May 2013

 

And now, here is the news:

A couple of headlines from May 20th:

Daily Telegraph: “Tories begin defecting to UKIP over ‘loons’ slur”.  Daily Mail: “Tories expect UKIP to take first place in EU elections”.  Need I say more?

The Council Elections:

… a political earthquake

I had expected that UKIP would do well in the Council elections on May 2nd.  But I was simply stunned by the outcome.  We expect to do well in euro-elections, less well in local and Westminster elections.  But to get close to a 25% share in the County Council elections was extraordinary.  We now have three main UK parties: Labour, Tory and UKIP — and one tiddler.

So congratulations to the 139 UKIP councillors elected.  But also congratulations — and thanks — to all those other candidates who wore their socks off and came achingly close to winning.  You will next time.

This is the result of years of work by a great many people.  As Shakespeare put it, “There is a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood leads on to fortune”.  And this is such a moment.

But we should all recall our debt of gratitude to Nigel Farage, who through those years has shouldered the burden in the heat of the day, and positively sparkled in the media during the campaign.  The lion’s share of the credit is his.

It’s odd to think that there’s still a bedraggled group of disgruntled ex-UKIPers sniping from the sidelines, issuing disobliging e-mails, and generally trying to undermine the Party’s work.  The voters have given that sad bunch a mighty rebuff — and given UKIP a huge vote of confidence.

The challenge for our new Councillors, some of whom are new to the game, some on councils with no experienced UKIP presence, is to take huge care to avoid any statement or action which may be picked on by the old parties, or the media, and used to generate negative publicity.  They’ll be out there watching us like hawks.  Careless talk costs lives.

“Worry about the economy, not the EU”

There was a bunch of Telegraph letters on May 15th head-lined “Conservative MPs should focus more on the economy, and less on Europe”.  How naïve can these people be?  Do they really not understand the impact of the EU on our economy?

Economist Tim Congdon estimates the total costs of EU membership (including regulatory costs) at around 10% of GDP.  That’s a huge hit.  I wrote about it at more length on my blog.

There are two main reasons why we want to leave the EU, and the first is precisely this: the economic costs of EU membership.  The other is the little matter of independence, freedom and democracy.

The BBC gets it nearly right….

A long-haul flight gives one an opportunity to catch up on TV programmes one may have missed. On such a flight recently, I watched Robert Peston’s programme on the €uro, from May 2012.

Perhaps surprisingly for the BBC, it was a pretty thorough, warts-and-all critique of the €uro project, pulling no punches.  Well worth watching.

I had only two minor criticisms.  First, it made no attempt to answer the “Where do we go from here?” question.  And second, right at the end as the titles were rolling, Peston says something like “However bad things are, it’s certain that a €uro break-up would be very much worse, leading to depression on a 1930s scale”.

This of course is not fact or news.  It’s a highly controversial opinion.  It’s BBC bias.  It’s also counter-intuitive.  “The €uro has done huge damage, but it’s vital we keep it intact”.  In fact the €uro is a bankruptcy machine, and the sooner we break it up, the better.

Has Peston forgotten the British experience on leaving the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992?  In those days many of the pundits were arguing that leaving the ERM would be a disaster.  In fact it solved the immediate crisis, and ushered in a long period of sustained economic growth.  Many economists believe that a €uro break-up would do the same for Europe.

…. and Marta Andreasen gets it entirely wrong

Pity poor Marta Andreasen MEP.  She timed her defection to have the maximum impact on the Eastleigh by-election — and she sank without trace.  The Tories were trounced by UKIP anyway.  Recently she popped up again in the Indy to criticise UKIP.

We were scaremongering about immigration.  We were “peddling lies”.   We were telling people that 29 million Bulgarians and Romanians would come to Britain when we open our borders in January 2014.

But Marta, we said no such thing.  We said that 29 million would be entitled to come — and that’s true.  We never said that 29 million would come — though hundreds of thousands probably will.  But what you said, Marta, is just plain not true.  So who’s lying now?

Marta knew she would not be re-selected with UKIP.  She was extremely difficult to work with.  Judging by the corridor rumours, her new Tory colleagues are starting to find that out the hard way.  (I almost start to feel sorry for her former boss Neil Kinnock).  She thought she’d have a better chance with the Tories.  So the May Council results will have been a nasty shock for her.  Unless the Tories do their “positive discrimination” trick again, she has little chance of re-election in 2014.

