October 2013

Huge thanks to UKIPpers!

I was delighted to hear that I was voted #1 on the East Midlands UKIP MEP list, and equally delighted that Margot Parker, our heroine from Corby, is #2.  She is a doughty campaigner, and I look forward to working with her.  We’re determined to get at least two UKIP MEPs in the region.  Pleased also that Jonathan Bullock is at #3 – I’ve worked with him on previous euro-campaigns.  Thanks to all who voted for our UKIP candidates.

Party Conference 2013

In September, our Party put on the largest and most lively Party Conference in our 20-year history, at Westminster Hall, a stone’s-throw from the Houses of Parliament (we’re getting closer!).  I was glad to have the opportunity to up-date our position on energy policy — a hot topic with the growing realisation that energy prices are crippling our economy.  Now even Labour recognises the problem.  A pity that their solution — price controls — is likely to make matters worse rather than better.

We also have an up-dated UKIP energy policy booklet.  Members or branches who need copies can contact Paul Oakden in my Market Harborough office (address above).

Our big idea is to create a British Sovereign Wealth fund based on shale gas, rather as the Norwegians did in the 70s and 80s with North Sea Oil.  Their fund is now around $750 billion — that’s roughly 150% of their GDP.  This is an enormous asset for Norway.  We want to ensure that the UK’s shale gas proceeds benefit all our citizens, not just today but for decades to come.

A fly in the ointment: Sadly our best efforts were overshadowed, and our media coverage hi-jacked, by some more careless remarks from Godfrey Bloom.  Let me be clear: Godfrey is a good guy with a good heart, and not a scrap of malice in his make-up.  No one I’d rather have a beer with.  But he has proven to be a bit of a liability with his outspoken comments.

The remarks he made in a fringe meeting were taken as coarse humour by his audience (although it was predominantly women).  You can hear the laughter on the tape.  But taken out of context in a Guardian headline, they were indefensible.  Whacking Michael Crick over the head with a booklet, on camera, was also probably unwise.

I think Paul Nuttall got it right when he said that Godfrey has a 1960s sense of humor that doesn’t play well in 2013.  He needs to understand that he’s an elected parliamentarian, not Sid James.

I spent much of the day in media studios, but instead of talking about our plans for a British Sovereign Wealth fund based on shale gas, I had to spend my time on damage limitation.  I’m really sorry, on a personal level, that Godfrey has lost the whip.  Parliament next June will be a poorer place without him.  But I think the Party did the right thing in tough circumstances.

And the Tory Conference

If we had a problem with our Conference, the Tories certainly had a problem with theirs — and it was called Nigel Farage, who seemed at times to be getting more headlines than the main event.  I was there for his speech at The Freedom Zone (TFZ), the Freedom Association’s big fringe event.  This of course is outside the main Tory Conference security zone — I certainly wasn’t paying £60 for the privilege of hearing more Tory promises.

I also took part in a debate “Why I left the Tories vs. Why I’m staying”, where I was pitched against Robert Halfon MP. I have a lot of time for Robert, who is one of the sounder Tory MPs, and a stalwart of the Freedom Association.  But his speech relied heavily on Central Office boiler-plate.  He stressed the coalition’s good work on welfare and education, but had little to say on Europe, or energy, or grammar schools, or HS2.

I was supported by the excellent James Delingpole, and also by my former staffer Donna Edmonds, who is now on the UKIP MEP list for the South East.

Other former staffers I met included Lydia Smith (now a Tory agent in Northamptonshire) and Emma Bennett, who is doing a great job with TaxPayers’ Alliance.  Other former staffers at the Tory Conference (whom I did not run across) included Emma McClarkin MEP and Neelam Cartmell.

“Global Star” Campaign

Speaking of the TFA, Campaign Director Rory Bloomfield has just launched a new campaign under the “Better Off Out” rubric.

Called “Global Star“, it aims to present in straightforward terms the positive benefits of taking the UK out of the EU. Too often we couch the debate on the EU in terms of what’s wrong with membership — the intrusive regulation, the cost, the democratic deficit.  Rory’s booklet “The Future’s Bright: the Future’s Global” explains how the EU is in long-term economic and demographic decline.  Tying ourselves to this relatively small and declining economic area is the equivalent of being “shackled to a dead sheep”.  Meantime the growth and the opportunities are elsewhere in the world — and in the Anglosphere.

We are constantly told that 50% of our exports depend on the EU.  The true figure is around 40%, and is declining rapidly.  In another session in TFZ, run by Global Britain, we saw credible estimates showing that by 2033, as much as 80% of UK exports could be outside the EU.  Rory and TFA (and Global Britain) are doing a great job, and deserve our support.

In Defence of the City

This is the title of a new TFA booklet bringing together essays by heavy-weight economic commentators.  It is much more technical than Rory’s booklet — put on your mental climbing boots!

