April 2013

 

The Great Lady passes

I first heard that Lady Thatcher had passed away when BBC Radio Derby called me for a comment, and I was taken aback by the very real and immediate sense of personal loss which hit me.  I remembered the few personal contacts I had had with her — for example the occasion in Seoul, Korea, at a British Chamber of Commerce breakfast when Korean journalists and photographers were milling round her, and she got them sorted out and into line with a few crisp, well-chosen words.  Koreans are not reared to respect women, but they recognise the stamp of authority when they hear it.

On April 11th, I was speaking at a UKIP energy meeting in Bedford, and Local Chairman George Konstandinidis started the event with a minute’s silence for Maggie.  I was delighted that a UKIP meeting was happy to show that respect for Lady Thatcher.

Yet she is often misrepresented.  Climate alarmists love to claim that she was on their side.  True, she was one of the earliest world leaders to identify a possible issue with climate — but also, with her customary incisiveness, one of the first to see through it.  This what she wrote as early as 2002:

The doomsters’ favourite subject today is climate change. This has a number of attractions for them. First, the science is extremely obscure so they cannot easily be proved wrong. Second, we all have ideas about the weather: traditionally, the English on first acquaintance talk of little else. Third, since clearly no plan to alter climate could be considered on anything but a global scale, it provides a marvellous excuse for worldwide, supra-national socialism. All this suggests a degree of calculation. Yet perhaps that is to miss half the point. Rather, as it was said of Hamlet that there was method in his madness, so one feels that in the case of some of the gloomier alarmists there is a large amount of madness in their method. — Margaret Thatcher, Statecraft, HarperCollins 2002

 

 

“This is the very symbol and measure of your failure”

On March 20th, I had the privilege of standing in for Nigel Farage at the Conference of Presidents open meeting in Brussels.  Nigel was in London to cover the Budget.  The meeting is a sort of plenary session — all MEPs are invited, and many attend.  I had 2½ minutes in the first round, and one minute in the second (after the responses from Rumpy Pumpy, and from Barroso’s Deputy).

I took the opportunity to deliver a few home truths.  On the Great Cyprus Bank Raid, with the proposed confiscation of funds from savers and pensioners, I said “This is not a tax.  This is EU theft with a fancy name.  This is the very symbol and measure of your failure and breach of faith”.   Video link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=er8pCbZhMgc&list=PLCECC1FEAB805A903&feature=player_embedded

And in conclusion, quoting Oliver Cromwell: “You have sat here too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”  I would not normally invoke God in a parliamentary speech, but in quoting Cromwell’s famous line, I felt it was justified.

In Rumpy Pumpy’s response (blog link), he blamed the high youth unemployment rates in Southern Europe on failings by national governments, comparing them unfavourably with Germany — completely oblivious to the vast distortions which the €uro has created, and which are causing the mayhem in the ClubMed countries.  In my one-minute response, I castigated him for his apparent ignorance of basic economics, and I concluded “Gentlemen, you had better get your boots on.  You are the gravediggers of European democracy”.

After my first speech, our dour and humourless President of the parliament, German MEP Martin Schultz, harrumphed, and said something like “Well, at least it proves we’re a democratic assembly when we’re prepared to tolerate remarks like that”.  No Martin.  On the contrary, the fact that you feel the need to comment in that way (it’s not the first time he’s done it) shows the opposite.  It shows that the parliament is a toothless and docile assembly when its President is so utterly unaccustomed to anything smacking of criticism that it makes him mutter apologetically.

Dissent is at the heart of the democratic process, yet it is almost never heard in Brux and Straz, except from a few UKIP MEPs.

 

 Spring Conference: Nigel Rallies the Troops

The UKIP Spring Conference at ExeterUniversity was a pre-election rally, and the enthusiasm was infectious.  It’s clear that the old parties just don’t know how to address their UKIP “problem”.

We had some excellent external speakers, including Jeremy Nicholson, Director of the Energy Intensive Users Group, who drew attention to the threats posed by both energy pricing and energy security, and the nonsense of current UK energy policy — a point dramatised by the concurrent news that UK gas supplies are dangerously low.  As UKIP energy spokesman, I was delighted to hear an authoritative industry voice effectively endorsing UKIP energy policy.

Then we had Slavi Binev, and EFD MEP from Bulgaria.  He immediately engaged the audience by observing that he had had to reassure Nigel Farage that he had a return ticket to Bulgaria, that he would not claim welfare while in the UK, and that he had no plans to bring his wife, his children, or his horse and cart.  But he also had a serious point: the Bulgarian government, riven with corruption and cronyism, needs to focus on making Bulgaria a country which can fulfil the aspirations of its people — not a country so depressed that many thousands want to leave.

