STRAIGHT TALKING March 2014
Roger Helmer’s electronic newsletter from Strasbourg
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Spring Conference in Torquay
It’s a long way to the British Riviera, but hundreds of UKIP stalwarts were there at the Riviera Centre on February 28th for our Spring Conference. It was a pleasure to meet UKIP Councillor Julien Parrott in his (non-party) rôle as Chairman of the Torbay Council, welcoming delegates to the city. Also a pleasure to meet Miss Devon, Leanne Ward, who is about to run a Marathon for local charities, and was accepting donations from Conference delegates.
The Conference was an excellent and inspirational event, and without the little embarrassments that marked our main conference last year. It’s clear that the whole Party is focussed on the May elections, both European and local, and expectations in the Party and in the media are high. The mood is buoyant. Now we have to deliver, and I’m sure we will.
My 10:45 speech on Energy issues was well received (find it here). I did the political stuff, and I was grateful to Dr. Lawrence Haar, a man with twenty years’ energy industry experience in evaluation and risk management, who followed up with a more technical presentation.
I was also delighted by an extra, unscheduled speech from Dr. Peter Courtney, who for many years has been European Managing Director for Financial Services for Accenture, the well-known accounting and consultancy firm. The main thrust of his remarks was that countries not in the EU, like China, Japan and the USA, seem to have no difficulty selling into the EU market, and nor will an independent Britain. British companies, he says, will be no worse off, and probably better off, outside the EU. During his time with Accenture in Europe, he found many competitors from outside the EU trading successfully in the EU.
This is of course no more than we in UKIP have been saying for years, but it’s important and reassuring to have prominent business leaders confirming the message.
Love Britain: Vote UKIP. I was immediately struck by the Conference slogan, really to-the-point, and even more succinct than my famous “Love Europe: Hate the EU”. But it didn’t take the media too long to dig out the fact that a rather similar slogan had once been used by the BNP. OK guys. But hang on a minute. No political party has proprietary rights to the words “Britain”, “Love” and “Vote”, and there are only so many ways of putting them together.
But there’s a more important and substantive point here. The BNP is a thoroughly odious and racist party. But in the past they were rather clever at putting together innocent-sounding literature stressing their pro-British credentials and down-playing the racist angle, and as a consequence a great many decent, patriotic British people voted for them. Now UKIP has given those voters a respectable alternative which is emphatically supportive of our country, but without the offensive racist baggage of the BNP. As a result, the BNP is now little more than a rump pressure group, where irreconcilable fascist agitators gnaw the bones of their ancient resentments. That’s an achievement that I think we in UKIP can be proud of.
Switzerland and Lithuania
Over the Conference period I was accompanied by Rito, a video journalist from Swiss National Television. Following the recent Swiss Referendum (where the Swiss voted narrowly to apply immigration controls to EU citizens), there is considerable interest in Switzerland in the rise of euro-realist parties across the EU.
The following Monday, we were campaigning in Northampton and meeting the press outside the Guildhall. I was offering leaflets to passers-by, and one young man proved to be a Lithuanian, who had been working in Northamptonshire for some years. I wondered how he would react to our commitment to curb mass immigration, but he turned out to be a star.
“When I arrived in Britain, I could earn decent money, but with all this new immigration wages have gone down”. If I’d written the script, he could not have done better. We’re constantly making the argument that it’s the lower-wage, lower-skilled workers who are most damaged by mass immigration. As my MEP-candidate colleague Barry Mahoney put it, “It’s the last wave of immigrants who are most damaged by the next wave”.
Aren’t the Lib-Dems preposterous?
Europe faces an unemployment catastrophe. There are around eleven million – yes, eleven million – unemployed young people in Europe. Youth unemployment is 60% in Greece, and nearly as bad in Spain, Italy, Portugal. A whole generation effectively thrown on the scrap-heap in the name of European Integration and monetary union.
And this is the moment when Nick Clegg chooses to coin the slogan “In Europe, In Work”. No Nick. It’s “In Europe, Out of Work! ”. See my five minute rebuttal here or read about it: “The EU is a Job-Shredding Machine”.
Attention East Midlands Farmers!
I still get farmers saying that they sympathise with UKIP’s position on Europe, but they say can’t vote UKIP because they need their CAP cheque to survive. Of course they do. UKIP recognises the need for on-going farm subsidies, given that most agriculture around the world is subsidised one way or the other. We just think that a subsidy régime designed in Britain for British farmers would be a better deal than a subsidy régime designed in Brussels for French farmers. And of course, outside the EU, free from our £53 million-a-day EU subscription, we’d be better able to afford it.
UKIP Agriculture Spokesman Stuart Agnew recently gave a speech on UKIP policy, and although it’s forty minutes long, it’s well worth watching for anyone with a farming interest.
We’ve now had meet-the-press events with our candidate team at towns and cities up and down the region, most recently in Corby, Northampton and Daventry. Find a mass of photographs here.
The next phase is public meetings, again across the region, with customised leaflets for distribution ahead of the meetings in local areas. All our candidates are hugely grateful for the support we’ve had from members and activists on all these projects – not least the leafleting effort, which is hard work and not very glamorous, but hugely important.
For details of up-coming events, ask Paul Oakden for his Campaign Bulletin.
