Roger Helmer – BBC Newsnight

Watch my interview with Evan Davis on BBC Newsnight -

“So the question for any Ukip supporter who has a reasonable issue here is: would you rather this money, which is British taxpayers’ money, was given to one of the German or other foundations which promote further European integration, or would you rather some of the money goes to us to oppose European integration?”

You can watch the clip here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04v4j2p/newsnight-15122014 – the segment starts on 12 minutes and 40 seconds.

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So what would Enoch Powell do?

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And indeed why does it matter? I was not very surprised when the Telegraph came up on Dec 13th with a story that twenty years ago, Nigel Farage had invited (or “begged”, as they span it) Enoch Powell to endorse UKIP and to stand for the party.  I was surprised that the Telegraph saw fit to give the story star billing as the lead headline. Perhaps (as I Tweeted on the day) that has something to do with the fact that there’s a General Election coming in a few months. Maybe the Telegraph believes that there is still some stigma in the public mind associated with Enoch Powell, so that they can damage UKIP by association. I think they’re wrong.

Enoch Powell was a soldier, a statesman and a scholar. Contrary to the leftist myth, he was not a racist. He served in India, and was highly regarded and respected by Indian troops under his command. And he never did use the phrase “Rivers of Blood”, though it passed into media myth and public consciousness — rather as Rick, in “Casablanca”, never said “Play it again, Sam”, but everyone thinks he did.

Enoch Powell had been an effective government Minister, and he was certainly acceptable to the Ulster Unionists, whom he joined in 1974. He passionately believed in the independence of his country, and he foresaw, perhaps more accurately than most people before or since, the dire consequences of the EU integration that our leaders foolishly accepted. He also anticipated the effects of mass immigration, expecting (quite rightly, as it has proved) that mass immigration would place intolerable pressures on social cohesion and social infrastructure (yes, and overcrowded motorways).

But he declined to join UKIP in 1994. Why? Well in those days it was possible to make the case that UKIP was a small party that might go nowhere, and that the Conservative Party had the potential to become the champion of British Independence. In these days, that case can no longer be made. Powell’s two great issues, Europe and immigration, just happen to be UKIP’s two great issues today. And they resonate with voters today just as in Powell’s day.

Nonetheless, Powell’s former archivist Richard Ritchie comes out and says that Powell would have regarded Farage and UKIP as “denying the British people a referendum on Europe” by taking support from the Tories who have promised a referendum. Maybe that shallow analysis explains why Powell was the statesman and Mr. Ritchie was the archivist.

The great thing about Powell was his laser-like clarity of thought. He could strip away the cant and the false assumptions and get to the core of issues. If he were around today, he would make mincemeat of Cameron’s vaunted promise of a referendum. He would note that Cameron offered one once before, and failed to deliver. He would have recognised that significant renegotiation of the EU treaties is not an option, and that the only way out is to leave. He would have torn into Cameron’s ambiguity about what he will do when his renegotiation is seen to fail. And he would conclude, as UKIP concludes, that the Cameron promise is nothing to do with having a referendum, and everything to do with Conservative prospects in the 2015 General Election.

He would also note that all the movement achieved in recent months — the concerns of the main-stream parties on immigration and the EU — has been driven by UKIP’s success, and would not have happened without it. Far from “denying the British people a referendum”, UKIP is taking action which brings Independence Day closer. And every UKIP vote carries us forward to that objective.

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ETS: A Dog’s Breakfast

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Amber Rudd MP

I received today a letter from Amber Rudd MP, who appears to be “Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change”.  As energy prices are through the roof, and blackouts are threatened for the winter, and there hasn’t been any climate change for eighteen years, I found myself speculating as to what Ms. Rudd has been doing with her time.

But now we know.  She tells me that her top priority in Europe is the MSR.  This is Market Stability Reserve, the Commission’s latest gimmick to address the fact that their EU Emissions Trading Scheme has never worked properly, nor is likely to.  One of the problems of the European project is that no matter how dramatic is the failure of any initiative, the institutions never have the courage to say “OK guys.  We got that one wrong.  We’ll scrap it and go back to the drawing board”.  Oh no.  They press on regardless, with tweak following tweak; temporary fix replacing temporary fix, chasing the dream long after it’s become a nightmare.  Or as we say, flogging a dead horse.  We see it with the ETS.  We see it with the €uro.  Their hubris will never allow them to admit failure, no matter how self-evident that failure has become to the voter.

And so it is with Amber.  I have replied to her as follows:

Dear Amber,

ETS MSR

Thank you for your letter on the proposed Market Stability Reserve as it applies to the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme.  But I cannot support sticking plasters of this kind.  The ETS has comprehensively failed in its objectives – which were themselves questionable.  It has imposed a vast layer of unnecessary bureaucracy on a major industry.  It has spawned a totally non-productive activity in emissions trading.  It was sold to us as a market mechanism.  But if a market mechanism requires constant regulatory intervention to maintain a credible price, then it is not a market mechanism at all.  It is an administrative device – and a hugely inefficient and damaging administrative device.

