STRAIGHT TALKING June 2017
Roger Helmer’s electronic newsletter from Strasbourg
Please feel free to distribute this newsletter, or to quote from it. It is primarily written for euro-realists in the East Midlands, but may also be of interest to others concerned about the climate debate, or 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow me on Twitter: @RogerHelmerMEP
(Now with 16,400+ followers!)
A General Election disaster
So much has been written about the election that there seems little more to add. I thought Fraser Nelson and Allison Pearson were particularly good. I loved Fraser Nelson’s comment that Theresa May was being urged to “form a coalition with the Conservative Party”. It says volumes about her curiously personal and presidential style.
So what to say? May was wooden. Hubristic. Negative. Puritanical. All bad news, none good. Totally lacking in what George W. Bush called “the vision thing”.
But between them May and Corbyn managed to make the election a binary contest between the two of them. Corbyn versus May. Labour versus Tory. And the smaller parties got squeezed. Indeed few people came out of the General Election happy. May lost her majority. The Lib Dems failed to capitalise on their “Party of Remain” positioning. The Scots Nats lost many seats. And UKIP – let’s be honest – had a very bad night. I stood in South Leicestershire, formerly Blaby, the seat once held for nearly two decades by Nigel Lawson. The very mediocre (and Remainer) Tory candidate Alberto Costa got 60%+ of the vote. I managed 3.9%, a smidgen behind the Lib-Dem, but (heaven be praised) more than double the Green candidate. Only Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour party had grounds for satisfaction – but came nowhere near forming a government.
So where now? Let’s hope the Tories manage some kind of accommodation with the Ulster DUP. In my experience they’re very good people. Diane Dodds MEP of the DUP had been particularly effective. Absolutely committed to Brexit, but in a measured and reasonable way that works well in the Hemicycle. I am a big fan of Sammy Wilson MP, a former Environment Minister in Stormont, and a committed climate realist. In fact he’d be a great Environment Minister in a Tory/DUP coalition (if May hadn’t appointed Michael Gove).
Sadly there is little doubt that Remainers will take the result, quite wrongly, as endorsement for their vision of “a soft Brexit”, which means in reality no Brexit at all. If we thought it was all over bar shouting, it has now been thrown into doubt. And in this there is perhaps a silver lining for UKIP: when Brexit seemed assured, many voters took the view that UKIP no longer had a purpose. But as doubts arise over the implementation of Brexit, UKIP’s rationale becomes clearer.
A cuckoo in the Tory nest?
At least Ruth Davidson had something to crow about, delivering a dozen Tory seats in Scotland – and making Theresa May’s continued position in Downing Street just about tenable. But Davidson sees that she has a pivotal position, and may use it to seek a “soft Brexit”. She wants Britain to stay in the EU’s Single Market and/or Customs Union.
Let’s just think what that would mean:
1 Remaining under the jurisdiction of the ECJ
2 Much or most of EU laws, directives and regulations remaining in place
3 Free movement stays
4 Probably, CAP & CFP stay
5 Continuing EU budget contributions.
6 Subject to the EU’s Common External Tariff and unable to make trade deals with third countries
In other words, we should retain all the disadvantages of membership, and gain none of the advantages of Brexit. Please, someone, explain to me how the Davidson plan represents Brexit at all, or how it reflects the aspirations of the 17+ million who voted for Brexit. It is Remain in all but name.
“No deal is better than a bad deal”
This was May’s mantra – but following the General Election disaster, it seems to have been called into question. Yet as I Tweeted recently: “No deal is better than a bad deal”. How can anyone disagree? It’s practically a truism. And it’s the only credible negotiating position.
You can demonstrate the truth of May’s mantra very simply. “No deal” simply means WTO terms – not “crashing out”. Not “exclusion from the Single Market” – to which every country in the world has access. WTO terms are not ideal, but they’re not bad. A bad deal is clearly much worse. Just check again my comments above on the so-called “Soft Brexit” option. Ruth Davidson’s Soft Brexit is clearly a worse outcome than WTO terms, thus proving May’s point (on this point, at least).
In the early hours of June 9th I was at the South Leicestershire count at the Enderby Leisure Centre. As the scale of the débȃcle became clear, and the extent of Labour gains, I Tweeted “It looks as though the youth vote swung it for Labour. Each generation has to re-learn what a disaster a Labour government is”.
I thought that this was a helpful and insightful comment, but I was fairly astonished as I watched the figures for “Tweet activity”, and they scrolled up through the tens of thousands. As I write we’re at 55,000+ and rising. The Tweet seems to have touched a nerve.
