A genuine dilemma

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So many issues in politics are clear-cut.  Things are either right or wrong, they meet our principles or they don’t.  But every so often something comes up that gives us real pause for thought.

London Mayor Boris Johnson recently called for tough new measure against “British Jihadists” — if “British Jihadist” is not a contradiction in terms. These people holding British passports are clearly “BINOs” — British in Name Only.  On their own admission, their first loyalty is to their “Islamic State”, their “Caliphate”, not to Britain.  In my view they are not British in any real sense.  They are simply fanatical Islamists who happen through a quirk of history to hold British passports.

Many of our fellow-citizens — many members of UKIP — will applaud Boris’s approach.  These terrorists represent a real risk to our security here at home, and surely the toughest measures against them are justified.

And yet, and yet…..   I have a problem with one of Boris’s proposals: to reverse the burden of proof, so that anyone returning from Iraq and Syria would be presumed to be a Jihadist unless they could prove otherwise.  He describes this as “a rebuttable presumption”.  It’s an appealing idea, but it represents a threat to one of the fundamental principles of English Common Law, one of the vital freedoms that British men and women have enjoyed for generations.

Here in the UK we cherish habeus corpus, trial by jury — and the presumption of innocence.  These are our fundamental rights.  Yet they are already under threat, nibbled away at by anti-terror legislation, and also by the intrusion of European law.  The European Arrest Warrant in particular drives a coach and horses through these principles, as far as those are concerned who are extradited under the EAW.

How can we on the one hand fight for the preservation of our traditional liberties, yet on the other hand give them up one by one in the face of external threats?  And we can hardly call Boris’s idea “the thin end of the wedge”, because it’s by no means the first attempt to blunt those liberties.  But it’s another step in the wrong direction.  We in UKIP cannot be party to the dilution of the very rights we strive to protect.

Does that mean we can be soft on terror?  Not at all.

What we should certainly be doing is withdrawing British passports from those who go on Jihad.  The bleeding-hearts like Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve will complain that by making these people stateless, we are in breach of international law.  But international law is not some obligatory code from a higher power — it is in effect a treaty or series of treaties into which we, as a sovereign nation, have chosen to enter into.  And if such treaties and agreements become inappropriate in new circumstances, we can simply withdraw from them (as we should withdraw from the EU treaties).

“Making them stateless” is particularly apt with regard to these Jihadists.  They have chosen of their own free will to transfer their allegiance from Britain (if indeed they ever owed Britain any allegiance) to their Islamic State, their Caliphate.  In their eyes, they are not stateless at all, but the first citizens of a ew Islamic state.  Very well.  Let them apply to that state for a passport, and see how they get on.  Poetic justice.  Making the punishment fit the crime, as W.S. Gilbert put it.  They can go to the war zone, but they should never come back.

We need to reintroduce control orders and proper surveillance of terrorist suspects who may represent a threat to the British public.

Our police and security authorities should be rigorous in investigating those who seek to go to Iraq, and any who seek to return.  We can — we must — be tough on terrorism and ruthless in dealing with it.  But we must do so without abrogating the fundamental freedoms we cherish.

 

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Cameron’s cynical referendum scam

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Westminster was stunned on Friday when Douglas Carswell left the Tories to join UKIP, resigned his seat, and triggered a by-election.  And I must admit I was stunned this morning when I saw the headline in the Mail: SHOCK POLL: CAMERON FACES UKIP BY-ELECTION BLOODBATH: Farage’s 44-point lead over Tories.  Forty four points.  Almost too good to be true.

It seems there’s a groundswell of support for UKIP, especially in the south-east, and in Clacton this effect is reinforced by a very strong personal following for Douglas.  He deserves that support, because in standing down and triggering a by-election, he has been both courageous and honourable.  Those Tories who have accused him of vain posturing and conceit are beneath contempt.  Many MPs in the circumstances would have said “The general election is pretty soon, so we’ll let it ride”.  Douglas did the decent thing and sought a new mandate as a UKIP MP.