I can honestly say that in fifteen years of politics and campaigning, I’ve never seen such positive responses from members of the public in the street and on the doorstep. We can’t afford to let up, but we can look forward to the election with confidence.
New Tesla battery factory
I have written more than once to express my doubts about electric vehicles. High cost, limited range, availability of re-charge points, slow re-charge, expensive mid-life battery replacement. Nevertheless, I think those problems will be solved sooner or later.
So I was interested to read that the US company Tesla, which has already produced some exciting (but low-volume, high-cost) electric cars, is planning a monster five-billion-dollar “Giga-factory” to produce high-volume batteries. It’s a huge gamble — I fear that today’s battery technology may soon be looking obsolescent — but it could bring a viable electric vehicle closer.
Certainly a lower-cost, mass-produced battery would make the economics of electric vehicles more attractive. I believe that Tesla is also pursuing the question of re-charging infrastructure and distribution. That just leaves the electricity generating industry with the challenge of hugely increased demand when and if the market for electronic cars takes off. But I’ve seen several papers showing that on today’s generating mix, an electric car’s overall emissions (including the power station) are greater than a modern, small diesel. And there’s the small problem of Finance Ministers looking to recover on electricity the revenue they’ll be losing on lower petrol/diesel sales.
One thing’s for sure. Wind farms won’t hack it.
Wind Turbine Syndrome
While we’re on the subject of wind turbines, you might like to note that the Irish Health Department has officially recognised – and warned against – the dangers of “Wind Turbine Syndrome”, the proven adverse health effects on local residents caused by wind farms. Can we sue, I wonder?
We’re starting to get people asking “If you agree with Political Union in the United Kingdom, why don’t you agree with it in the EU?” (There’s usually a smirk here, as though they think they’ve made a clever point).
In fact they have no real point at all. It’s a bit like saying: “If you agree that cough medicine is good for coughs, why don’t you agree it’s good for acne?”
But it requires a slightly fuller answer. Find it here.
Talking of parallels, there are some euro-sceptics who like to draw parallels between the EU and the Soviet Union (they speak of the “EUSSR”), or with other authoritarian régimes that had supranational ambitions, like Nazi Germany.
I personally don’t like to make those comparisons, because they sound rather strident and exaggerated, and are too easy for opponents to ridicule. But there is an element of truth. Not only does the EU have big black limousines for the Commissars, and five year plans. It is also determined to ignore dissent, and to press ahead at whatever cost with the creation of supranational structures which lack legitimacy and are wholly unresponsive to the views of citizens.
Comparisons with Germany are also not entirely far-fetched, and go back way beyond Hitler. I found a quote from September 1914. The Kaiser’s Chancellor, Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg wrote “Russia must be thrust back as far as possible from Germany’s eastern frontier and her domination over non-Russian vassal peoples broken….We must create a central European economic association through common customs treaties to include France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Austria-Hungary, Poland and perhaps Italy, Sweden and Norway…. all its members will be formally equal but in practice will be under German leadership…..”
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, as the French say.
Savaged by a dead sheep
On March 5th, Nick Clegg made a speech attacking UKIP MEPs for failing to work hard, and I appeared on the BBC’s Daily Politics Show with Andrew Neil, to rebut Clegg, against a previously unknown Lib-Dem MP. Apparently we are “lazy and ineffective”. But I’ve never met anyone who works quite so hard as Nigel Farage – and I have to say that in a 49 year career, I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard as I have in recent months.
And ineffective? UKIP has been largely instrumental in turning around the debate in the UK, so that issues like leaving the EU, and controlling immigration, which were almost unmentionable a few years back, are now in the public square. We were the ones who pointed out that the Emperor has no clothes. We have done a great public service.
I was able to say that I personally have a voting record in the EP better than the average of the twelve Lib-Dem MEPs. And that Nigel’s voting participation rate is double Nick Clegg’s. And that a recent Times report shows that of the four major parties, UKIP Councillors have the best attendance record, while the Lib-Dems come bottom. I think the Lib-Dems have scored an own-goal on this one.
Of course Lib-Dem MEPs want to build Europe, so they’re happy to sit in dusty committee rooms voting through news laws (and maxing-out on their daily allowances). We on the other hand are elected to oppose integration, and to oppose British membership of the EU, and we can often do that best by campaigning in the UK rather than by sitting around in Brussels.
Later in the day, I was doing a radio interview on the same topic, and I concluded by saying of Clegg’s attack, “Where it mattered, it was not true. And where it was true, it didn’t matter”. Nice turn of phrase, I thought.
Right at the end of Daily Politics, Andrew Neil asked me if I thought UKIP would win the election, and I replied that that was our objective. Quick as a flash he replied, “I’ll send you a book on expectation management“. Of course we know all about expectation management, and the silly game of saying you’ll do badly so it looks good afterwards. In this case I think we’re right to set the bar high, for three reasons:
1) It’s by no means unrealistic
2) It sets an exciting and challenging objective for the Party, and
3) An expectation that we may win helps to legitimise a decision to vote for us. If everyone else is expected to vote UKIP, it must be OK for me too.
Quote of the Month
Margaret Thatcher: “Europe is the result of plans. It is, in fact, a classic utopian project, a monument to the vanity of intellectuals, a programme whose inevitable destiny is failure”.
Also have a look at the UKIP MEP web-site www.ukipmeps.org