STRAIGHT TALKING October/2 2016
Roger Helmer’s electronic newsletter from Strasbourg
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Second bite at the cherry
The EU treaties require the European parliament to meet twelve times in Straz, and as we were away in August, that means two Straz sessions in October. So this “mezzanine” newsletter will just cover a couple of things that have come up recently. Sorry about the overkill.
I had always assumed that as former Party Chairman and Deputy Leader, Paul Nuttall was the best choice to replace Nigel as Party Leader. I am delighted that he has now thrown his hat in the ring, and he has my full support. He is certainly the candidate with the most knowledge and experience of the Party. He is absolutely sound on the issues. I believe he is best placed to unite the Party and to put an end to the recent squabbling which has caused so much disquiet in the Party – and damaged our poll ratings.
As a northerner, he is also especially well-placed to appeal to Northern working-class voters, who most of us believe have great potential for UKIP as the Labour party unravels.
Of course Suzanne Evans is also a strong candidate. She is an excellent media performer, and did a good job with the Party’s 2015 manifesto. But in my view she can’t match Paul Nuttall for a deep and comprehensive knowledge of the Party, nor for the ability to reunite the Party and reach out to northern voters. Nonetheless I hope she will have a senior rôle in the Party under Paul’s leadership.
Then there is Raheem. I have read his leadership manifesto, and I find it difficult to disagree with any point that he makes. But at the same time, I am appalled by the grotesquely vile and offensive language that he has used in social media.
I have corresponded with him on this. He tells me that he has different personas (personae?) in different rôles – as a blogger, as Breitbart editor, as a UKIP leadership candidate — and he uses different language accordingly.
But I’m afraid I don’t buy the “schizophrenia gambit”. No matter which hat he wears, Raheem is still Raheem, and his public and repeated use of grossly offensive language disqualifies him, in my view, from the leadership of our party, just as surely as Steven Woolfe’s dalliance with the Tory Party, and his asking a colleague to “come outside”, disqualified him from the leadership campaign.
Paul Nuttall is the man who can re-unite UKIP, ride shot-gun on Brexit, and take us forward to the next General Election. I urge you to vote for him.
Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) – again
On Wednesday morning I walked through Strasbourg in the dark autumn morning, and arrived in the parliament at eight for a breakfast meeting on the ETS revisions, sponsored by Eurelectric and Enel. A keynote speaker was the parliament’s rapporteur, Tory MEP Ian Duncan, who is more sensible than most MEPs on energy issues.
After several speeches I made my “intervention” (as they call it in Strasbourg).
Mr. Chairman, Here we are again. Groundhog Day. For ten years we have been gathering in meetings like this. We have been admitting that the ETS is failing, and we have discussed grand designs to reform it. But each time we come back a couple of years later and do the same again.
This time, Ian Duncan has virtually admitted that other EU energy policy areas will undermine the very reforms we are discussing today, and ETS will fail again.
As usual in this parliament, we bury our heads in the detail and miss the big picture. We talk about compensation payments, and the linear reduction factor, and shares of free allocation, and market stability reserves, and we forget that the effect of the ETS, indeed the purpose of the ETS, is to raise energy prices and undermine competitiveness.
Ian, I often agree with you, but I was astonished to hear you say that “carbon leakage” (i.e. driving energy intensive businesses offshore) is “speculative” and “a distant prospect”. It’s with us now! Talk to the steel industry, or aluminium, chemicals, fertilisers, petroleum refining, glass, ceramics. In the UK we’ve lost our steel industry to China.
We congratulate ourselves that the EU only accounts for 11% of global emissions, and we forget that consumption in the EU causes 25% of global emissions. We are simply driving jobs, and investment and emissions to India and China.
You call it “Decarbonising”. I call it “Deindustrialising”.
I recently came across a mildly amusing cartoon in my Twitter-feed, and on a whim I re-Tweeted it. The reaction was spectacular.
The cartoon showed a cute illustration of a UK school bus, with the slogan “The children on the bus sing Allahu Akbar”.
There is nothing more destructive of humour than to analyse it, but let’s try anyway.
In the best tradition of political satire, this cartoon brings together a number of areas of public concern. First of all the high level of immigration, much of it consisting of people from very different cultures. The level of immigration puts huge pressure on social cohesion and social infrastructure, and not least on schools, and on pupil numbers. It creates additional problems where a high proportion of children don’t speak English as a first language, or perhaps not at all.
For these reasons, the school bus theme was very relevant.
But a more immediate concern is with the “child” refugees from Calais, who appeared in media photographs to be not children at all, but young men of fighting age. The cartoon strongly reflects this concern.
It bears comparison with the Telegraph Matt cartoon showing a bus entering a “Migrant Welcome Centre” with a sign on the bus reading “Children on board (apparently)”. . I am not sure that there was a storm of protest directed at Matt.
But the Twitter response to my re-Tweet was extraordinary – even by Twitter standards. Catherine Bearder MEP wanted to know if I didn’t understand they were children (no, Catherine, I’m not sure that they are). Anna Soubry thought my retweet was “vile”, and wanted to know if UKIP had ejected me from the party. No, Anna, UKIP has not. And as I pointed out in my reply, I was merely doing my job as an MEP, and drawing attention to real and legitimate concerns that are felt by my constituents (some of whom, of course, are also Anno Soubry’s constituents).
Perhaps the best response, widely retweeted, was a demand that I take down my Twitter account, or the Tweeter would report me to the Metropolitan Police for a “hate crime”. I think that’s called “Wasting police time”.
I had thought that we were now free to raise the issue of immigration in the public square without eliciting a chorus of racist chants. But it seems that the old demons are still there, with people like Anna Soubry ready to trot them out. However I am confident that if I am annoying Anna Soubry, I must be doing something right.
Next day I had an amusing exchange with Oliver Letwin, who appears to have come out of retirement.
Letwin: We can raise such concerns without choosing such odious, xenophobia-perpetuating methods
RFH: Thanks Oliver. So now the great British tradition of political satire is “odious and xenophobic”. Honi soit…..
Letwin: I would enjoy an explanation of the satirical nature of said image, and how it fits with the tradition of Gilray et al
RFH: It punctures topical political absurdities – like young men of fighting age admitted to the UK as “children”.
As the nights draw in and the temperatures cool, we find autumn is upon us. The four seasons have inspired a great deal of music, but Vivaldi seems to have scooped the pool. His wonderful four seasons are constantly on Classic FM. But if you feel it’s time for a change, may I recommend Verdi’s Four Seasons. It’s ballet music from his opera “I Vespri Siciliani”, and it makes a welcome change from Vivaldi.
Also have a look at the UKIP MEP web-site www.ukipmeps.org