8STRAIGHT TALKING December 2015
Roger Helmer’s electronic newsletter from Strasbourg
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To all my readers:
A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
EU Renegotiation hits the buffers
I almost feel sorry for our Prime Minister. After all the brave words and heightened expectations, he finally sets out his demands for his renegotiation. And they prove to be a damp squib. He has laboured mightily, and brought forth a mouse.
But then, to complete his humiliation, and despite his poverty of ambition, and the trivial nature of his requests, he is told by the powers that be in the EU — by Juncker, and Tusk, and especially by Angela Merkel — that his requests are unacceptable. Really the only substantive request (the others are fundamentally cosmetic) is for a restriction on migrants’ welfare benefits.
The objective is to limit immigration, but the measure requested is totally inadequate. We must control our borders. We ourselves must decide who enters our country and who does not. A nation is practically defined as a territory that controls its borders. Fiddling with welfare benefits is not enough. But Cameron can’t have it anyway.
In desperation he has floated the idea (and horrified the Brussels establishment) by suggesting that if he gets nothing, he may have to campaign to leave the EU. One Brussels diplomat likened his behaviour to that of Violet Elizabeth Bott in the “Just William” stories — “I’ll scweam and scweam till I’m sick — I can, you know!”.
My first thought was that this was just a negotiating ploy. But really, if (as now seems likely) Cameron comes back with nothing — not even waving a piece of paper saying “Peace in our Time”, or “Game, set and match” — where can he go to hide? He can hardly say “My renegotiation came to nothing, but I still want you to vote to stay in an unreformed EU”. Maybe he would do the only decent and honourable thing, and recommend an OUT vote. But don’t hold your breath.
The Oldham by-election
Let’s be honest: the Oldham result was a disappointment. I don’t think we had seriously expected to win the seat, but many of us thought we would come close, and would dramatically cut the Labour majority. We had an excellent candidate in John Bickley, who deserved a better outcome, and we ran what many in the party regard as perhaps our most professional by election campaign to date.
I think all of our MEPs went to Oldham to help in the campaign, and most contributed to the funding.
At the same time, Labour moderates were talking up the risk Labour faced, in a clear attempt to destabilise Jeremy Corbyn. One speculated on a three-figure Labour majority. This ploy back-fired. By lowering Labour expectations, they made the actual outcome look like an endorsements of Corbyn by the electorate.
So what happened? There have been many questions about the postal votes in the constituency. Tellers reported box after box filled almost exclusively with Labour votes. I understand that Labour on the day scarcely bothered with tellers at polling stations — I suspect they were confident they had a strong enough lead in postal votes before the polls even opened.
Where does that leave the parties? Labour delighted in the short run, but with Corbyn seemingly endorsed, piling up problems for voting in May. UKIP with more realistic expectations in such very hard-core Labour seats. The Tories quietly pleased that Jeremy Corbyn (whom they regard as their ace-in-the-hole) looks like surviving a little longer. Oh, and the Lib-Dems and the Greens crying into their beer and lamenting their lost deposits.
There’s something very satisfying about the Greens losing their deposit in the middle of the Paris COP21 climate conference.
Introducing the ADDE
Here in Strasbourg and Brussels, we’ve formed an alliance of like-minded parties from across the EU (including some member-states not yet represented in our EFDD Group). I stress that this is simply an alliance of parties, not a pan-European party. We as UKIP want no part in creating new EU institutions, and we wouldn’t dream of sailing under any kind of pan-European party flag.
But we can benefit by working with others across Europe who share our vision of free, democratic and independent nation-states, trading and cooperating together, but not bound by supra-national institutions.
And as it happens, we can also access EU funding to support our work. In the past there has been some discussion within the party about the propriety of using these funds, so let me make a couple of points clear. First, if we didn’t use this money, it would not be returned to nation-states or to tax-payers. Second, it would actually go to pan-European parties like the EPP (Christian Democrats) and the PSE (socialists) who would use it to promote their vision of an integrated, federalist Europe.
So by setting up the ADDE we are not only accessing funds to promote our agenda — we are also denying those funds to the bad guys. I believe that this is profoundly worthwhile. We are in a position to undertake (for example) opinion surveys, and independent economic studies, which are hugely helpful in making the eurosceptic case.
Expect announcements shortly based on our recent opinion polling on the EU’s current policy towards Turkey. And meantime, visit the ADDE website.
