September 2013


Syria: Don’t go there

The Syria situation is moving swiftly.  Immediately after that Commons vote, the press were agonising over “the damage to the Special Relationship, and to Britain’s place in the world”.

Today, we have not only Russia and China opposed to military action in Syria, but the United Nations Secretary General, the Pope, and (for what it’s worth) the EU.  We also have the majority of public opinion opposed, not only in the UK, but even in the two countries whose governments are gung-ho for war: the USA and France.

Far from being isolated, it seems that the UK was leading world opinion.  Arguably it was the Westminster example that persuaded a seriously conflicted Barrack Obama to take the issue to Congress.  He knows that military action is deeply unpopular, not least with his own Democratic Party, but he’s hamstrung by his own “red-line” rhetoric.

It’s worth pointing out that UKIP, yet again, was on the right side of this debate from the start.  Why is it so difficult for the old parties to understand what the public are thinking?  And what the consequences of a military strike might be?

Now Russia has suggested that Syria be required to dismantle its chemical arsenal, under international supervision and under threat of military force.  Sounds like a rather better idea than Obama’s.

Just to re-cap, there is no clear objective or satisfactory outcome from military action. Assad might survive, and thumb his nose at the West.  Or he might fall, giving way to an Islamic/Al Qaeda régime that would be no better for the Syrian people, and no better for regional stability or the world at large.

Bombing might release Assad’s chemical weapons onto the long-suffering people of Syria.  Or it might pass the largest chemical weapons arsenal in the world to extremists.  How smart is that?

Worst of all, it might start a regional conflagration involving Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Given the very clear public mood on Syria, I was surprised to see that the morning after the Commons vote against intervention, East Midlands Tory MEP Emma McClarkin Tweeted “Disappointed doesn’t even come close. We all have to look ourselves in the mirror & say we did all we could and didn’t turn away”.  In the circumstances, that comes somewhere between courageous and foolhardy.

Cameron self-harms over Syria

Cameron showed huge lack of judgement on Syria.  He hadn’t thought through the consequences of military action, he hadn’t taken soundings among his back-benchers.  It’s worrying that a man making life-and-death decisions could get it so wrong.

Nor did Miliband cover himself in glory.  He made the right call, but he made it for purely party-political and party-management reasons.  That’s not statesmanship, it’s opportunism.  And he’s clearly not fit to be Prime Minister.

Climate Consensus crumbles

It’s been a bad few days for Warmists. The Mail reports record ice cover in the Arctic. We’re hearing of serious ice and snow problems in South America. Tony Abbott has been elected Prime Minister in Australia on an anti-Warmist ticket, and his first executive action has been to instruct officials to draw up plans to scrap the Australian carbon tax.

But better yet, we seem to be seeing a belated dawning of sanity even in Brussels – where the EU’s lunatic green policies started.  Two Commissioners, Tajani (Industry) and Oettinger (Energy) have publicly recognised the huge damage that our quixotic and unilateral climate policies are doing.

Tajani says that our policies are pushing energy prices to “untenable levels”.  He speaks of an “industrial massacre” in Europe.  We in UKIP welcome their new mood – but what took them so long?  We’ve been pointing this out for years.

We’re now asking UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey whether he’s going to listen to this unexpected common sense from Tajani and Oettinger, or whether he’s going to press ahead blindly with his scorched earth policy of “industrial massacre”.

Clegg’s Wind plan

Nick Clegg obviously hadn’t heard the news from Tajani and Oettinger when he recently opened a new off-shore wind farm in Skegness, and declared it was the salvation of the British economy. In fact it will further undermine British competitiveness and drive up energy costs, while doing nothing to save the planet.  It is mere gesture politics.

Energy Company Profits

It’s an article of faith with the BBC that profits are a bad thing, and that utility companies’ profits are worst of all.  After all, we all need water, and power.  So if utilities are making money, they must be imposing inflated prices on the long-suffering public.  And sometimes they even pay bonuses to their senior executives!

Last month the BBC reported that Centrica had announced a profit of £356 million for the first half of this year, as though that were self-evidently wicked.  But if you look at sales margin and return on capital, you find it’s much the same as any other large company.

We’re asking energy companies to invest many billions of pounds in new capacity.  If we want them to do that, they’ll have to be allowed to be profitable.

I contributed to BBC Radio 5 Live’s “Energy Day” on Sept 5th, from Salford.  Ed Davey had been trying to blame energy company profits for high prices and fuel poverty, when in fact the fault lies with his own green policies.  I was glad of the chance to put that straight.



Hoovering-up unemployed continentals

The EU has developed a “European job mobility portal”. That’s a jobs web-site to you and me.  And we’re paying for it through our taxes.

All 28 member-states can advertise job vacancies on it, and “European citizens” can apply for jobs in any country.  They can also get advice on applying, on welfare and social benefits available — and even financial help to travel for an interview.  So far, so even-handed.  This is a good example of the EU’s level playing field.

