take the CO2 from the coal plant, and combine it with hydrogen to make "syngas", a combination of carbon monoxide and hydrogen that can replace natural gas, or be used to create synthetic petroleum that could power cars or aircraft.

These are really exciting ideas.  Even if you buy the Great Carbon Myth, it must be better to use CO2 from fossil-fuel power stations to make synthetic petroleum than to bury it at huge expense under the North Sea -- the idea behind Carbon Sequestration and Storage.  

The quiet Sun: start of the Big Chill?

I never thought I'd see it!  The Independent, of all newspapers, starting to speculate that maybe the "science" of global warming is mistaken.  The exceptionally quiet Sun suggests to many scientists that we may be facing not global warming, but a new Big Chill.     

An excellent article on climate change...


... and another, this time from the Polish Academy of Sciences 

To be specific, from their Committee on Geological Sciences who have published a translation of
their document on global warming (pdf format)  

Hunting comes to Strasbourg 

Arriving at the Strasbourg parliament on April 23rd, I found a dozen greyhounds outside (see photo on my web-site).  They were part of a "manifestation" (demonstration) drawing attention to the inhumane treatment of greyhounds in some EU member-states (not to mention Spain).

Inside the building, we had the opening of a sporting art exhibition sponsored by the Hunting inter-group, of which I am a regular member.  In attendance were two hunting-horn bands, one from France and one from Germany, who regaled us with their music. 

In my teens I used to play the trumpet, so I know how difficult it is to get a good range of notes from a horn without keys.  Of course the hunting horns have no keys, and I was amazed at their ability to handle melodies.  Even more amazing was the fact that the French group were sponsored by the French government.  If only we had a British government with such positive support for country pursuits.  

Recently on the blog: http://rogerhelmermep.wordpress.com 

AFRICA NEEDS TRADE, NOT AID:  Hear the counter-intuitive views of Thompson Ayodele from Nigeria. 

SEA LEVEL RISE: “THE GREATEST LIE EVER TOLD”: a scientist specialising in the study of oceans argues that sea level is not rising at all, and presents the evidence

AL GORE: GREEN MAN DENIES GREED: Al Gore has made $100 million out of his climate hysteria, and may yet stand to make a billion.

PARKINSON’S DISEASE AND ANIMAL TESTING: Why we should minimise animal testing where we can -- and why we can't do without it, yet.

LIBERTAS AND THE EUROPEAN ELECTIONS: Why Declan Ganley's "Libertas" Party will do the euro-sceptic cause no good.

SCORING POINTS, ACHIEVING RANKINGS: An analysis of the work-rate of MEPs

THE BUDGET: TRAGEDY WITH BANALITY: Why Alistair Darling was wrong (as if you didn't know!)

LORD STERN: “IGNORANT AND RECKLESS”: And why Lord Stern was very, very wrong.  His book “Blueprint for a Safer Planet” might be better titled "Blueprint for a Poorer Planet".

DRIVING WITH THE HANDBRAKE ON: Labour's approach to the construction industry

ROAD SAFETY: LABOUR TURNS THE CLOCK BACK: Labour talks about road safety, but it's just their old anti-car prejudice.

PRINCE CHARLES GETS IT RIGHT:  Prince Charles on the Chelsea Barracks


100,000 EXTRA PAGES OF EU RULES UNDER LABOUR: More than we can read, or understand, or implement.  Britain drowns under EU red tape.

SPINNING OUT OF CONTROL: My take on Damian McBride  

Jamie Oliveoil's Recipe for EU Agriculture Fudge 

This is a must-see video clip:

Quote of the month:

"The early bird gets the worm, but it's the second mouse that gets the cheese"

-- traditional, courtesy of Chris Heaton-Harris's grandmother  

Czech Republic: Vaclav Klaus 

Also on April 23rd (busy day!) I was accosted in the parliament by an attractive young lady with a microphone, closely followed by a guy with a video camera.  It was Czech TV, with a standard question for MEPs -- "What is the first thing that comes into your mind when I mention the Czech Republic?".  I replied "Your wonderful President Vaclav Klaus, and his courageous stand on the Lisbon Treaty, and on Global Warming!"  I bet they use the clip!  

More correspondence with Hans-Gert

Back in March I wrote to Hans-Gert Pöttering regarding the Lisbon Treaty. Clearly he feels the matter warrants much attention as this week he finally got back to me with an answer, stating that we would have to "agree to disagree on this one". He's not wrong there.  

Here is my reply:

Dear Hans-Gert,

Thank you for your very reasonable reply of April 22nd to my letter of March 21st. As you say, we shall have to agree to disagree over the merits of the Lisbon Treaty. However, I was interested to note that your home country of Germany appears not to have ratified it so far.

You put it to me that we cannot know how many citizens support the treaty, but we could easily find out -- by simply holding referenda across the EU member states. Surely with regard to constitutional changes such as those proposed in the treaty, the people deserve to have their voices heard directly?

Best regards, Roger.


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