The Tory reaction has been predictable, if heavily orchestrated after the Tory Whips’ phone-round.  They’re saying that only the Conservatives can deliver an EU Referendum, and that therefore Douglas by switching parties has damaged the chances of what he wants most.  This is, of course, self-serving nonsense.

We need to understand why the Prime Minister promised an EU referendum in the first place.  He had an immediate objective: to buy-off his eurosceptic back-benchers, and activists, and members.  To park the Europe issue in the long grass until after the General Election next year.  This is cynical electioneering, and few –least of all Douglas Carswell — are taken in.

But there seems to be a longer-term objective too.  Cameron has never denied that he wants the UK to stay in the EU.  He’s decided that the way to solve the problem, and to make the Europe question go away in the long-term, is to organise a referendum which will endorse EU membership.  He believes that the issue will be settled for a generation (though he should remember the EU precedent — if you don’t like the result of a referendum, have another one a few months later.  Keep voting until you get the “right” result).

So he’s trying to emulate Harold Wilson’s ploy from thirty years ago.  Announce a “renegotiation”.  Come back with a few trivial and nugatory concessions (can anyone remember what Wilson’s renegotiation achieved in 1975? No.  Nor can I).  Wave a piece of paper while shouting “Peace in Our Time”, or “Game, Set and Match to Great Britain”.  Then win the referendum and carry on as before.

The fact is that Wilson’s “renegotiation” had less to do with the independence of our country, or our relationship with Brussels, than it had to do with Wilson’s internal Labour Party management.  And so it is today with Cameron and the Tories.  History repeats itself.  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.  Cameron may have promised a referendum (not for the first time — and he broke the last promise).  But he hasn’t promised to campaign for “OUT”.

So a vote for the Tories is a vote to stay in the EU.  This is so self-evident that I am surprised, and disappointed, to see that MPs with a eurosceptic track record like Bill Cash, or with the intellectual fire-power of Mark Reckless, or the integrity of John Redwood, are prepared to endorse it.  They should know better, and I believe they do.

 

A vote for UKIP, however, puts pressure on all parties to offer an EU referendum.  Ed Miliband seems set against it, but the UKIP surge will put enormous pressure on him — some of his close colleagues are already talking about it.  And it’s by no means inconceivable that UKIP might hold the balance of power in the next parliament.  Our price for any cooperation will include — you guessed it — an In/Out referendum.

Cameron’s position is doubly cynical, because he knows in advance that no serious concessions are on the table in Brussels.  Today the papers are trumpeting the appointment of Donald Tusk, the Polish Prime Minister, as “Victory in the EU for Cameron” 

But what’s on offer?  Possibly a few minor restrictions on welfare benefits for EU immigrants.  But that’s not good enough, Dave.  We want to be able to control our borders.  We want a cap on immigration.  We want to be able to select for needed skills, and to reject applicants — including “EU Citizens” — if they don’t meet the criteria.

Europe will not budge on “free movement”.  Or on agriculture of fisheries, or energy.  Or on “ever-closer union”.  We can’t even stop them from  banning popular vacuum cleaners.  The message is as it has always been.  If you don’t like the destination, you have to get off the bus.

So the people of Clacton will decide on October.  Of course as Harold Wilson didn’t quite say, “A by-election campaign is a long time in politics”.  We can’t be complacent.  It isn’t won until it’s won, and we all have a lot of work to do to deliver for Douglas, for UKIP, and for Britain.  But a 44 point lead at this stage is a huge boost — and a huge compliment to the wisdom of Clacton’s voters.  They, like Douglas, like UKIP, can see right through David Cameron’s cynical referendum scam.

 

 

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Let’s stop worrying about global warming …and worry about the damage that “green” policies are doing to our economy

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That old canard that “97% of scientists support Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW)” is cropping up again in social media, parroted cheerfully without critical analysis, so I’ve been drawing attention to my rebuttal on the subject.  This was based on Lord Monckton’s painstaking analysis of the original study on which the 97% claim is based.  It seems that those who produced the 97% figure cheerfully assumed that any paper that failed to deny AGW outright was supporting it.  Far from 97% backing the theory, Monckton showed that less than 3% of the papers cited specifically endorsed it.