But of course wages are generally higher in the UK than in many member-states — our minimum wage is eight times that of Romania or Bulgaria, for example.  Our social benefits are higher.  And language is another factor that points job-seekers to the UK.  Across the EU, English is the second language of choice, so it’s easy for most Europeans to apply for a job here.  But an unemployed continental won’t apply for a job in Vilnius if he doesn’t speak Lithuanian.

And it gets better (or worse).  Today, there are around 1.5 million jobs on the site.  And 840,000 of them — way over half — are (you guessed it) in the UK.  This is not a fair, level-playing-field approach to job mobility in the EU.  Oh No.  It’s a device for hovering-up unemployed continentals and delivering them to the UK.  Read more about it on my blog.



Brutal, repellent, shocking

Surely everyone who read the story was horrified by reports from North Korea that their boy-leader Kim Jong Un had ordered the machine-gunning of his former lover Hyon Song-Wol, lead singer of the Moranbong girl band, together with eleven of her fellow performers.

It struck me particularly, because I was in North Korea a few weeks ago, and the Moranbong band was much in evidence.  In fact I bought — and have on my desk as I write — their “War Victory Day” DVD.  I bought it partly out of political curiosity, partly because (I’m ashamed to say) I found their middle-of-the-road Asian/international style quite agreeable in small doses.  They seemed to be perfectly nice girls (military uniforms notwithstanding).  The idea that they should be lined up against a wall and machine-gunned, like the Tsar’s family at Yekaterinburg, is too horrible to contemplate.

Sir David Frost RIP

I was sorry to hear of the death of David Frost.  But I was astonished by a clip I heard on a radio obituary.  It was the famous Frost/Nixon interview, and as near as I can remember, it went like this:  Frost: “So you’re saying that it’s OK for the President of the United States to do something illegal?”.  Nixon: “If the President does it, then it isn’t illegal”.  Frost: “So you’re saying that the President of the United States can do anything at all and it’s legal?”  Nixon: “Yes”.

This seems to show a fundamental failure on Nixon’s part to understand the basis of a free and democratic society.  But if Nixon got it wrong, Lord Justice Denning got it right: “Be ye never so high, the Law is above you”.  In a democracy under the rule of law, everyone — the Queen, the Prime Minister, the President — is subject to the law.  Indeed, if Nixon’s proposition were correct, it would be impossible to impeach a President.  And by the same token, it would be OK for Kim Jong Un to execute his subjects on a whim.

The supremacy of the law is fundamental to freedom.  Without it, we’d be well on the way to totalitarianism, despotism, serfdom, and the bullet-spattered wall at Yekaterinburg.


Matt Ridley: Wind power far worse than shale gas

Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist, has written a brilliant article on shale gas. I just wish I’d written it myself.  Please, if you have any interest in the fracking debate, do read it.

Arguing that shale gas does far less harm to the environment than wind farms, he sets out to tackle “five myths” about fracking.  It does not cause earthquakes.  It does not contaminate ground water.  It does not use hundreds of toxic chemicals (it uses a handful of ordinary household chemicals, and in very small amounts).  It does not use excessive amounts of water.  It does not result in release of methane into the atmosphere — or at least, no more so than any other gas extraction method.

Of course, he provides evidence and sources to back up his points.  I would urge you to read it — one of the most important essays on the subject I’ve seen.



The Economic Experts?

On my recent visit to North Korea, we stopped off one night in Beijing (the only practical access to Pyongyang is via Beijing), where we had a briefing meeting with the EU’s “Ambassador” to China.  We had a rather wistful discussion about how the EU might be able to assist with the North Korean problem.  The EU has the advantage that it doesn’t attract the antipathy of NKs as the Americans do.  But the real players in the debate are South Korea, the USA, Japan and China, and the EU’s lack of diplomatic clout is very evident.

Frankly we were short of ideas, until the EU Ambassador brightened up and said “Of course the North Koreans have a real issue with economic development.  We can help them there.  We are the economic experts”.  I kid you not.  I’m not making this up. That’s what he said.

Here we have an EU in long-term relative (and perhaps absolute) economic decline.  It has undertaken what Lord Lawson has described as “The most irresponsible political experiment of the post-war era” — monetary union.  The €uro is a bankruptcy machine.  It has spread poverty and despair across southern European countries on a scale not seen since the thirties.  And an official EU spokesman can say, with a straight face, “We are the economic experts”.

Dear Reader, I do try to control my rampant cynicism.  I really do.  But this time I couldn’t contain myself.  Quick as a flash, I chipped in “You’d need to be”.  A ripple of amusement around the table showed that the rest of the group had got the point.



The beautiful anarcho-nihilist

I blogged recently about the “No Dash for Gas” activist Ewa Jasiewicz, an improbably glamorous English journalist of Polish extraction. I’ve just come across the following quote from her in the Guardian: “Changing our sources of energy without changing our sources of economic and political power will not make a difference. Neither coal nor nuclear are (sic) the “solution”, we need a revolution.”