She is, in fact, a self-serving political opportunist concerned for her career, not her country (or ours).  I had thought of using a less obliging word than “opportunist”, but courtesy forbids.

 

Coal versus Gas

On April 24th I attended a public hearing entitled “Gas and Coal: Friends or Enemies?” organised by the Industry, Research and Energy Committee and I thoroughly enjoyed the debate.

 

I see no conflict between coal and gas.  Europe talks about three priorities for energy policy — “sustainability”; security of supply; and affordability.  But it behaves as if sustainability and emissions reduction were the only things that matter.

The result is that we are dramatically undermining the competitiveness of European Industry.  Our energy is now much more expensive than the US (with shale gas) and more expensive that India or China (with cheap coal).

We are driving businesses abroad, often to jurisdictions with lower environmental standards than our own.  We are exporting industries, and jobs, and investment.  Worse still, we are also exporting emissions.  We pretend that the EU is responsible for no more than 12% of global emissions, but actually we’re responsible for 25% if you include the implied emissions of imports to the EU — many from China.

Meantime there is increasing evidence that the supposed emissions savings from renewables are largely off-set by inefficiencies in the essential fossil fuel back-up, operated inefficiently to compensate for wind variability.  So, in addition to the direct subsidies for renewables, we have the extra cost of inefficiencies in the back-up, plus, most recently, the need for “capacity payments” — in other words, additional subsidies to justify back-up operators in keeping plants on stand-by and running well below capacity.

It is increasingly clear that renewables are not economically sustainable.  And indeed it is also clear that the theory of anthropogenic climate change is not sustainable either.

A very Tory scandal

Nigel Evans, Tory MP for Pendleton, is by all accounts a very affable and agreeable guy.  I’ve met him once or twice, and he seemed like a decent chap.  I knew (before he “came out”) that he was homosexual, but that was none of my business.  I was surprised when he was arrested on rape charges, but not at all surprised that his colleagues and constituents rushed to his defence.

I was, however, struck by the timing.  The alleged offences occurred between 2009 and 2013, so the Police presumably had some flexibility on when they went public.  They chose to do so the day after the Council Elections.  Some people might wonder if they were deliberately sparing the blushes of the government, the coalition and the Tory Party at election time.

I Tweeted to this effect, and was astonished by two responses.  One said “Doesn’t UKIP believe that a man is innocent until proven guilty?”.  Well of course we do, and I never suggested otherwise.  Another said “It wouldn’t have made any difference, because Mr. Evans wasn’t a candidate in the local elections”.  That last observation is so obviously stupid and nonsensical that I offer no further comment on it.

Celebrating a European Treaty

We have innumerable exhibitions in the European parliaments. But in April I was struck by an exhibition celebrating the City, and the Treaty, of Utrecht.  I was particularly amused because it was, of course, the Treaty of Utrecht that ceded Gibraltar to Britain in perpetuity — so I thought that a celebration of the Treaty might not go down well in the parliament, at least with our Spanish colleagues.

And I Tweeted a picture, with the caption: “Celebrating the Treaty of Utrecht in the Brussels parliament (that’s the Treaty that ceded Gibraltar to Britain)”.  Checking Twitter interactions later (as I occasionally do), I found a response: James Franey @jamesfraney  A rare sight: #UKIP’s @RogerHelmerMEP celebrating a European treaty pic.twitter.com/KhH6lJ9mYX.

Let me just explain something to James: I (and UKIP) have absolutely nothing against European Treaties per se — especially when they cede territory to the UK.  On the other hand we have serious problems with EU Treaties (there’s a difference), especially when they cede the democratic rights of the British people to Brussels.  If you ever catch me celebrating the Maastricht Treaty, James, you’ll have something to Tweet about.

The Church of England and the EU

 

Reading the Daily Telegraph of April 24th, under a headline “Thatcher would have joined us, says UKIP Leader”, I found an inset piece headed “Bishop challenges Cameron on EU reforms”. And in that piece, I read that the Bishop of Exeter, the Rt. Rev. Michael Langrish, had praised the “spiritual roots” of the EU (this is the same EU that refused to put any reference to a Christian heritage in its draft Constitution), and added “It may be thought that the Church of England does not have a particularly European perspective, but that is far from being the case”.

Indeed not.  In fact anyone who has paid even cursory attention to the Church of England in recent years will know very well that it is all too eager to embrace modish soft-left attitudes and Fabian Society values (and to demand generosity for all, though it does not offer to pay for it).  High on its list of priorities have been European integration, and “the fight against climate change”.