Taking the climate debate to Paris
On Thursday December 3rd I went to Paris (on my way home from Brussels) to speak at a fringe meeting around the UN’s COP21 Climate Conference. Called “Paris Climate Challenge“, and organised by the redoubtable Philip Foster, it brought together a number of prominent climate sceptics. I was joined on the platform by my good colleague and Agriculture Spokesman Stuart Agnew MEP (Eastern Region), who described the problems he had faced, and the losses he had incurred in his farming business, as a result of decisions made to respond to “Global Warming” — before he realised there were problems with the theory.
I spoke about the fact that whatever we think about man-made climate change, the policies we are adopting will make no difference to atmospheric CO2 levels. Here in the EU we are not cutting emissions — we are merely exporting them. But we are of course undermining competitiveness and doing huge damage to European economies.
My comments on my blog attracted the usual torrent of ill-informed abuse from critics (see “The Ignorance of the Warmists“), as well as an attack from someone who should know better, Professor Michael Merrifield of the University of Nottingham. He seems to make a virtue of toeing the Warmist line (and perhaps wisely, as this seems these days to be a condition of academic advancement). As a consequence, I felt moved to respond: see my blog post “Academic Trolling” and my Open Letter to the good Professor.
COP21: The Outcome
See my brief speech on the outcome of COP21 (Dec 15th) in Strasbourg:
Hottest Year on Record?
We are already hearing Alarmist claims that 2015 is “the hottest year on record” — although as I write it has several weeks to run (and the claims emerged in November). Of course we should not be too surprised or concerned if it did indeed prove to be the warmest year on record. It is uncontroversial that we have seen a slight warming trend ever since the depths of the Little Ice Age, and that trend may have a while to run before we reach the peak of the current 21st century warming (which I believe to be entirely natural and cyclical).
If we are indeed in a 200-year warming trend, we should expect a series of “warmest years on record” (since the records don’t extend back before the trough of the LIA). But 2015 is not set to be such a year, according to Dr. Roy W Spencer.
Roy W. Spencer received his Ph.D. in meteorology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1981. Before becoming a Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2001, he was a Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre, where he and Dr. John Christy received NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for their global temperature monitoring work with satellites. Dr. Spencer’s work with NASA continues as the U.S. Science Team leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite. He has provided congressional testimony several times on the subject of global warming.
Dr. Spencer writes: “Way back in June, John Christy and I called 2015 as being the warmest year on record…in the surface thermometer data. Given the strong El Nino in progress, on top of the official thermometer data warming trend, this seemed pretty obvious. Of course, everyone has their opinions regarding how good the thermometer temperature trends are, with periodic adjustments that almost always make the present warmer or the past colder. But I’m not going there today… Instead, I’m going to talk about our only truly global dataset: the satellite data. With the Nov 2015 data now in, it’s pretty clear that in our UAH analysis 2015 will only be the 3rd warmest year since the satellite record began in 1979”. So now you know.
What kind of economy would you like?
While the EU faces existential threats, and EU economies stagnate, there’s at least one growth area. The economic verbiage proliferates and spreads like Japanese knotweed. We had the green economy (or perhaps non-economy). We then had the blue economy (big pitch for marine activity – and algae). Since then we’ve had the Circular Economy (don’t ask!); the sharing economy; the collaborative economy.
The new rule in Brussels seems to be “When in doubt, create a new cliché”. It suggests you might know what you’re talking about – especially if your interlocutor hasn’t caught up with the new buzz-word yet. Personally I’d be happy to settle for a good old-fashioned plain-vanilla economy, if only it worked.
On Dec 1st, we had a hearing in the ITRE Committee, chaired by my old friend Jerzy Buzek, with the very comely Polish Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, who has responsibility for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs.
After her presentation we had a debate. A Romanian member was keen to point out that it was his country’s Independence Day. Not to be out-done, a Finnish member added that Finland’s Independence Day came shortly, on December 6th.
I was already on the Speakers’ List, and I’m afraid I couldn’t resist the temptation to start : “Thank you Mr. President. Unlike some colleagues, today is not my country’s Independence Day. However we hope to be able to celebrate our Independence Day after the forthcoming Brexit Referendum”. A desperate hush (plus the odd embarrassed titter) was heard around the committee room.
