Public meeting in Chichester

At the Chichester meeting with Diane James

At the Chichester meeting with Diane James

On Friday, I travelled down to Chichester for a UKIP meeting in the Assembly Rooms – and I was delighted to see that they were flying the Union Jack (OK – for purists – the Union Flag) over the building, and not the EU’s sorry Crown of Thorns.

There were 180 seats in the hall, and by the time we started a couple of minutes after seven I had trouble in seeing any empty seats at all.  I was appearing alongside our parliamentary candidate for Chichester, Andrew Moncrieff, my colleague Diane James MEP, and someone I hadn’t met before but who has worked closely with Diane, Elena McCloskey, UKIP’s council candidate in Rogate.

Andrew Moncrieff has an interesting opponent in Chichester, Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie.  Tyrie is surprisingly realistic on climate and energy issues, but sadly is also a sell-out Europhile.  That should present some easy targets and quick hits for UKIP’s Andrew in the forthcoming battle of the two Andrews.

Elena McCloskey is a very interesting candidate indeed.  There was a slight foreign accent in her perfectly-articulated English, and we learned that she had come to Britain from Russia, started a successful business, and become a British citizen.  She gave a very impressive account of herself, and coming from a former communist country she had a very focused view of the values of democracy and self-determination.  She saw some disturbing parallels between Soviet totalitarianism and developments in the Brussels.

Diane delivered one of her marvellously professional and convincing speeches on the imminent threat posed to British citizens by the European Arrest Warrant.  If this coalition government carries out its plan to sign up to the EAW by December 1st, we’re stuck with it.  No way out except Brexit.  (Roll on the Day!)

I talked about our recent run of election results, and of course about energy — the dual threat to our security of supply, and competitiveness, as a result of failing green policies (and don’t miss Charles Moore’s splendid piece on this subject).  And Andrew ran through some detailed voting statistics that gave the lie to Cameron’s claim that “A vote for UKIP is a vote for Miliband”.  In Heywood & Middleton, 617 Conservative votes gave the seat to Labour.  In Chichester, Labour have no chance of winning, come what may.  It’s a two horse race between UKIP and the Tories.

All in all, a very successful meeting, with lively questions both during the session and informally afterwards.  UKIP is on a roll in Chichester.

I’d been in London earlier in the day, and I got to Chichester in time to have a look around.  It’s a delightful town, with lovely and interesting shops.  I daresay I’d been there before — I have a vague recollection of the theatre — but that was several decades ago.  This time I made a point of visiting the Cathedral.  Begun in 1076, 962 years ago, it is mostly Romanesque, with hints of early Gothic creeping into the later parts.  It was rebuilt after a fire early on, and again after the spire collapsed in 1861 — almost miraculously, without loss of life.  Workmen trying to shore it up were out to lunch.

Both the Cathedral volunteers, and the guide-leaflet, were keen to draw my attention to the Piper Tapestry, behind the high altar.  Woven in France in 1966, it seemed to me far too brash and sixties-modern, and out of place in the splendid and sacramental space of a great Cathedral.  Apparently a Victorian High Altar had been removed as “Out of keeping” with the tapestries, replaced by a modern stone alternative.  Personally, I’d have kept the Victorian altar and gone without the tapestries.

By contrast a High Altar Frontal tapestry by G.F. Bodley (1900), in sumptuous shades of red and gold, was redolent with order, reverence and beauty.  But it was relegated to a side aisle, and neither the volunteers not the guide made any reference to it.

But perhaps the high point of art in the Cathedral was the magnificent Arundel Tomb (what’s the Arundel Tomb doing in Chichester? I hear you ask.  I also asked, but no one seemed to know). It shows a mediæval couple side by side in death.  He is in armour, and has his right gauntlet in his left hand, while his un-gloved right hand discreetly holds that of his wife.  A touching detail immortalised by Philip Larkin in his poem “An Arundel Tomb”. Do read it.

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Jaguar Untamed

A the JLR event with Amjad Bashir MEP; Sudhir S. Deshpande, JLR Deputy General manager in India; and Nicky Denning, JLR Corporate Affairs in Brux

At the JLR event with Amjad Bashir MEP; Sudhir S. Deshpande, JLR Deputy General manager in India; and Nicky Denning, JLR Corporate Affairs in Brux

Last night I attended a British Chamber of Commerce event at the British Ambassador’s residence sponsored by Jaguar Landrover,  We were addressed by Mike Wright, Executive Director of JLR, as well as West Midlands Labour MEP Siôn Simon, and Carlo Pettinelli, from the Commission.

Given the patchy record of the take-over of British auto brands by Asian companies, I must admit that I feared the worst when I heard in 2008 that Jaguar was to be taken over by Indian conglomerate Tata.  (Let me declare an interest: I love the marque, and currently drive an XKR).  I was utterly wrong.  Tata brought a combination of deep pockets, management skills and distribution networks, critically coupled (in the case of Mr. Tata) with a profound respect and love for the brand.  They have done wonders.  Today JLR is making annual profits that exceed the price Tata paid for the business.