At one time Churchmen would have taken it as self-evident that the earth’s nature and climate were controlled by its Creator (perhaps with a helping hand from the Sun).  But with anthropocentric hubris the Church has bought into the new religion of climate alarmism, lock, stock and barrel, and has concluded that human activity controls the climate.  Hardly a sermon goes by without a reminder of our duty of stewardship to the planet, and our obligation to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

And the EU?  I remember that when the previous Labour administration was gestating its futile and abortive Regional Assemblies, structures inspired and required by Brussels, it was frequently the Bishops who chaired the steering committees tasked with setting up the new bodies.  Rather than the care of souls, they concentrated on promoting foreign political structures.

And the good Bishop sets up a false dichotomy.  Is the Government’s agenda for EU reform for the good of Europe as a whole, he asks, or is it a narrow focus on repatriation of powers in response to political pressure nearer home?

Now in fact I think it very likely is in response to pressure from Tory back-benchers and from UKIP.  But what on earth gives the good Bishop the idea that a British Prime Minister was elected to promote “the good of Europe as a whole”?  Cameron, and all MPs, are elected and have a duty to represent the best interests of their constituents, and therefore of the UK as a whole.  They have no general duty (beyond neighbourliness and common humanity) to promote the good of any other country, or indeed the good of Europe as a whole.  The Bishop’s question rather suggests that he has failed to get his head around the basic principles of representative democracy.

And for the avoidance of doubt: we MEPs equally have a duty to our constituents.  Like the Prime Minister, we have no general duty to seek the good of “Europe as a whole”, nor to promote the European project.

That Ashley Fox is a sly fellow!

I understand from a correspondent that in his March newsletter, Tory MEP Ashley Fox said: “In March the European Parliament grudgingly voted to accept the budget deal as agreed by the Prime Minister and the other Heads of Government. Shockingly UKIP and Lib Dem MEPs were amongst those who voted against the deal.”

But the only shock here is the degree of misrepresentation.  Or perhaps that Mr. Fox expected us to support his amendment.

There was a Conservative amendment to accept the European Council’s proposal — which while it represented a small-scale cut in the overall EU budget, would nonetheless have resulted in an increase of the UK contribution.  We in UKIP oppose any increase in the British contribution — indeed we oppose any EU budget at all — so we were not about to support David Cameron’s compromise or Mr. Fox’s wily Tory amendment.  On the main vote on the whole proposition (not the amendment), we voted against the parliament’s report — which would have substantially increased the EU budget.

So I think we got it exactly right both times.

Over-regulating pensions

On Saint George’s Day, April 23rd, wearing my red rose button-hole, I attended a lunch debate on pensions.  It was organised by NAPF, the National Association of Pension Funds.  And before you ask, it was sandwiches and sparkling water, not caviar and champagne.

I was mildly surprised, but gratified, to find that there seemed to be a broad consensus between MEPs and the industry that current Commission proposals to apply bank solvency criteria to insurance and pension companies would do more harm than good.

I was particularly struck by a Dutch industry representative who observed, rightly but also rather wistfully, that the Commission would do more for pension provision if it turned its attention to solving the scourge of youth unemployment, rather than regulating the pensions industry.  I replied “There’s a reason for that.  Solving youth unemployment is difficult, whereas for the Commission, regulating pensions is easy.  It’s a displacement activity”.

UN: “Let them eat insects”

The UN has a great new idea for alleviating world hunger. We should eat more insects.  Apparently they’re full of nourishment, and protein, and vitamins, and fibre.  Better than beef-steak, they say.  An under-exploited natural resource — just the thing for a growing world population.

I’m familiar with the idea.  Of course eating insects is common in some cultures (and TV shows).  I well remember in Northern Thailand being offered delightful displays of cockroaches, carefully prepared and laid out in attractive radial patterns on circular trays.  Scrummy, perhaps, but I couldn’t bring myself to eat them.

In a country like ours that’s squeamish about horsemeat, I really don’t see grilled cockroach catching on.  And if we’re looking to exploit under-utilised food resources and wild-life, couldn’t we start with rabbit stew, and pigeon pie?  I understand that barbecued squirrel can be very tasty.  That’s grey squirrel, of course.  No one would want to eat the reds.

Conclusion

That’s it from Strasbourg for the May 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