They’re burning lots of coal in Turkey
I have submitted a Written Question to the European Commission, as follows:
A well-respected think-tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, reports that Turkey plans a massive increase in its coal-fired power capacity, increasing it from 56 to 149 coal-fired power plants.
Is the Commission aware of these figures? Can it confirm them? As the Commission proposes to accelerate plans for Turkish Accession, can the Commission advise if and when it expects Turkey to be subject to EU emissions policies? Does it see Turkey’s proposed expansion of coal-fired generation as a barrier to Turkish accession?
Following the Paris atrocity, the European Commission has been drafting new gun-control legislation. I have already received a number of letters from concerned gun owners, even though the draft legislation has not yet reached the parliament. However two points are very clear.
First, the weapons used in the Paris shootings, and more generally the weapons used in most terrorist attacks, are illegally-held weapons. Changing the law on gun ownership is therefore unlikely to have any significant impact on the availability of weapons to terrorists.
Indeed the EU is clearly the problem, not the solution. There is extensive evidence that for example Croatia, which recently joined the EU, is a hotbed of smuggling – not only of arms, but also of drugs, money, people and even human organs. It has been said (and it is no exaggeration) that free movement of goods and people in the EU (and especially the Schengen area) has led to free movement of Kalashnikovs.
Secondly, so far as we understand it the UK already has some of the tightest firearms regulation in the world. We do not believe that further legislation at the EU level will make any additional contribution to public safety. In any case we in UKIP are opposed in principle to any extension of competences at the EU level.
For these reasons, I believe that we in UKIP will be opposing the new EU Firearms proposal. Sadly, however, I fear it will be approved anyway. There is nothing MEPs like more than a nice piece of gesture politics in response to public concern – whether or not their gesture has any practical effect.
A product complaint
I recently bought a reproduction painting from a firm that specialises in this area. I was not entirely satisfied with my purchase, and the following correspondence ensued. I thought it was hilarious – I hope you agree that it’s worth sharing:
Dear Fred: You will be aware that Modigliani’s “reclining nude” has recently sold in New York for a record sum. Looking at the illustration in the Daily Telegraph, I was shocked to realise that the copy I bought from your company has been cropped, in a prudish attempt to eliminate the naughty bits. I’m fairly astonished that you don’t think your customers are sufficiently grown-up to see the bits that the Telegraph publishes in a national newspaper. I’d be glad of your comments please!
REPLY: Roger: I know you have spent many years dealing with the tawdry depravity of the EU super-state on our behalf, so I simply wanted to save you from more smut…. or….. all our pictures are cropped to fit industry standard frame sizes — unless the picture just happens to be exactly the right ratio in size. We show the images cropped on our website and we do cover this in our FAQs!
What can I do? If we show the lady’s dark triangle we will have to chop off the top of her head! — but if you demand it then it will be my pleasure to comply.
Very Best Regards, Fred.
A silly little story that was featured on Classic FM: some new research from Binghamton University in New York says that use of correct punctuation in text messages is seen as untrustworthy and unfriendly. And a full-stop at the end of a message? That’s a no-no! (I wonder who funded the research?). That’s a problem for congenital pedants like me — I just can’t tolerate text-speak with its grotesque abbreviations (like GR8 for “great”). So I’m afraid you’ll have to use other indicators to decide if my texts messages are sincere and friendly!
I was astonished to see that the greatest French ballerina of recent decades, Sylvie Guillem, seemed to have decided on retirement to take up a career in politics and become a French Socialist MEP. But it was not to be. There turned out to be a slight difference in the spelling of the surname, and although similar in age (less than three years in it), a comparison of the photos showed they were entirely separate people. Pity.
I recently came across a short piece by Shostakovich, entitled “The Assault on beautiful Gorky”, taken from the Soviet propaganda film “The Unforgettable Year 1919”. It has perhaps been overlooked in the annals of classical music because it comes from an egregious piece of Soviet propaganda, and it has been dismissed by critics as mere derivative pot-boiling, and not up to the standard of the composer’s great works. Never mind. I think it’s wonderful, but please form your own view.
I have to admit that I frequently get rather annoyed with neologisms — most of which seem to embody some egregious piece of in-yer-face political correctness, such as “transexclusionary”, or “no-platforming”. But I was rather taken with one which popped up on my blog replies recently: “The Thermageddon Cult”.
Also have a look at the UKIP MEP web-site