I was delighted to hear presentations on tax policy (Godfrey Bloom recommending flat taxes) and education (Paul Nuttall speaking up for schools vouchers).  Straightforward, common-sense policies which are just too common-sensical for the old parties.

Nigel speech was a barn-stormer, and certainly sent the members away on a high.  But I won’t try to summarise it: find it here: http://www.ukip.org/content/latest-news/2990-nigel-farage-at-exeter-spring-conference

 

So who’s driving the agenda now?

Why did Cameron come up with his half-baked EU referendum plan?  Because he’s running scared of UKIP.  Why did he announce, on the very weekend of the UKIP Spring Conference, a tightening of social housing qualification rules for immigrants?  Same reason.  He knows the public are worried about the impact of opening our borders to Romania and Bulgaria in January — less than nine months away.  The government apparently thinks there may be 13,000 Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants.  Migration Watch, www.migrationwatchuk.org, with a much better forecasting record, think half a million in five years.

Cameron’s plan is good so far as it goes — but it doesn’t go very far.  It applies a sticking plaster to one of the symptoms of our immigration problem.  But it ignores the underlying cause.  UKIP’s radical solution is clear: we need to take back national control of our borders.

And believe it or not, the BBC dug out some rent-a-lefty-cleric Bishop from up north to condemn the plan out of hand.  Amazing how the BBC can be trusted to fly in the face of common sense and public opinion on issues like this.  To the great majority of voters, it seems clear and fair and obvious that people who’ve paid through their taxes for social housing have more right to benefit from it than people from Eastern Europe who just got off the bus at Victoria Coach Station.  But the Great British Public sees these things with greater clarity than sub-Marxist journalists and clerics.

Nonetheless, the key point is this: that in an increasing number of areas, Coalition policy is being driven by UKIP.

 

You can’t trust Brussels’ promises

The Charter of Fundamental Rights guarantees property rights, inter alia.  So why can’t British pensioners with retirement homes in Spain seek redress from Brussels, under the Charter, when the Spanish authorities repossess and demolish their homes?  I’ve dealt with literally hundreds of heart-rending cases of this problem, and I have never seen a happy outcome.

And when I challenge the Commission, they tell me that of course the EU Charter governs EU law, whereas the action of Spanish authorities takes place under national law.  So that’s alright, then (so long as it wasn’t your retirement home that was demolished).

Now we have the Great Cyprus Bank Raid.  But at the height of the banking crisis, the EU declared a “Bank Deposit Guarantee Scheme”.  Everyone with less than €100k in the bank was to be protected.  But them along comes the “Troika” with a plan to confiscate a percentage of such accounts in Cyprus banks.

Challenged on the BBC World at One on March 24th, former Labour MEP Richard Corbett, now Rumpy Pumpy’s spokesman, explained.  The Guarantee was a guarantee against bank failure (or bankruptcy).  But it didn’t stop a member-state government applying a “wealth tax” as he put it (I’d call it expropriation) to bank accounts.  Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted the catch.  He failed to mention, of course, that the only reason the Cyprus government was proposing the expropriation was precisely because the banks had failed.

So now we know.  A Brussels promise is good only until the EU’s nomenklatura decide it’s inconvenient.  Then it becomes worthless.  A bit like the Bank of Cyprus.

The Wisdom of Shakespeare

Fifty-five years ago, in 1958, I played a small part in a school production of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice.  I was recently re-reading the play, in the Folio Society letterpress edition, and I was struck by the reasons given for the Court of Venice to honour Shylock’s bond, horrifying though the terms of the bond were.

Rejecting the plea to make an exception, Portia replies: “It must not be. There is no power in Venice Can alter a decree establishèd.  ‘Twill be recorded for a precedent, And many an error by the same example Will rush into the state. It cannot be”.  And in the previous Act, the Merchant himself, Antonio, says “The Duke cannot deny the course of law For the commodity that strangers have With us in Venice, if it be denied, Will much impeach the justice of the State, Since that the trade and profit of the city Consisteth of all nations”.

Sadly, the powers that be in the EU seem not to have studied their Shakespeare.  They seem to imagine that in Cyprus they can simply expropriate the funds of foreigners (and Cypriots), arguing that Cyprus is a “special case”.  They should be warned.  It will indeed be taken for a precedent, and certainly it will much impeach the justice of the EU.  I rather suspect that we shall hear more from Russia on the question.  They are rather sore at the loss of billions of €uros.