Yet the 97% claim keeps coming up, just like the “3½ million jobs at risk if we leave the EU” claim, which is equally fraudulent.

Of course the Warmists are in disarray because all their climate models predicted rising global temperatures based on increasing levels of atmospheric CO2, yet for seventeen years there’s been no further warming.  Here we have the classic scientific method: make a hypothesis (AGW); make predictions based on the hypothesis (the computer models); then test the predictions against the real world.  We’ve done that, and the predictions have failed.  Therefore we have to reject the hypothesis.

 

Rather than reject their cherished mythology, however, they’ve chosen to come up with ingenious ad hoc explanations of why the models appear to be wrong.  Lord Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation has been keeping tabs on these explanations (or as some would describe them, “Just So Stories”) and has counted over 30 so far.

 

The latest idea is that the world is indeed getting hotter, but because of the circulation of ocean currents, the extra heat is hiding away in the deep oceans, and will come out again in a couple of decades to bite our ankles.  You have been warned.  The Warmists don’t seem to have realised that if you need to introduce a new and previously unknown concept to explain the failure of your original models, you are simply admitting that the models themselves were wrong, wrong, wrong.  The need for major post-facto tweaks is an admission of failure.  At the very least, they are admitting that the climate system is far more complicated, and the future trajectory of climate far less certain, than they would have had us believe.  Yet they still want us to mortgage our children and bankrupt our grandchildren on the strength of their predictions.

 

Of course no one disputes that CO2 is a greenhouse gas — if we had none, the world would be frozen.  But its effect is governed by a negative logarithmic relationship — a law of diminishing returns.  From where we are now, further increases have little effect, and anyway man-made emissions are small compared to the natural CO2 cycle (wait for the next Icelandic volcano!).

 

The IPCC gets its alarmist results by assuming an exaggerated climate sensitivity to CO2.  It justifies this by postulating “positive feedbacks”.  But these feedbacks are neither proven nor demonstrated, and many scientists point to negative feedbacks (greater cloud formation and higher albedo, for example) and believe that the balance of feedback effects could be negative.

 

In any case CO2 is just a single factor amongst many that influence a highly complex climate system that is poorly understood (witness the Warmist need it invent Just So Stories when their predictions fail).  Clearly the largest influence on terrestrial climate is the Sun, and well-established, long-term climate cycles are clearly driven by the Sun and other astronomical factors.

 

The slight warming since the late 18th Century is entirely consistent with the long-term cyclical pattern (like the Mediæval Warm Period and the Roman Optimum).  And the historical record clearly shows that CO2 level changes come after temperature changes (since temperature drives the CO2 balance between oceans and atmosphere).  The slight recent warming predates the industrial revolution, and the current increase in CO2 is therefore likely the result, not the cause, of the warming.

 

So let’s stop panicking, and start worrying instead about the damage which “green” policies are doing to our economy.

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No independence for Scotland in the EU

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A question which I used to be asked frequently runs as follows: “If a single currency works in a huge economy like the USA, why on earth do you think a single currency won’t work in the EU?”.

I must say I get asked this much less often these days, when the abject failure of the €uro project is writ large for all to see.  As Allister Heath put it in the Telegraph recently: “The €uro has been entirely and unremittingly catastrophic”.  He goes on to quote statistics showing that far from increasing intra-eurozone trade, such trade has declined substantially since the currency’s introduction.

But I was always very happy to get the question, and to explain the answer, because if you understand why the Dollar works in the USA, you have a pretty clear idea why a single currency won’t work in the EU.  I used to give three reasons: first, labour mobility.  If you’re out of work in Pittsburgh, you get on a Greyhound Bus to California.  There’s less labour mobility in most EU countries than in the USA, and far less mobility between EU states.

Second, redistribution.  Large Federal programmes and government sourcing have the effect of moving funds and resources from rich areas to poor areas, on a scale far beyond the scope of the EU budget.

