STRAIGHT TALKING November 2014
Roger Helmer’s electronic newsletter from Strasbourg
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Rochester: a huge UKIP triumph
The result from Rochester and Strood was amazing – and yet very much in line with the remarkable surge we’ve been experiencing as a party. And it’s a great omen for the 2015 General Election. Congratulations to Mark Reckless, and to all those party members who gave their time and effort to the campaign.
The Tories are still trotting out their tired old slogan “Vote UKIP, get Miliband”. My former staffer Emma McClarkin was at it just recently in the Leicester Mercury. But the lesson of Rochester, and indeed of Clacton, is very clear: Vote UKIP, Get UKIP.
And the result in the earlier Heywood & Middleton by-election was even clearer. If a few more Tories (who came third) had voted tactically for UKIP to stop Labour – they’d have stopped Labour. The message from Middleton: Vote Tory, get Miliband.
Bob Neill’s EU Referendum Bill
Business for Britain is a great think-tank and campaigning organisation. Recently they’ve been writing to businesses asking them to sign up to support Bob Neill’s EU Referendum Bill. This is the Bill that would make it mandatory to have an EU Referendum in 2017.
Of course UKIP wants an EU Referendum, so we’d support Bob Neill’s Bill, wouldn’t we? No. I don’t think we can. Here’s why.
First of all, David Cameron isn’t serious about leaving the EU. He’s just trying to get his activists and back-benchers off his back. He’s trying to kick the EU issue into the long grass until after the General Election. This isn’t about Brexit. It’s merely a cynical ploy to try to keep an increasingly desperate Tory Prime Minister in Office. That’s not something that UKIP wants to support.
And Bob Neill’s Bill is another cynical ploy to add an air of spurious credibility to the original referendum ploy. It’s meaningless, since if the Tories fail to win next year’s General Election, a future government can simply repeal it. No government can bind its successor.
So supporting Bob Neill’s Bill is simply offering a helping hand to David Cameron. The only Referendum Bill that UKIP should support is one that gives us a firm commitment (no IFs and BUTs) to a straightforward In/Out Referendum on a robust and rapid timescale. I’ll vote for that any time.
Independence: the clue is in the name
UKIP. The UK Independence Party. I’m always shocked that so many people say “if we leave the EU we’ll be like Norway or Switzerland — we’d still have to obey masses of EU rules, but have no say in setting them”. No. We’d be an independent nation, and make our own rules. Like say the USA. Or Canada.
Then they say “If we leave the EU, whom should we join instead?”. Some even say “Do you want to be the 51st State of the USA?”. Or even more bizarrely “Do you want to join Russia?” They seem not to understand the concept of independence. It means self-government. Self-determination. It doesn’t mean outsourcing our governance to anyone else. Of course we’ll remain members of a host of international organisations: the UN (for good or ill); the World Bank; the OECD; NATO; the Commonwealth — and literally dozens of other organisations. And we’ll re-join the WTO in our own right. Far from being isolated, we’ll continue to be one of the most globally-networked countries in the world. But we’ll be an independent nation again. We shan’t invite any of those organisations to over-rule our democratically-elected government.
There are those who say we’re too small to be independent (though it works for Singapore and Switzerland). Or even (strangely) that we’re too big. But the USA provides a good counter-example. And it’s salutary to recall that Norway and Switzerland (despite their exposure to some EU rules) still manage to have roughly double the GDP per capita than we enjoy. It works for them. It will work for us.
Sovereign Wealth Fund …Imitation and Flattery ….
Back in October 2013, I announced a new UKIP policy on shale gas: UKIP would create a British Sovereign Wealth Fund, based on the proceeds of shale gas exploitation in the UK, rather as Norway did for North Sea Oil in the Seventies. The new wealth under our feet would not be squandered on day-to-day expenditure (as British North Sea Oil revenues were) but rather invested for the future of our country, and for future generations.
I believe that this was an excellent idea both in economic and in political terms. (I wish I could say it was my own idea, but it was proposed by Tim Aker as Head of Policy). It was well received, and I repeated the commitment at our Doncaster Conference this year.
