STRAIGHT TALKING May 2015
Roger Helmer’s electronic newsletter from Strasbourg
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Time to change the voting system
On many measures, our General Election campaign was a great success – and many thanks to all those UKIP activists and candidates and members and staffers who helped to make it so. We more than quadrupled our vote since the last General Election in 2010, from 3.1% to 12.6%. Third largest party, ahead of Greens and Lib-Dems. A strong second place in 120 constituencies – we’re now the key challenger to Labour in the North, and to the Tories in the South.
Yet on nearly four million votes, we got just one MP. The Scots Nats, on one-and-a-half million votes, got 56 MPs. Under a fair voting system, we’d now have 83 MPs. Time for change.
But we have extended our record of solid, long-term growth. We have won more local council seats. We are well placed to push ahead to the Referendum (if Cameron delivers), and longer-term to the 2020 General Election. We’re poised on the threshold – a modest increase in national share of the vote would start to show numbers of MPs, even under the current system.
The Civil War that never was
The media love an hysterical story. After the election, we had a couple of staffers (now left) who appear to have done some unhelpful briefing, and one MEP who made some disobliging comments about Nigel Farage (and I may say that that MEP now deeply regrets his misjudgment).
This was presented by the press as “Civil War” in the party, with detailed analyses of “opposing camps”. But of course there never was any opposing camp, and the support pouring in for Nigel’s leadership – letters, e-mails, texts, phone calls – has been overwhelming.
There is of course a quite separate debate with our UKIP MP Douglas Carswell about the so-called “Short Money” to which he and the Party are entitled. That is the sort of debate that all parties have, and is entirely proper, though it would have been better handled behind closed doors. I understand that it reached the press through unauthorised briefing, which is entirely unhelpful for the party.
My own view is that it is in the interests of the Party and the Country to use whatever funds we may be entitled to (while of course scrupulously observing the rules).
Don’t you just love JCB?
My young grandsons are delighted to see a bold yellow JCB on the road. And I was delighted to see that Lord Bamford, the Chairman of JCB, has come out with a very clear statement that the UK will not merely survive, but will prosper, outside the EU. Here we have one of Britain’s greatest and most successful industrial companies, the world’s third largest construction equipment maker, with business across the globe, affirming that it (and we) can do just as well (or better) outside the EU than in.
One of the greatest (but also the most ignorant and lazy) assumptions accepted unquestioningly by the pro-EU brigade is that trade and jobs will suffer when we leave. That is quite simply nonsense, and flies in the face of the facts – countries like China, Russia and the USA, who have no preferential trade deals with the EU, do a great deal more trade with it than we do. Non-membership of the EU is no barrier to trade.
In this context, see my blog.
Now that as distinguished a figure as Lord Bamford has come out very clearly in favour of Brexit, I’m hoping we’ve reached an “Emperor’s Clothes” moment, when many others who share that view, but have been intimidated by the bien pensant consensus, will break cover for the OUT campaign.
Of course it was never true that all of British business supports EU membership. Business for Britain is doing a sterling job (pun definitely intended) in bringing together many senior voices from British business to support Brexit.
Cameron may have been expecting another coalition, and he could have blamed his partners for blocking an EU referendum. But now, with a majority government, he no longer has that excuse, and he may face a problem.
On the one hand, few on the continent want a new Treaty, which in any case would take years to ratify. It would probably get bogged down in referenda in member-states, and it would certainly prompt other member-states to come forward with their own shopping lists for treaty change – potentially unravelling the whole EU project as we know it (and what a good thing that would be).
On the other hand, concessions short of Treaty Change would be nugatory. They would be fiddling at the margin. They might allow us to delay welfare payments to EU migrants – but not to control our borders. Nor to end the harsh discrimination in favour of Europeans and against the Commonwealth, for example.
So Cameron faces the unpalatable choice (by his target date of 2017) of “little – or nothing”. In 1975 Harold Wilson won an EU referendum for “IN” with a list of trivial concessions, long since forgotten. Cameron won’t get away with that in 2017. The public and the media are a great deal more sophisticated than that today. Will he desperately try to talk-up trivial concessions? Or will he have the courage to say “I honestly tried for acceptable terms, but they wouldn’t budge. So I’ll be campaigning for OUT”? Will he hell? Will pigs fly?
Dan Hannan’s take on the referendum: I appreciate that there are mixed feelings about Dan Hannan in UKIP. But his recent referendum article on the Capx website has some useful insights. His main point is that we will win the referendum by being positive – by talking up the benefits of a free and independent global trading nation — rather than by harping on about the disbenefits of EU membership – serious though they are. Worth thinking about.
He is wrong, however, in arguing that we should not talk about immigration. Not only is this a top issue on the doorstep, but it is a clear and accessible example of the way in which perverse EU regulation creates serious economic and social consequences. UKIP can be proud that we took the immigration issue and shook it, and placed it firmly in the Public Square, despite the efforts of the left to demonise anyone who mentioned it.
To stop the deaths, we must stop the boats
Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a plain speaking, clear thinking kind of guy. He recently commented on the Mediterranean migrant crisis: “If you want to stop the deaths, stop the boats”. At first sight, this seems like a callous approach. But there’s nothing callous about saving lives and stopping people-traffickers.