Third, political will.  Americans all salute the same flag, and a well-off New Yorker is prepared to see some of his tax dollars go to support disadvantaged folk in Detroit.  But well-heeled Germans are far less happy to provide long-term bail-outs for Greece, as we’ve seen.

Today, I’d add a fourth factor.  The US Federal Reserve is empowered to take tough and timely decisions to manage the dollar and the US economy.  The ECB, on the other hand, is trammelled with treaty obligations and threats of law-suits in the German Constitutional Court, and cannot operate like a proper Central Bank.  There is no lender of last resort (except Germany, and it’s getting a bit tired of that role).

But today, another essentially similar question is being asked, in the context of the Scottish “Independence” debate.  If UKIP is opposed to the union of the UK with the EU, how on earth can we support the union of Scotland in the United Kingdom?  (“Does UKIP oppose Scottish independence?” I hear you ask.  The clue is in the name — we’re the United Kingdom Independence Party).

And the answer is the same one given above.  If you understand why the Union has worked successfully for Scotland and England for 300 years, you’ll understand why the EU is most unlikely to last 300 years.  Or 100, come to that.

And to justify this proposition, let me quote, yet again, my favourite line from Enoch Powell, who said that democracy can work and have legitimacy “where people share enough in common, especially in terms of history, culture, language and economic interests, that they are prepared to accept governance at each others’ hands”.  Of course we can argue whether that criterion is satisfied within the UK: I would assert that it self-evidently is.  But surely no one could argue that it is satisfied in the EU.  Manifestly, it is not.

I suppose it is right that the vote on Scottish independence is a matter for the Scots (though I was shocked to hear that EU nationals resident in Scotland are entitled to vote).  Nonetheless, we English have an enormous stake in the issue, both for practical economic reasons, and in terms of history and identity.  I have no Scottish ancestry (that I know of), but I feel strongly that Scotland is part of my country, whether it’s the Fingal’s Cave overture (I have seen Fingal’s Cave a couple of times); or the novels of Sir Walter Scott; or “The Land of the Mountain and the Flood” by Hamish Maccunn; or the Edinburgh Tattoo and the marvellous War Memorial Chapel atop Edinburgh Castle; or a glass of Talisker, from the Isle of Skye, before bedtime (I worked several years in the Scotch Whisky industry), I feel that Scotland is part of my own heritage in a way that no foreign country could be.

I find it quite extraordinary that the letter from 200+ Scottish businesses today supporting the YES campaign says that the biggest economic danger in staying in the UK is the risk that the UK will leave the EU!  Indeed if Scotland stays with the UK, there is a possibility (pray God) that we will all leave the EU.  But if Scotland goes independent, it is absolutely certain to leave the EU.  Of course it could apply to re-join the EU as a new member-state, but then it would be committed to the €uro disaster.

More generally, the contradiction at the heart of the YES campaign is the idea that Scotland could ever be “Independent in Europe”.  The whole point of the EU is that member-states cease to be independent, and become part of a larger polity.  Alex Salmond’s offer of independence is a lie.  He proposes that Scotland the Brave become a vassal-state of Brussels.  That’s an odd kind of independence.

The SNP case also bemoans Scottish subservience to Westminster (as they see it).  But given the disproportionate representation of Scotland in Westminster, and the Barnett Formula, and the fact that a large number of British Prime Ministers and other senior officials, have been Scottish, it’s clear that Scotland has far more influence in Westminster than it could ever have as a 1% member-state in a country called Europe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“A Head full of Wee Toys”

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Alex Salmond: “A Head full of Wee Toys — and all of them broken”

I have known Edward Spalton for many years, both as a constituent and now as Hon Sec of the Campaign for an Independent Britain: a man of sound views, I have just recently discovered that he has a Scottish wife – and strong views about the Campaign for Scottish Independence.  He recently wrote to the papers on the subject, and I thought his letter worth sharing:

“In debate, Mr. Salmond appears to be just as ignorant as most Westminster politicians on matters concerning the European Union.

Any country applying to join the EU has to satisfy the  “Copenhagen Criteria” which include the obligation of changing to the euro currency. Full stop. Anything else is fanciful blether. Of course, other countries have adopted foreign currencies as their own legal tender but they are not the sort you would want to emulate. 