If you must have a mechanism to reduce CO2 emissions, then a straightforward carbon tax would be more efficient, more predictable, and less damaging.  Better still, you should abandon your futile efforts to control emissions.  They are undermining industrial competitiveness, and driving energy intensive industries off-shore, taking their jobs and their investment with them.  Often they go to jurisdictions with lower environmental standards, arguably increasing emissions.  They are also forcing households and pensioners into fuel poverty.

UKIP’s twenty-four MEPs will vote against the ETS/MSR proposals.

Yours sincerely

ROGER HELMER MEP

www.rogerhelmer.com

UKIP Energy Spokesman

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Europe and You

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Precaution, or Proportionality?

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Suppose I offered you a product that contained 66 chemicals, most with slightly sinister and technical names like “Ethyl-3-methylbutanoate”.  Suppose I added that these 66 chemicals included twenty-nine that were classified as hazardous; one as toxic; five damaging to health and four damaging to the environment.  And suppose I then invited you to eat it?  Would you do so?  I suspect not.

Suppose I explained that the product in question was a natural, organic blueberry – widely regarded as a health-food that offers some degree of protection against cardiovascular risk factors?  Would you think differently about it?  When was the last time you ate a blueberry?

And much the same analysis could be given for a wide range of food-stuffs, not least coffee and tea.  We need to understand not only whether a substance is potentially toxic, but also whether there is any significant prospect of the amounts concerned having any damaging effect.

During my first term in the European parliament, the Chairman of the Environment Committee was Tory MP Caroline Jackson.  I disagreed with her on many things, but I loved her sharp wit and iconoclastic style.  The European institutions love the Precautionary Principle, which says (I paraphrase) that if anything might potentially be dangerous, we should ban it until we can be sure it’s safe.  Caroline famously remarked that on the basis of the Precautionary Principle, we should ban two-storey houses in the EU.  Statistics show (she said) that a thousand people a year in Europe die from falling down stairs.  We can eliminate that risk by living in bungalows.

That illustrates why I believe we should replace the Precautionary Principle with what I call the Proportionality Principle.  That is, we should avoid products or activities where the risk of harm is disproportionate to the benefit.  Often we are aware of significant risks, but we accept those risks in exchange for the benefits offered by the activity.  For example, several thousand people sadly die each year on our roads.  But we don’t ban cars, and most of us use them.  The advantages of personal mobility are out of all proportion to the relatively small risk of accident or injury.

There is a growing body of evidence that use of mobile phones can cause brain damage.  Yet most of us shrug off that risk in exchange for the enormous convenience offered by our mobiles.  On the other hand, we seem to be getting less and less tolerant of any conceivable risk that we think we can avoid altogether without inconvenience – like shale gas, or GM crops.

This creates, however, a problem for public policy.  It is all too easy for lobby groups or irresponsible media to whip up massive scare stories about risks which are very small indeed.  We all remember the “Millennium Bug”, or Y2K, as we used to know it.  A huge scare over what proved to be a non-event.  Many millions wasted by companies “future-proofing” their systems.

Similarly, we have the fear of shale gas.  Concerned residents blocking drilling sites and waving placards.  Yet I have been twice to the USA to see shale gas operations first hand, and I found local residents who were delighted with the industrial renaissance, the jobs re-shored, the jobs created in drilling areas, the new businesses springing up, the increase in property prices as growth attracted in-comers.  What I did not find was people campaigning against the new wealth.

This is perhaps reminiscent of the nuclear debate, where again and again we find that people living near to nuclear sites, and seeing the economic benefits, are far more positive about nuclear energy than those living further away.  But perhaps the better parallel is with coal.  Hundreds of thousands died within the coal industry, and on some estimates millions outside died of respiratory conditions as a result of pollution from coal (as indeed they are in China today).  Coal mining with its pit-heads and slag heaps created devastation on the landscape (and bigger earth tremors than fracking).  Yet we still look back to mine closures with regret.

(Caveat: We in UKIP support coal, which is now very much cleaner and safer than it once was).

When we’re offered a new energy extraction technology, shale gas, which is overwhelmingly safer and cleaner than coal, and offers vast commercial and economic benefits, we should be welcoming it with open arms, not campaigning against it.

Another example of irrational fear is that of GM foods.  We have been eating them for decades with no recorded case of harm, yet they arouse fierce negative emotions.  At least the Luddites who attacked mechanical looms with sledgehammers in the early 1800s had a credible (if mistaken) argument for their actions.  Opponents of GM have none.  It’s time to learn to weigh up risks and benefits, and to make decisions which are proportionate, not precautionary.