Today we read that the Conservative Party is proposing ….. a British Sovereign Wealth Fund based on the proceeds of shale gas. They have lifted the idea straight from our Manifesto, using practically the same words.
Well, they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And we should take pride in the fact that in this area, as in so many others, UKIP is setting the direction and the terms of debate.
“20 is Plenty”? Or maybe Pointless?
My good friend Idris Francis reminds me that it is an offence to apply unauthorised posters and road signs to lampposts and other street furniture. Recently, a campaign entitled “20 is plenty“, arguing for 20 mph speed limits in urban areas, has been putting up such signs. If you see these signs (and if you have the same feeling about them as Idris and I have) you should draw the attention of your local authority to them, and ask for them to be removed.
Isn’t 20 mph safer than 30? Maybe. But 10 mph is safer still. And 4 mph is safer again (bring back the Red Flag Act!). Or you could guarantee to avoid a road accident by staying in bed (though you could die of boredom).
Business for Britain
I am constantly pointing out that the guys who warn against leaving the EU today are the guys who warned against not joining the €uro fifteen years ago. This Business for Britain commercial makes the point very strongly. I think it needs the widest possible circulation.
Heads they win, tails you lose
Our opponents are determined to present UKIP as “racist” — because in terms of Labour Party thinking from ten years ago, anyone who has any reservations about mass immigration must be racist, almost by definition.
But if we respond by saying that we have ethnic minority elected members and/or staff, and religious minority members, do they say “OK. We accept that. You’re not racist”? Not a bit of it. They say “Oh, you’ve let in a few minorities to deflect criticism. It’s mere tokenism”.
Perhaps the criticism gets most offensive — and most irrational — when we get to disability. According to the Labour Party, UKIP wants concentration camps for the disabled, and wants to abort unborn children with disabilities. This is nonsense, and offensive nonsense. In fact we have elected UKIP representatives who are disabled. And we have a Disability Spokesman, Star Etheridge (wife of our West Midlands MEP Bill Etheridge) who is herself disabled. But that’s mere tokenism, isn’t it?
A certain satisfaction
Sometimes one can take a certain satisfaction from a relatively minor event. On November 18th in Brux, I attended a seminar run by an industry group, “Gas Naturally“, which promotes the interests of the gas industry. We had a series of speeches about diversification of supply, and the long-term importance of Russia. And about infrastructure: pipelines; LNG terminals; storage.
I managed to put the second question from the floor. I introduced myself as UKIP’s Energy Spokesman, and when I mentioned UKIP, one of the panellist’s lips curled into a smirk of disdain. I proceeded to ask a relevant and well-informed question, about the importance of indigenous gas reserves in Europe. My question attracted a frisson of applause and approval around the room – and the smirker stopped smirking. A small thing, but it made my day.
Single Market Access
I have a lot of time for former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson. He has sound attitudes on my key issues: the EU, and energy.
He has proposed that before attempting his renegotiation, Cameron should invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty — effectively giving notice that the UK intends to leave the EU at the end of two years. A period of genuine renegotiation would follow. The Treaty envisages the negotiation of terms of secession, but so far as I can see it would be perfectly possible in those two years to negotiate on the basis that “If we get what we want, we’ll stay in”.
Paterson argues that this would have two effects: (1) it would hugely strengthen the hand of British negotiators. They’d actually have a gun in their hands; and (2) it would persuade wavering voters that the Tories were serious about renegotiation, and bring them back to the Party.
In my view, Paterson is right. His recommendation would indeed have those effects. But we in UKIP should oppose it, not merely for party advantage, but in the national interest. Cameron probably would get somewhat better terms on this basis than otherwise. But the terms would not be full and clear independence. Yet Cameron would be in a stronger position to campaign for a vote to stay in. The British people might be persuaded to vote in favour of a messy compromise that left the fundamentals of the EU still largely in place.
There is another key point. As reported by the BBC, Owen called for a deal that “maintained access to the single market”. Norway was mentioned (again). My problem is this: he seems to be contributing to the myth that only EU members have “access to the single market”. In the public mind, this suggests that without such access (whatever it means) we should be cut off from our largest single export market, or “isolated and marginalised”, as our opponents like to put it.