More generally, the trade and profit of the €urozone, like that of Venice, consisteth of all nations, who will now become rather reluctant to leave their funds in €urozone bank deposits.  Banking depends on confidence, and the EU has put that confidence in jeopardy.

Worry about the cold, not Global Warming

An excellent piece by Specky Editor Fraser Nelson http://is.gd/rqKyjg, titled “It’s the cold, not global warming, that we should be worried about”.  Fraser points out that typically in the UK, some ten times as many people (mainly pensioners) die of cold as die of heat.  Indeed, he says that since 2003 — the heat-wave that helped push the global warming agenda — 250,000 Brits have died from cold, only 10,000 from heat.

As a matter of public policy, therefore, the government should be ensuring that we have affordable energy, and should be helping people to avoid fuel poverty.  This is also UKIP’s objective.  www.affordable-energy.eu.  But in fact, government policy is doing the exact opposite.  In its futile and pointless efforts to mitigate climate change and save the planet, it is deliberately pushing prices up, undermining competitiveness, driving energy intensive businesses off-shore, and forcing pensioners into fuel poverty.

It does this by renewables subsidies, by pressing ahead with grotesquely unrealistic wind energy targets, by closing coal-fired power stations, and by signing up to the EU’s ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme).  But worse than that, it’s now just brought in its Carbon Floor Price (because the ETS was failing to deliver sufficiently high prices).

I am horrified by the sheer dishonesty of the Coalition, which is seeking to claim that its policies actually reduce energy costs.  They make this preposterous claim in the basis that if you spend a fortune on insulating your home and replacing all your appliances with the latest high-efficiency versions, you’ll use less energy.  But the people most at risk, on low incomes or pensions, simply can’t afford to do that, Green Deal or no Green Deal.  It’s like saying that bread has gone up 50%, but that bread is now really cheaper, if you choose to eat half as much.

I take issue Fraser Nelson on only one point.  He writes “The reaction to the 2003 heat-wave was extraordinary.  It was blamed for 2000 deaths ….. such language is never used about cold, which kills ten times as many people each winter ….. Before long every political party had signed up to the green agenda”.  Not quite true, Fraser.  There was one political party that didn’t sign up, that campaigns for Affordable Energy, that rejects renewables unless, like hydro, they are economically sustainable.  A party that rejects playground technologies like wind farms, and calls for proven, grown-up technologies like nuclear, gas and coal.  That party is called UKIP.

 What a single UKIP Councillor can do

Having had the pleasure of working with new UKIP Councillor Donna Edmunds in Brussels in previous years, I was glad to hear of her efforts to stand up for the common voter.

Standing up to be counted, she was the only councillor on Lewes Council who voted against signing up to the damaging “Climate Local Commitment” and council tax rises that would hit the poorest. She said:

 “Like most sensible people I’m entirely in favour of using resources wisely and efficiently. But the Climate Local scheme does neither” and “spending money on so-called green energy initiatives, at a time when the council has just decided to take more money from the poorest in the district through higher council tax and social rents is inexcusable. Taxpayers expect us to use their money on vital services and on a safety net for people in times of need. We’re using it to build renewable energy follies that do nothing for the planet, but only serve to make us feel good about ourselves.”

 

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Donna left the Tories in January in protest over the Council Tax rebate scheme, saying that the Conservative Party had “lost their way”, and we are more than happy that she found her way to UKIP!

Higher tax rates are not the answer

In the post-Budget period, the papers were pointing to a potential £25bn fiscal black hole in a couple of years, and suggesting that more tax was the only answer.  More ominously, the Treasury’s “Red Book” says “it would, of course, be possible to do more of this consolidation through tax instead”.

How many times do we have to say it? No, it wouldn’t be possible.

Just think it through.  First, tax-payers change their behaviour to minimise their tax liability, so the higher tax rate collects less revenue that the Treasury expects.  Secondly, higher tax rates depress growth and investment and economic activity — and the one thing everybody agrees is necessary for recovery is growth.  Higher taxes also depress employment.  That means higher costs for welfare.

So.  Less revenue than they thought.  Slower growth, less economic activity, fewer jobs.  Higher welfare costs.  The net effect of all these impacts is that higher tax rates very probably reduce revenues.  Counter-intuitive.  Beyond the reach of most journalists, and (I fear) of most Treasury officials.  But sadly, true.  We solve the problem by cutting spending (starting with EU costs, climate mitigation costs, foreign aid).  Not by raising taxes.

 

Debt, debt and more debt

Alexis de Tocqueville remarked that “The American republic will endure until the day that Congress discovers it can bribe the public with the public’s money”.