Mr. Wright told this story in clear and cogent terms – though remarking on the way that energy prices in the UK posed a problem for the manufacturing sector.  That’s an issue I’ve been banging on about for years.

I was accompanied by several UKIP colleagues, including Amjad Bashir from Yorkshire; Jill Seymour, Transport Spokesman, W.Mids; and Bill Etheridge, W.Mids.  Between us we rather dominated the questions session, but I was delighted by the clear, positive and professional way in which colleagues made their points.  They reflected well on the Party.

I managed to get the first question.

Mr. Chairman, I have questions for all three panellists.  Siôn Simon told us that EU membership was fundamental to Jaguar’s success, and that if the UK left the EU, inward investment would dry up, existing investors would flee to the continent, and jobs would be lost.  Does he recall that EU advocates were saying exactly the same, fifteen years ago, about what would happen if we failed to join the €uro?  Does he recognise that they were wholly wrong then, and can’t he understand that they are wholly wrong now?  Does he recall that Ford, no inconsiderable auto company, recently moved its van operations out of Hampshire, out of the UK, out of the EU, to Turkey?  Doesn’t that show that you don’t have to be in the EU to trade with it?”.

His answer was mostly flannel, and the assertion that all major companies wanted to stay in.  This in fact is simply not true, and many of those that say they want to stay in have a weather eye on EU contracts and EU funding.  They can only maintain their lobbying position by toeing the party line.  I continued:

Mr. Pettinelli, you said it was the Commission’s job to create conditions in which EU businesses could succeed.  Did you notice that Mr. Wright called attention to the problems created by high energy prices in the EU?  Do you recall that out-going Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani said that “We are creating an industrial massacre in Europe with energy prices?”

In reply, he talked about the importance of energy efficiency, about increasing competition, completing the internal market, and improving distribution infrastructure.  These are all worthy aims, but they are merely fiddling at the margin compared to the elephant in the room – our vast waste of money and resources on inefficient and intermittent renewables that fail to deliver either significant reductions in emissions or competitive prices.  The EU has no policy that can deliver secure and affordable energy.  UKIP has.

I also put a couple of questions about the business to Mr. Wright, but they were of less political consequence.

I was struck by another comment that Mr. Simon made.  He said that China was prepared to deal with Europe, not the UK, and that was a reason for continued EU membership.  Clearly, he was just plain wrong. China does in fact trade rather substantially with the UK, and it does that because we are a major market, not because we’re in the EU.  But his point is surely irrelevant in this case.  JLR is just opening its first big factory in China.  We’re talking Jaguar cars built in China in a factory owned by an Indian company.  The EU simply has no relevance at all.

Our MEPs, 24-strong and the largest UK delegation in Brussels, are certainly starting to make their presence felt.  And in a good way.  I was proud of them.

British Chamber of Commerce event at the British Ambassador's residence sponsored by Jaguar Landrover

British Chamber of Commerce event at the British Ambassador’s residence sponsored by Jaguar Landrover

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Renewables re-visited

The Bioethanol plant at Yarm, Stocton-on-Tees

The Bioethanol plant at Yarm, Stocton-on-Tees

In my pre-political career, I spent four very happy years with United Distillers/Guinness plc (now Diageo), in Korea and Singapore.  Indeed I was “Mr. Johnnie Walker” in Korea.  In the course of my time with United Distillers, I visited a number of distilleries, both malt and grain, in Scotland.

So it came as rather shock today, in a meeting with representatives of the bio-ethanol business, to realise that in essence, the bio-ethanol production process is simply an analogue of a grain whisky distillery.

Thankfully, they start generally with wheat (not malting barley), and with sugar.  They ferment it.   They distil it.  And the result is – well – vodka without the water.  (It is the malt whisky and the barrel ageing that give whisky its distinctive character).

I’ve always been a sceptic about bio-fuels.  They add cost.  They reduce performance. They use land that we could be using for food.  So I was impressed to find that UK bio-ethanol, made from British wheat or sugar, doesn’t quite match my expectations.

First, the wheat we grow in the UK is largely soft wheat, unsuitable for bread-making.  Second, the land use for wheat is three-quarters offset by the value of the main by-product (or as we have to say these days, co-product).  The spent grains, after fermentation, become high-protein animal feed, which we need anyway, and which displaces imports of (typically American) soya beans.  And of course the ethanol displaces imports of fossil fuels.  There is a substantial two-way balance-of-payments benefit.

The industry also claims that it reduces CO2 emissions, even allowing for the energy inputs along the way – though we in UKIP are less obsessed with that aspect.

But the game-changer for me was the claim that bio-ethanol is now price-competitive with regular petrol, and doesn’t require subsidy.  Is there any other renewable (except hydro) which can say that?  And the icing on the cake: bio-ethanol is high-octane, and doesn’t reduce engine performance.  It may even enhance it.