I was struck by the first essay, by Tim Congdon.  He recalls that Lord (Adair) Turner, the europhile former Chairman of the FSA, argued that the City’s financial services market was “socially useless”, that it was a zero-sum game, simply moving money between different players but adding no value, and he felt that the growth of financial services was a damaging burden on the British economy.

Congdon replies that something like half of the City’s business, and most of its growth, is in the export of financial services.  Foreign businesses believe that the City, far from being socially useless, is offering valuable services for which they are prepared to pay good money.  The scale of financial services provided by the City in the UK is comparable to the scale of domestic financial services businesses in other advanced countries.

There is a mistaken idea in some quarters that exports of services are not “real exports”.  But the world economy is increasingly moving in the direction of services, and a pound earned abroad for software, or tourism, or financial services is worth just as much as a pound earned by exporting motor cars or widgets.

It is shocking that Lord Turner, this public service panjandrum with fingers in so many pies, should have such a negative and damaging view of one of the UK’s vital industries and export earners.

Green Policies can’t deliver

In the wake of the new IPCC climate report (which claims “95% certainty” for man-made global warming, while admitting that there’s been no significant warming for best part of two decades) I’ve issued a robust statement criticising EU/UK climate policies.

Current policies, with massive targets for so-called renewable energy, are driving up energy prices, and forcing households and pensioners into fuel poverty.  It’s estimated that green taxes and subsidies will amount to 30% of household energy bills by 2020.  High energy prices are also undermining industrial competitiveness, causing businesses to move out of the EU altogether, taking their jobs and their investment with them.

Even the European Commission has recognised the problem, with energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger saying “We can’t afford to pursue a unilateral climate policy”, and Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani saying that the EU faces “an industrial massacre” on current policies.

In any case, our green policies cannot deliver.  China, India and other developing countries are building new coal-fired power stations at a rapid rate, with around 1200 new coal-fired plants currently in the global pipeline.  EU polices can bankrupt EU economies, but cannot significantly affect global atmospheric CO2 levels.  And intermittent renewables like wind and solar do not in fact deliver the emissions savings claimed, since their very intermittency exports huge inefficiencies to the essential back-up power stations, usually gas.

Miliband: Right problem, wrong solution

Top marks to Ed Miliband for spotting the obvious: we have a problem with energy prices.  But he gets the dunce’s cap for proposing a price freeze.  They tried that in the USSR.  It led to empty shelves, shortages, bread lines, black markets, poverty and despair.

In the UK, the Miliband ploy would also cut off the massive investment we need in electricity generation.  We already risk the lights going out: Plan Miliband would make that a certainty.

Krishnan Guru Murthy on UKIP

Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru Murthy seems to have a thing about UKIP.  He certainly spent some time during our Party Conference trying (unsuccessfully) to get me wound up, and made some disgraceful suggestions about our party.

On Oct 5th, interviewing an EU Commission spokesman about the Lampedusa tragedy in which several hundred would-be illegal immigrants from Africa to Europe reportedly drowned, he asked whether the rise of parties “like UKIP in the UK and Golden Dawn in Greece” made the Commission’s position more difficult.  This deliberate attempt to conflate UKIP with Golden Dawn, which is essentially a neo-Nazi party, was a deliberate and disgraceful attempt to smear UKIP, and Murthy should be ashamed of himself — though it’s no more than he attempted to do in his interview with me a couple of weeks earlier.

Murthy also seemed to take it for granted that (A) the tragedy of the boat people was essentially the fault of EU member-state governments; and (B) that the only proper solution was “resettlement”, by which I took him to mean that we should welcome all the Africans who choose to come.  This is simply madness.  If we welcome and resettle 500 today, there’ll be 5000 tomorrow, and as soon as word gets out, there’ll be five million next week.

If we want to prevent these tragedies, the short-term measure is to block these vessels and send them home.  Medium term we may want to work with African countries to help them control refugee flows in Africa, and possibly even to try to help make African countries a little more tolerable to their citizens.  (We could start by dismantling the EU’s damaging CAP, which is a huge barrier to trade and economic recovery for poor third-world countries).

Moving half of Africa’s population to Lampedusa, and on to Europe, is not a solution that any sane political party could accept.  You don’t have to be Golden Dawn to see the problem.

Against HS2

In the exhibition section of TFZ, I was pleased to see a stand for AGAHST, Action Groups Against HS2.  Well done those guys (or in this case, girls — Deanne DuKhan and Emma Crane).  The government is asking the wrong question.  It’s not “Is HS2 worth £50 bn?”.  It’s “Is HS2 the best way to spend £2 bn on transport infrastructure?”.  Put that way, the question answers itself.

Populist bandwagons

I have written elsewhere (in the context of shale gas) of the need to avoid letting UKIP become a universal party of protest, jumping on every passing populist bandwagon.  So I was disappointed to hear that the NEC has taken a position against the so-called “Bedroom Tax”.  (Of course in reality it is not a tax at all).