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Viking Invasion at Bicker Fen

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Unspoilt? The Church at the heart of Bicker village

Back in January 2013, I wrote about the problems of residents at Bicker Fen in Lincolnshire, in the Boston constituency.

Their beautiful, mysterious fenland landscape had been invaded by the curse of the wind-farm.  For three years they had to put up with massive disruption from the construction process for thirteen turbines and a sub-station, in previously unspoiled countryside.  350,000 lorry movements (yes 350,000 – this is not a misprint).  120,000 tons of rock and hard-core.  Local water-mains fractured by traffic and construction no fewer than 57 times.  The local lane turned into a swamp in wet weather, and a desert in the dry.

But at last it was over, and the residents expected some respite – despite the visual intrusion, loss of property values, incessant noise and the well-documented health impacts of wind turbines.

Respite indeed.  But it was not to be.  Now there are plans to create the terminal for the Viking interconnector link from Denmark, which involves another 150 acres of agricultural land, a new sub-station, more construction traffic, more industrialisation in a previously pristine environment, and extension of the nightmare.  The residents tell me that alternative brown-field sites have not been considered, and they criticise the operators involved for a failure of information and consultation.

As a result, they approached me and asked me to write to the Chief Executives of OfCom and the National Grid.  I have done so, in the following terms:

Dear Sir,

Viking Link/Bicker Fen

I write as an MEP representing Lincolnshire to express my concern about an issue which has been brought to my attention by worried residents in the Bicker Fen region of Lincolnshire.  These people have already had a large wind farm imposed in the teeth of their protests, and have consequently suffered all the problems of an industrialised landscape, visual intrusion, excessive lorry movements during the construction phase, and of course the well-documented health impacts of wind turbines located close to homes.

They are now horrified to find they face a new threat, from the proposed Viking Link from Denmark, which apparently is scheduled to come right through the same area – as if local residents had not suffered enough.

They express serious (and in my view wholly justified) concerns in the following areas: 

1) Visual intrusion

2) Loss of valuable agricultural land (reportedly 150 acres)

3) Alternative brownfield sites have not been selected

4) Unacceptable levels of traffic, and industrialisation of the Bicker area

5) Total lack of information or consultation before the plans were finalised.

6) Unacceptable damage to residents’ lives

7) Unacceptable cumulative industrialisation

I have no doubt that you have carefully-drafted justifications on all these points, but the residents don’t want soft soap or sophistry.  They want a genuine recognition of their views, and they want the plans changed so as to protect them from further damage.

Please let me know what you can do to take account of their concerns.

Yours sincerely 

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Nutcracker in rehearsal

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With the English National Ballet’s Alina Cojocaru at Markova House

Now and again I manage to write a blog post on a non-political subject – typically the ballet, a keen interest of mine.  And I get readers complaining that they visit my blog for the politics, and don’t give a hang about ballet. To those readers I say: please look away now!

Not that we seem to be able to keep politics out of anything. There have been a number of stories in the press recently lamenting politicians’ lack of knowledge of – and interest in – the arts. But in my case I can say: Not Guilty, Guv!

Last week I was privileged to have been invited to visit Markova House, by the Royal Albert Hall, where the English National Ballet has its rehearsal rooms. Whilst doing the tour (and having marvelled at the wonderful work going on in the costume department — more sequins than Strictly!), we paused outside the door of a rehearsal room, and my guide said “That’s Alina Cojocaru rehearsing”.

I’m a huge fan of Alina, absolutely one of the best ballerinas dancing in the UK today (along with Tamara Rojo, of whom I’m also a great fan — they’re both now with the ENB). I’ve seen Alina live, dancing Medora in Le Corsaire, and in many DVD’s, including Aurora in Sleeping Beauty; Clara in Nutcracker, and Giselle in Giselle.

She has a commanding stage presence, coupled with a lightness and fragility which are astonishing. So I was amazed, meeting her face to face, to realise quite how tiny she is. I was only with her briefly, but she was quite charming, despite the pressures of rehearsal, and very kindly agreed to a quick photo-op. Not only is she a great dancer, but she also has remarkable dramatic talent. The final scene of Giselle, in which she (or rather, her shade) protects the very man who betrayed her, is extraordinarily moving. Real tears-to-the-eyes stuff, and Adam’s music tugs the heart-strings.

I went on to another rehearsal room where for best part of an hour I was able to watch the rehearsals for Nutcracker, that perennial seasonal favourite, which opens at the Coliseum on December 11th. Of course ballet companies rotate their principals, so there were several ballerinas rehearsing the same sequences of the same rôle. It was magical to watch. I’ve always seen dance in terms mainly of the steps and the lifts, but watching the rehearsals close-up I was struck by the extraordinary elegance of the posture and shaping. I shall be seeing it with new eyes — which is a good thing, because I have tickets for the London opening on December 11th.

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