It would be unfair to say that Gordon Brown was the first person in Britain to discover that you could bribe the public with their own money.  But he made it into a fine art, and took it to a level never previously foreseen.

Our present Coalition government declared that their primary concern — the whole purpose for which they set aside party differences and joined together in common purpose — was to sort out the UK’s fiscal problem.  They keep declaring that the deficit is coming down.  Sadly most of the country thinks that debt and deficit are the same thing, so if the deficit is coming down, all will be well.  But first of all, the deficit isn’t going down.  It was £120 bn this year, and it will be £120 bn next year.  And secondly, that’s just new spending going on to the national credit card.  It means that the total National Debt is increasing by £120 bn a year.

First we have to get the deficit to zero.  Then the National Debt will stop going up.  That was promised for 2015, but is now not likely until 2018, if ever.  Then — horror of horrors — we have to start repaying the debt (as well as financing the massive interest bill).

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but our fiscal position is far worse than most people imagine.  And raising taxes is not a solution: they are already so high that further rises are more likely to reduce revenues than to increase them.  Indeed, counter-intuitively, well-targeted tax reductions (for example, scrapping the air passenger duty) could actually increase revenues.

I can offer only a glimmer of good news.  The total cost of the UK’s EU membership is estimated by Tim Congdon at £150 bn a year — even more than the deficit.  Getting Britain out of the EU may be the only way to bail us out.

 

Press Freedom

It’s easy for Hugh Grant to point to a picture of Milly Dowler, and whip up hysteria over phone hacking.  And it’s easy to forget that it was the press itself which broke the scandal.

Our free press turns a spotlight on mischief and wrong-doing, not only of others, but of itself as well.  It also broke the MPs’ expenses scandal story.  So if we give control of the press to MPs, do we think we’ll be better off?  Giving anyone the ability to control the press creates an overwhelming temptation for those in control to protect their own interests.  Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?  Who indeed.

Churchill said that a free press is the unsleeping guardian of every other right that free men prize.  I think I’ll trust Churchill before I trust Hugh Grant.

 

Simple Gifts

I woke up one morning in March to the sound of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring on Classic FM.  They were playing that catchy folk tune “Simple Gifts”, and of course it’s impossible to hear it without remembering the words:

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be.

Then of course it struck me: No!  Freedom is not a gift.  It’s a right.  A right that may need to be striven and fought for, and defended (the price of liberty is eternal vigilance), but nonetheless a right.  Of course there are those, especially in Brussels, who want you to believe that freedom is a gift.  A generous offering from the European Union, enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.  “Freedom is a benefit of EU Citizenship”, they proclaim, as though we in Britain had no idea of the concept before 1973.  In just the same way, they expect us to thank the EU for clean beaches and clean air, as though no country outside the EU had decent environmental standards.  Yet I imagine that Norway probably has air and beaches as clean as those in Sweden, although Norway is not an EU member.

When the Americans drafted their Declaration of Independence, they did not say “All Americans shall have rights determined and gifted to them by political institutions in Washington”.  No.  They said “We hold these truths to be selfevident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”.  Whether you believe in a Creator or not, the point stands.  Every human being is entitled to certain inalienable rights, and these rights do not and must not depend on political institutions.

This is why I am unhappy about Cameron’s plan for a British “Bill of Rights”.  Our rights are already codified in our hybrid Constitution, and in our Common Law, and that is enough.  Write them down in a Bill of Rights, and before you know it, judicial activism and interpretational creep will create perverse incentives and unintended consequences — as we have seen with the ECJ’s over-interpretation of the European Convention.

Of course there’s that second line “The gift to come down where we ought to be”.  I don’t know about “ought”, but I don’t recall in my youth having ambitions to be where I am now.  I wanted a Jaguar, and eventually I got one, so that’s one box ticked.  But I had no intention of spending years in Asia, or of ending up living in a small village in Leicestershire, or of having a second career in politics, or working long after the statutory retirement age.  So I guess I’d say “It’s a gift to come down where you never intended to be, but to find you’re very happy when you get there”.

Timothy Kirkhope makes a nice try

On March 12th, we voted in Strasbourg on the parliament’s report on the EU’s Multi-Annual Financial Framework, or six-year budget.  The parliament rejected the reduced budget plan agreed by the Council of Ministers in February.  It demanded more spending, the end of the British rebate, and EU-level taxes.  And Lib-Dem MEP Bill Newton Dunn voted for all of that.  I have written elsewhere about his pathetic attempts to pretend, on BBC Radio Nottingham, that he wasn’t really voting for an increase — he appeared not to have read the proposal on which he voted (Link).