So there you have it.  As I frequently say, this is not really about fracking at all.  It’s about outright opposition to growth, prosperity, jobs.  Opposition to freedom, to capitalism, to democracy.  It’s about overthrowing the established order.   It’s not so much anti-fracking — more the latest manifestation of anarcho-nihilism.



The limits of libertarianism?

I recently wrote a blog under this title. But libertarianism came up again in a Tweet from Tim Montgomerie, formerly of ConHome, now with the Times: “UKIP are clearly becoming less libertarian and more socially conservative”.  This was in response to a UKIP press release commending the call from the out-going Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs, for recognition of marriage in the tax system.  I replied: “Just explain to me Tim. What’s anti-libertarian about supporting marriage in the tax system?”.

So far I have no reply, but I guess he’s linking it to UKIP’s well-known opposition to same-sex marriage.  But I find this a curious view of libertarianism.  A libertarian will say that consenting adults should be free to do what they like (hopefully behind closed doors) without interference from the state or society.

But there’s nothing libertarian about allowing a small but strident minority to force a radical change in one of society’s fundamental institutions, especially when that institution is sanctioned by millennia of history, by custom and practice, and by reproductive biology.  Nor is there anything libertarian about a Prime Minister, wrongly bowing to the zeitgeist of political correctness but lacking any mandate on the issue, caving in to such demands.  Cameron may think it will detoxify the Conservative brand.  Many conservatives (and others) beg to differ.



Animal welfare, not “animal rights”

The redoubtable Clarissa Dixon Wright recently Tweeted calling for donors to boycott the RSPCA.  I endorsed her call, and for good measure I extended it to the RSPB (which has campaigned in favour of wind farms, while reinforcing scare stories about shale gas).

I do want to make it clear, however, that I have great respect for the dozens of RSPCA inspectors up and down the country who conscientiously pursue their traditional rôle of identifying and sorting out genuine cases of animal cruelty and neglect.  They all deserve our support.  But sadly, it is impossible to subscribe to the RSPCA to support that work without also funding the RSPCA’s tendentious political campaigns against country sports, and its officious and vindictive prosecutions of hunt servants.

The RSPCA, blinded by political correctness, seems unable to grasp the fact that hunting with hounds is the most humane and natural way to manage fox populations, and offers many other benefits to the countryside, the landscape, the environment, to rural life and the rural economy.

Sadly there seems to be no way to support the traditional work of the RSPCA without also supporting its political posturing.  But as another Tweeter replied to me, my strictures generally do not apply to local animal rescue and re-homing centres.  Personally I have had several rescue greyhounds, and I contribute in a small way to the Retired Greyhound Trust , where I believe donations are used for purposes we can all support.


Quote of the month

August 2nd: Dick Steele, Portmeirion’s non-executive chairman, described the EU’s anti-dumping duty on pottery, and its supporters, as “narrow minded“. “The whole thing’s been wrong-headed,” said Mr. Steele. “We’re a global company. We sell globally and we source globally. You’ve got to get out there and mix it with the big boys to compete. You can’t sit at home being a little European, hiding behind tariffs and duties. “It’s protectionism and nobody benefits from protectionism.”


Culture Corner

I recently got hold of a DVD of the Royal Ballet’s Mayerling.  It tells the true story of tragic lovers, Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria and Baroness Mary Vetsera, who chose to die together on January 30th 1889, at the Imperial Hunting Lodge at Mayerling. Or by some accounts, it was a murder and suicide rather than a suicide pact.  We may never know.

The ballet (which has the added attraction of Darcey Bussell playing a courtesan in Act Two) has music by Liszt.  But interestingly, Liszt never wrote it as a ballet.  Rather, a musical arranger drew on the whole Liszt œuvre to assemble an entirely new ballet.  And it works remarkably well (if you like Liszt).  The dancing — especially in the very emotional last act — is exceptional.

I’ve started to realise that there are several such “composite” ballets drawing on the work of (but not originally composed as ballets by) famous composers.  The ballet Manon, based on Manon Lescaut by French Author Abbé Prévost , uses the music of Massenet to great effect. Tamara Rojo is a delight in the eponymous rôle, in the Royal Ballet performance.

Then there is Eugene Onegin, which uses Tchaikovsky’s music arranged by Kurt-Heinz Stolze — but not actually taking any of the music from Tchaikovsky’s opera of the same name.  If anyone knows where I can get a decent DVD of this ballet, please let me know — I haven’t been able to find one.

A theme of these ballets seems to be that they are more “theatrical”, narrative and play-like than the more classical ballets.  Stages filled with interesting characters in interesting costumes, rather than a straight-up corps de ballet in tutus.  Worth a look.



That’s it from Strasbourg for the September 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.