New rules on energy efficiency
You may enjoy this speech I made in the Hemicycle on June 13th:
A short personal statement
I am announcing this week that I have resigned from my seat in the European parliament. My resignation will take effect at the end of July, in a few weeks’ time.
It would be typical of politics that opponents and internet trolls would try to find some negative and damaging interpretation of my decision. They may suggest, for example, that my resignation is a reaction to UKIP’s disappointing results in the General Election of June 8th. It is no such thing, so let me set the record straight.
I was about to resign as long ago as late 2011, at the age of 67, and I had intended to leave the Conservative Party and join UKIP after I had left Brussels, in the Spring of 2012. It was only the intransigence and obduracy of the then Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party Sayeeda Warsi (now Lady Warsi), in refusing to confirm the normal succession process, that persuaded me to delay my resignation, and eventually to cross the floor to UKIP while retaining my seat.
The candidate blocked by Lady Warsi was my old friend Rupert Matthews, who was apparently persona non grata with Lady Warsi because (so far as I can judge) he was middle-aged, white, male, heterosexual, euro-sceptic, and (mildly and charmingly) eccentric.
Ironically, I believe that Rupert now stands to realise his ambition to become an MEP, since he was next-in-line on the Tory East Midlands euro-candidate list in 2014 behind Andrew Lewer MEP, who will now be leaving Brussels to take up the Westminster seat of Northampton South, which he won by a narrow margin. I trust that this time the Tory party will do the right thing by Rupert.
I was very happy and proud to play my part in the campaign for Brexit, which led to the famous referendum victory in June 2016. I was also very pleased to serve as UKIP’s Energy Spokesman over the five years from 2012 until today, and to have the opportunity of developing UKIP’s energy policy, designed to ensure the availability of secure and affordable energy for both households and industry.
However as the years went by the idea of retirement didn’t go away, and I decided as long ago as last year that 2017 would be the time to go – at the age of 73. Initially I delayed my decision until after the May local elections, but the announcement of the June 8th General Election persuaded me to leave my public statement until after that date, leading to my announcement today. In fact, I signed the official European parliament resignation papers a couple of weeks before the election date.
I must admit that personal considerations also played a part. Following my divorce a few years ago, I have been fortunate and privileged to meet a charming lady with whom I have been spending a lot of time. She is British, and born in the UK, but is also the daughter of immigrants from India. She puts me in mind of William Wordsworth’s famous phrase, when he spoke of those arriving “trailing clouds of glory as they come”. She certainly embodies a subtle and fascinating hint of the exotic. Although a fair bit younger than me, she had already retired from a successful career as a highly-qualified medical professional. We share a love of classical music, ballet and opera (we first met at a production of La Bohème at the lovely Buxton Opera House), and of travel, ocean voyages and long walks in the open air. She is even trying to teach me some of her ballroom dancing skills, although I fear I may not be an apt pupil.
I have found that my personal priorities are starting to take precedence over my political objectives, which confirms to me that it is high time to retire. I am looking forward to spending much more time with my new partner.
I expect that my seat in Brussels will be taken by the next candidate from the 2014 UKIP East Midlands candidate list, Johnathan Bullock. I have known Jonathan for many years, and indeed we have campaigned together on euro-candidate lists more than once. He is an extremely sound man, especially as regards Brexit, and he has extensive commercial experience which will stand him in good stead. I believe he will do a fine job on behalf of East Midlands voters, and will ride shotgun on the Brexit negotiations in the final pre-Brexit years in Brussels. I wish him well, and shall of course be delighted to offer him any help and advice he may care to have.
An anonymous kindness
Back in March, I attended the UKIP South West Conference in Weymouth. We had a dinner at the Prezzo Restaurant, and I found myself seated next to a very agreeable couple whose names (sadly) I am unable to recall. The trials of an elderly memory! But the gentleman was American, and had spent much of a long career in and around the ballet scene (though not, I understand, as a dancer).
We talked about the ballet, and I bemoaned the fact that I had never been able to find any recording of John Cranko’s ballet “Eugene Onegin” (to the music of Tchaikovsky, but counter-intuitively not the music of Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin). I understood that the copyright was with the Stuttgart Ballet, and that they had allowed no recordings.
A couple of weeks later I received anonymously in the post a DVD of the Canadian Ballet’s Eugene Onegin. No name, no note, not even a postmark. But it can only have been the gentleman in the Weymouth Prezzo. So if you’re out there, Sir, thank you!
Also have a look at the UKIP MEP web-site www.ukipmeps.org