The current Coalition government is giving us plenty of targets to attack.  The EU.  Energy Prices and renewables subsidies.  HS2.  High levels of immigra­tion.  But we can surely afford to be generous when it occasionally tries to do the right thing, and its determination to end the welfare culture, to make work pay, and to get a grip on public spending deserves a measure of support.

We are entitled to contest the implementation of the withdrawal of spare room subsidies — especially where social housing tenants are simply unable to downsize to appropriate accommodation, because it’s not available.  But to rule out a reasonable plan to cut welfare spending (and the deficit) is neither consistent nor defensible.

“Help to Buy”

A similar criticism can be (and is being) leveled at the government’s “Help to Buy” scheme.  It can be attacked on the grounds that it’s a sticking-plaster solution to broader problems of the government’s own making; that it represents undue interference in the market; and above all that it increases both demand and affordability without increasing supply, thus increasing prices and risking a new asset price bubble.

At the same time Miliband’s line of attack demonstrates his unreformed socialism.  It’s based on the implicit assumption that only governments build houses, and that this government isn’t.  But of course if there’s more demand and customers can afford to buy, we should expect the market to respond.  Those house-builders aren’t sitting on land banks for fun.  They’re ready to build as soon as they can be confident of selling what they build.

Get your facts right, Geoffrey!

In the Saturday Telegraph of Sept 21st, Geoffrey Lean in his environmental column writes: “Fernhurst in the South Downs is lined up to be the second site in the South east, after Balcombe, to have exploratory drilling for fracking”.  (My emphasis).  But in Balcombe, Cuadrilla propose to dig a conventional oil well (like a number of others in the county).  They have no planning permission for fracking.

To veil or not to veil

As I wrote in my blog, there is a real conflict between the Libertarian view that we should be free to wear what we like, and the idea that we should make at least some concessions to public opinion.

To those who insist on total freedom (I believe Ken Clarke said we should be free to wear what we like), I ask if a nudist should be free to walk down Oxford street naked?  Should we be free to wear a Nazi Uniform at an ethnic minority event?

I believe that if you wear a T-shirt with a sufficiently rude word in a public place, you may be arrested.  My freedom to wear what I want may conflict with the freedom of others not to be alarmed or offended.

Quote of the month

From Michael Deacon’s Conference political sketch in the Telegraph of Sept 21st: “Roger Helmer MEP, who with his drooping Edwardian moustache and military frown looks like a long-staying guest at Fawlty Towers, spoke on energy and the environment (sample complaint: “The Greens won’t let us have cows!”).

Many thanks Michael — I speak well of you to!  To see what I actually said, go here.

Misconceptions on UKIP policy

Michael Deacon repeated a point I’ve seen made elsewhere.  He reports that Nigel Farage said we shouldn’t be fighting foreign wars, and fifteen minutes later Paul Nuttall said there should be no defence cuts — as though that were an absurd contradiction.  In fact, it makes perfect sense.

The first duty of the government is the Defence of the Realm.  To do this, we must maintain adequate armed forces — yet this government has cut the Army to a level not seen since Waterloo.

We must ensure that men are attracted to soldiering as a career.  We owe it to them to ensure that they are properly equipped, that their families live in decent accommodation, and especially that those who are wounded in the call of duty are properly cared for.  We need more attention to helping retired soldiers readjust to civilian life.

We are not fulfilling these tasks at the moment.  That’s why Paul say “No more cuts”.

At the same time, UKIP says we should not go to war unless there is a clear and immediate national interest, unless we have a real prospect of success, unless “success” makes things better rather than worse, and unless we have an exit strategy.  None of these conditions was satisfied by Cameron’s vague plan to bomb Syria.

So UKIP was right to oppose a Syrian adventure — and given subsequent events, we may well be able to claim credit for stopping the US as well, and preventing yet another fruitless Middle Eastern war.

Sunday Politics

I was debating on the BBC! Sunday Politics Show (Oct 6th) with Labour MP John Mann.  He was concerned that large-scale immigration is driving down wages and job opportunities in the East Midlands.  There should be a visa system so that only those with in-demand skills were admitted.  Nice thought John.  But that’s UKIP policy, not Labour policy.

Did Downton Dis Dame Kiri?

On Sunday night I got back from a UKIP Branch meeting in Bassetlaw (John Mann’s constituency) in time to catch the last few minutes of Downton.  Legendary soprano Dame Kiri Te kanawa said she was delighted to be asked to appear in Downton Abbey because at Downton “gentleness and respect still reigned”.  So I wonder if she was as shocked as I was to find that her singing was used as a plot device to drown out the screams of a servant being raped in another part of the house?  Pretty poor taste, I thought.  It showed disrespect for one of our greatest opera singers.

Conclusion

That’s it from Strasbourg for the October 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