The immediate, instinctive, compassionate approach, “Let ’em all come”, leads to perverse incentives and unintended consequences. It persuades more and more people to attempt the crossing. And it acts as a Recruiting Sergeant for the traffickers. We’re doing their marketing, writing their slogans for them.
“Get on the boat for Europe. If it sinks, the Italian Coastguard will rescue you. And either way, you’ll be allowed into the EU, given food and shelter and medical treatment. And they’ll talk about repatriation, but in effect you’ll be in the EU forever. Just wait for the next amnesty”.
The Australian approach is different. “If we find your boat, we’ll tow it back to where you came from. You will not under any circumstances be allowed to land or settle in Australia”. This may sound harsh, but it stops the boats, and stops the deaths.
There are many who call for these Mediterranean migrants to be admitted to Europe. There are even those who call for an open door policy to allow all to come who wish to, with safe passage provided. But this policy is politically unsustainable. Instead of hundreds and thousands, we should see millions.
The average UK income is around $38,000, and for the EU around $34,000. Yet there is a rag-bag of African countries with per capita income below $1000, and Afghanistan is not much better off. Of course they’ll want to come. The population of Africa at 1.1 billion is more than double that of the EU (and Afghanistan is 30 million plus).
And now we have our friend Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker saying that arriving immigrants must be shared out between EU member states on a proportional basis. He proposes a mandatory migrant quota system, under which the UK would have to take tens of thousands of illegal immigrants. The short answer to that is “No, Mr. Juncker. You shouldn’t have let them in to start with. Your problem, not our problem”.
Some will protest that these are refugees, not merely migrants, and are entitled to asylum under the Geneva Convention. But that Convention was designed to deal with limited numbers in clearly defined circumstances. It was not designed to deal with large-scale migrations where migrants may indeed face threats, but they also have massive economic incentives to travel. It is simply impossible to establish whether the claimed threats are real in these cases – and certainly not with the huge numbers involved.
So our policy should be simple. Intercept the boats. Save the passengers from drowning. Return them to their point of origin (mostly, it seems, Libya). And make it abundantly clear and public that none of these people will be allowed to settle in any EU country. And if we can’t get agreement to this in the EU, we must at least make it clear that none will be admitted to the UK.
The Carbon Market Disaster
The EU has struck a deal to start reforming the EU ETS (Emissions Trading System) from January 2019. This so-called reform has resulted in the creation of Market Stability Reserve.
Frankly the EU ETS has been a disaster. It has failed in its own terms, and damaged industry, raising energy costs and undermining competitiveness. The EU has tried several interventions to try to make it work as intended. First, they tried “back-loading”, to reduce the glut of permits and to raise carbon credit prices. That broadly failed, so now they want a “Market Stability Mechanism”.
We were sold ETS on the basis that it was “a market mechanism”, which would allocate limited carbon credits in an efficient way. But any market mechanism that requires repeated regulatory intervention to achieve the pricing that the bureaucrats first thought of is clearly not a real market mechanism at all — it’s an incredibly complicated and bureaucratic way to run what amounts to a tax. It’s an artificial market in a virtual product with no intrinsic value.
To achieve what the EU intended, a simple carbon tax would be better, fairer and clearer. But the objectives were wrong in the first place, and the whole project is pointless, futile and unnecessary. It is squeezing the life out of energy-intensive industries in the UK and the EU. It should simply be abandoned.
For more on CO2 issues, see my blog.
A Small Victory in the Industry Committee.
As Industry and Energy Spokesman for UKIP I have a strong interest in following the Industry Committee in the European Parliament. From time to time I table amendments with the aim of challenging and hopefully improving proposed European legislation.
On Thursday 7th of May the Committee voted on the Saudargas report on the European Energy Security Strategy. More than 800 amendments were submitted for this report. Among the 800 plus amendments I submitted a few. Rather to my surprise, they all received considerable support from MEPs of different political groups and were even supported by the rapporteur with a positive voting recommendation. Finally only one amendment was actually passed, though another ran it close. In these amendments I highlighted issues such as the exclusive dependence on one single supplier of fabricated nuclear fuel for 20 of the operating nuclear reactors in five Member States, and I have reiterated that 29% of EU’s primary energy production comes from nuclear energy, one of the main indigenous sources required to keep the lights on.
One amendment is a rather small victory in the overall scheme of things in Brussels and Strasbourg, but none-the-less gratifying.
A headline in Huffington Post reads “Ethnic Minorities deserve safe spaces without white people”. Imagine the screams of outrage if you swapped “ethnic minorities” for “white people” in that headline. Whatever happened to equality under the law? Who will be put in charge of deciding whether mixed race individuals are white enough to be white, or ethnic enough to be ethnic? And I thought we’d got rid of Apartheid!
On the Blog
Boris Johnson thinks the best way to kick-start EU economies is to “Complete the Single Market”. As Energy spokesman for UKIP, I think the best way to kick-start European economies would be to abandon Brussels’ obsessive green policies, and deliver secure and affordable energy to ensure industrial competitiveness. See if you agree.
Also have a look at the UKIP MEP web-site www.ukipmeps.org