The difficulty facing the industry is that they have invested £750 million in the UK based on the earlier mandated 10% figure for the proportion of bio-fuels in transportation.  Recognising the land use change implications (known as “ILUC”) for bio-fuels generally, the EU institutions are now proposing to reduce that figure.  The Council wants a 7% cap for bio-fuels – and fails to take into account the fact that bio-ethanol is benign in terms of land use.  It doesn’t have a significant ILUC issue.

We need to get this idea through to the UK government.  Otherwise a £750 million investment, and several thousand jobs in the North of England, are at risk.

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Reaching out to the Commonwealth

With Pakistan Ambassador Naghmana A. Hashmi & MEP Amjad Bashir

With Pakistan Ambassador Naghmana A. Hashmi & MEP Amjad Bashir

Last night I had the privilege of attending an event as a guest of recently appointed Pakistan Ambassador to the EU H.E. Naghmana A. Hashmi.  There were a number of UKIP MEP colleagues, as well as a solitary Green MEP, and several other guests.

We in UKIP take the view that British exporters have been too concerned with an EU in long-term decline, and should re-focus their efforts on the rest of the world, where the growth is.  An important part of that is of course the Commonwealth, where we have strong historic and cultural links, and where growth (in some Commonwealth states at least) is very attractive.  Growth in Pakistan seems to be running at around 5% — a figure that we in the West would be delighted to emulate.  At a time when eurozone stagnation threatens the global economy, a recalibration of our export efforts is all the more important.

In this context, we were delighted to be able to initiate a dialogue on trade issues with Mrs. Hashmi, and will be talking to other Commonwealth countries.

In my remarks after dinner, I made some points about UKIP’s position on immigration.  Too often our opponents seek to present our position as “pulling up the drawbridge and cutting ourselves off from the world”.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We simply want a managed immigration policy based on numbers and skills.

What too few people realise is that the policy which the Coalition government operates at the moment, within the constraints of EU rules, is profoundly discriminatory.  It discriminates against highly qualified applicants from Commonwealth countries – Canadian doctors, Indian engineers, for example.  And in favour of “EU citizens”, many of whom are poor and unskilled, and some of whom, at least, come to Britain for welfare and health benefits.  This cannot be right.

Commonwealth citizens arguably have a much stronger claim, for historical reasons, to generous treatment from the UK than do many Europeans.

Cameron is caught in a bind.  After Clacton, and Heywood & Middleton, he has finally realised that immigration is a serious issue.  But he can do nothing about EU immigration as long as the EU’s “Free Movement” rules are in place (apart from fiddling at the margin with welfare entitlements).  So he has to clamp down hard on immigration from elsewhere, including the Commonwealth.  This produces the perverse discrimination against the very people who would work hard and benefit our economy.

To favour the poor and unskilled (“Send us your poor and huddled masses”) while excluding the highly-qualified and capable, is to shoot ourselves in the foot.  It is the worst possible option both for our social cohesion and our economy.  It has to stop.  But the only way to stop it is to get Britain out of the EU.

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Vicky Ford MEP: A bit of a sour-puss

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Since I left the Tory Party two and a half years ago, a number of my former colleagues remain good friends. Most at least remain on courteous and cordial terms, and behave like grown-ups. Just one or two are taking the bitter and twisted approach, and sadly one of those is Vicky Ford MEP, (Eastern Region).

She’s on the Industry & Energy Committee, as am I. During the recent Commissioner hearings, I attended assiduously, and spoke repeatedly (several of these interventions are on my blog). However on the day that voting took place, I happened to be in Clacton, campaigning for Douglas Carswell. As Harold Wilson loved to say, politics is the language of priorities, and my priority was Clacton, not the European Commissioner.

On Oct 8th, she Tweeted MEPs en masse voting on energy commissioners – no show from UKIP “energy” spokesman @RogerHelmerMEP – down the pub??#ukipemptychair. I replied : ”Thanks Vicky, but we have a couple of by-elections to fight”. She came back with “shame you can’t be bothered to do the job you are elected to do”.

Now Vicky knows, as well as I do, that (A) My voting would not have made a scrap of difference to the outcome; (B) Even if we had succeeded in rejecting one of these Commissioners, we should simply have got another clone straight from Central Casting, appointed by Jean Claude Juncker, and committed to the same disastrous energy policies.

She also knows that all MEPs (including herself) have political duties in their home countries which sometimes require them to be away from Brussels. Sitting doggedly in committee rooms in Brussels is not necessarily the best way of serving one’s constituents’ interests. She knows that, but she’s not going to miss the chance to score cheap points at the expense of readers who don’t understand how the system works.

My final reply: “I am paid to further the interests of my constituents. They will be better served by a UKIP MP than by a European Commissioner”. They will indeed. And that UKIP MP is Douglas Carswell. I’m not sure what difference I made to his majority, but I was proud to be there on the day.

Meantime, Ms. Ford will be continuing to try to score juvenile political points.

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ECHR bars UK from deporting criminals; European Arrest Warrant causing great injustices

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EU unable to deliver competitive energy prices

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