The Conservatives, seeking to support Cameron’s deal, tabled an amend­ment which would have backed the reduced budget proposal.  Then, when we in UKIP voted against their amendment, former Tory delegation leader Timothy Kirkhope took to Twitter to accuse UKIP of failing to vote for lower EU budget.  Nice try, Timothy.  But UKIP doesn’t want any EU budget at all (or at least wants the UK to play no part in it).  So we’re not about to vote to support any EU budget, even if it’s a few billions lower than another proposal.

The clue is in the name, Timothy.  We’re the United Kingdom Independence Party.  That means we don’t want Britain to be in the EU, and we don’t want to contribute a penny piece to any EU budget.

An odd coincidence

It suddenly occurred to me — I don’t know why — that the period during which the EU has failed to get its accounts signed off — eighteen years — http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/eu/2013/02/eu-budget-cut.html  is more or less the same as the period during which we have observed no significant global warming, which is sixteen or seventeen years, depending on whom you ask. http://www.thegwpf.org/content/uploads/2013/03/Whitehouse-GT_Standstill.pdf   A couple of totally unrelated and not quite identical numbers, you may say.

And yet there is a link.  Surely global warming and European integration are the two over-arching myths of this post-religious age.  And both are failing.  Both have feet of clay.  The climate myth is based essentially on the admitted warming that took place from 1975 to 1998, as the upward phase of both a long and a short natural climate cycle reinforced each other.  Since then, atmospheric CO2 has increased, but global mean temperatures have stubbornly flat-lined, unequivocally refuting the theory, and those sophisticated but misleading climate models.

And the European Union and its monetary union are experiencing problems which are very severe and probably terminal.

One other similarity.  These two myths are each costing Britain tens of billions of pounds a year — expenditure which is worse than wasted.  It is actually damaging and counter-productive.

Imagine a Britain which had abandoned these two over-arching myths, and was, as a consequence, saving the economy, at a conservative estimate, £100 billion a year.  We should be rich and prosperous.  And yet no political party is offering that vision.  No political party, that is, except UKIP.

Calling all entrepreneurs

In the Sunday Telegraph on April 7th, Christopher Booker rightly ridicules the absurd idea, beloved of EU apparatchiks and the wind industry, that the batteries of electric cars like the Nissan Leaf can be used as a sort of distributed national battery, to smooth out the intermittency of wind power. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/green-motoring/9974943/Beware-the-wrong-kind-of-Leafs-on-the-road.html  The idea is that soon we’ll have a million electric vehicles, which is a whole lot of batteries.  These will be connected to the grid for much of the time.  When the wind blows and demand is low, they can soak up the excess power.  When the wind drops and demand is high, they could even return power to the grid.

Booker reflects on the chagrin of motorists, getting into the car for the morning commute on a calm day, only to discover that their batteries have been depleted by the breakfast-time demand surge.

I have a vision of a future Britain: railways disrupted by autumn leaves on the line; motorways by dead Leafs on the carriageway.

But I also see the germ of a new product idea.  It should be fairly straightforward to design a simple electronic device which would sense when your car’s battery was full, and disconnect it from the mains!  Maybe I should patent it.

But then who’s betting that we’ll have a million all-electric cars in Britain any time soon?

Wells’ nightmare too close to reality

H.G. Wells virtually invented science fiction, with early novels like The War of the Worlds http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._G._Wells’_War_of_the_Worlds_(2005_film) and The Time Machine http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Time_Machine.

If we could put him in his Time Machine and bring him forward 120 years to 2013, he would perhaps be shocked to see mighty wind turbines marching across the landscape, although maybe surprised to note that unlike his Martian war machines, they seem to have not three legs, but three arms.

At least our wind turbines don’t kill people (or at least, not many).  They just destroy our competitiveness and undermine our prosperity.

Web-site up-date

I’ve been a bit worried for some time that the photo-gallery on my web-site wasn’t in date order, so it was difficult to see what was new.  And the video list was simply a line of indistinguishable thumb-nail stills.  I’ve now had it up-dated.  So the picture gallery shows most recent pictures first.  And the video list has separate icons and titles, so you can identify the subject for each.  Please do check it out at www.rogerhelmer.com.  Happy viewing.

 

Conclusion

That’s it from Strasbourg for the April session.  Please remember to visit my web-site, & my blog. And follow me on Twitter: @RogerHelmerMEP

Also have a look at the UKIP MEP web-site www.ukipmeps.org