This is nonsense. Name me one country that is denied access to European markets, single or not. I can’t think of any (although for diplomatic/political reasons some countries are subject to sanctions which restrict access). We have the WTO to ensure market access and to keep tariff barriers as low as possible. Let’s recall that the three largest exporters of goods into the EU are Russia, China and the USA. None of them is a member, and at this stage none has a preferential trade deal with the EU. Is anyone suggesting that they don’t have access to the EU’s single market? Dozens of countries also have free trade deals with the EU — as we shall have when we leave.
We want a relationship with the EU based solely on free trade and voluntary inter-governmental cooperation — nothing more. To do that we have to leave the EU first.
Our Labour opponents have two things to say about UKIP policies. First (they say) we don’t have any policies. But second, they trot out a string of lies about what our policies are. (Quite how they reconcile these two conflicting claims is beyond me). Privatising the NHS. (Come on guys. It was Labour who started privatising the NHS, and Labour peers calling for charges for GP visit). We want to “pull up the drawbridge” and block all immigration. We want to expel all foreigners. We want Britain to be “isolated and marginalised”.
All this is of course nonsense. We will defend an NHS free at the point of use. We want a managed immigration policy – not a block on immigration. European citizens who are here legally when we leave the EU will be entitled to remain – we’re not deporting them (though we may well deport illegal immigrants). Far from being “isolated and marginalised”, we want to re-establish Britain’s status as a great global trading nation with powerful international connections and alliances.
And for those who still think we have no policies (beyond Europe. And immigration. And energy….), here is Tim Aker’s very succinct and professional summary of our policy positions on a wide range of areas. This will be expanded and fully costed in our manifesto for next year’s General Election.
Check the Blog
Please visit my blog. Recently I’ve written about my spat with the Ecologist Magazine; the EU’s disastrous Emissions Trading Scheme; the grudging imitation of John Major; why high taxes are counter-productive; the visit of Vaclav Klaus; the horrendous costs of wind energy; and the recent Brussels demand for £1.7 billion more of our money.
I’ve recently discovered the Octagon Film Club at the Market Harborough Theatre in Leicestershire – a couple of hundred yards from my UK office. They show not only films, but also cine-casts of plays (RSC for example) and ballet – my particular interest.
On Sunday October 26th I went to see a ballet which was entirely new to me – “Legends of Love“, live from the Bolshoi in Moscow, premiered in 1961. Music by Arif Melikov. Choreography by Grigorovich.
I was concerned that the music might be a bit modern for my taste, and indeed the first act seemed strident and lacking in melody, though the music mellowed in the next two acts. The plot was as improbable as ballet plots usually are – though with a Soviet realist twist at the end, when the artist/hero Ferkhad abandons the love of the Princess in order to serve a wider public by bringing a new water supply to his thirsty people.
If the music was a bit too modern, the choreography was magical and exotic. Grigorovich has an extraordinary capacity for filling the stage with action. For those accustomed to British ballet, it was unfamiliar and fascinating. And the dancing was superb. The Bolshoi seems especially good at selecting dancers for its Corps de Ballet who are remarkably consistent in physique. I don’t know where they find so many tall, slim, ectomorphic girls with improbably long legs. Almost like clones. European ballet companies seem to have much more variety in body types.
The performance on the 26th was not terribly well attended. I think the volunteers who organise the events deserve more support – and it’s amazing to be able to see world-class performances for £12 a seat. In some ways the cine-cast is even better than a live show, given the camera work and the facility for close-ups. I can’t make too much sense of the Octagon web-site, but the cine-casts are in conjunction with Pathé. Find their programme here.
Joke of the month
If there was a shred of doubt that the world is totally insane, this will remove it.
Pythagoras’ Theorem: …………………………………24 words
Lord’s Prayer: ………………………………………….. 66 words
Archimedes’ Principle: ………………………………..67 words
Ten Commandments: ………………………………..179 words
Gettysburg Address: ………………………………….286 words
US Declaration of Independence: ………………1,300 words
US Constitution with all 27 Amendments: ……7,818 words
EU Regulations on the Sale of CABBAGES: …26,911 words
Also have a look at the UKIP MEP web-site www.ukipmeps.org