“Zimbabwe uses the US dollar. At various times Mr. Salmond has urged wildly divergent cunning plans. He once advocated joining the euro so that Scotland could become a “tiger economy” like Ireland. That fell a little flat, didn’t it? Then he said that Scotland should become a financial power house – like Iceland, only bigger. And we all know what happened to that! As my Scottish wife says “His head’s full of wee toys and they’re all broken”. 

“More seriously, as a small EU country in the eurozone, Scotland could easily suffer the fate of Slovakia (a country of similar population). Slovakia had adopted the euro and kept to all the rules – one of which was that no country could be made liable for the debts of another. Suddenly that rule was changed and Slovakia was told it had to help bail out much richer countries, which had broken every rule in the book. The Slovak government rebelled for all of three days before being dragooned into line.

Martin Schulz, President of the EU parliament, hectored and lectured Slovakian ministers. “How many people do you represent?” he demanded. “I am President of the European parliament and represent all the people of Europe”.

Edward Spalton, Hon Sec of the Campaign for an Independent Britain

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Riga Travelogue

Roger Helmer MEP Senora 2014

With Latvian Soprano Sonora Vaice, who sang Violetta in Traviata

The world is going to hell in a hand-cart.  A landslide tragedy in Hiroshima.  A new War with Islamist brigands in Iraq.  Refugees fleeing to Syria, or anywhere they can get away to.  Russia and Ukraine fighting a low-level proxy war in Eastern Ukraine — and now what technically amounts to a Russian invasion. The crisis in Gaza. Ebola rife across Africa.  Even the National Guard called out on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.  I wish I could offer solutions to some of these problems.  But as it is, I shall offer you instead an account of my recent visit to Riga, in Latvia.  For those unfamiliar with Baltic geography, Latvia is the central Baltic state east of the sea, and its neighbours are Estonia to the North,Lithuania to the South — and Russia to the East.

I first went to Latvia in my political capacity, to do what I could to help two constituents who had run into a problem with the local constabulary, back in 2009.  Eventually the problem was sorted out, but at great personal cost to the individuals concerned.  These events illustrated to me the profound injustices of the European Arrest Warrant, and I have spoken out against it ever since.  It is a vast injustice that British citizens can be sent abroad on the whim of a foreign magistrate, with no defence, no safeguards, no checks and balances.  But that is another story.

I may have had problems with the Latvian legal system, but Riga itself is a delight – as the capital of a small state with a population of around two million, Riga manages to be a capital city with a small town flavour.  The Old Town is particularly delightful.  Winding streets, heavily pedestrianised, and packed with bars, restaurants, street stalls, boutique shops.  The City is noted for its Art Nouveau architecture, especially in the Alberta Street area which I visited, and took far too many pictures of Art Nouveau features (web link to follow).  In Riga, Art Nouveau is still known by its German name Jugendsil — though I find the term vaguely ominous.

Perhaps at this point I should stress that this summer’s trip was a private visit, a holiday, and before my regular internet trolls get carried away (they have already raised the question) I paid for it entirely myself.  Nevertheless, I did one or two things with a political character.  For a start, I paid a courtesy call on the European parliament office Parliament office in Riga (yes, there is one!).

I also looked up a former Latvian colleague Inese Vaidere . An MEP from 2004 to 2014, she sadly failed to be re-elected this year.  However she was first runner-up on her party’s list.  And top of her list was former Latvian Prime Minister Vladis Dombrovskis.  He has been nominated as the new Latvian EU Commissioner, and is rather likely to be confirmed.  If so, Inese will be back in the parliament for the current term — and I shall be delighted to see her there.

Professor Vaidere was a particular star of the European Energy Forum, where I have been active for a number of years, and we need her back.  Too many of those MEPs who were sound on energy issues have either stood down, or failed to be re-elected.

Inese very kindly invited me down for a visit to her farmhouse in rural Latvia, near the town of Livani, and I spent time with her family — including her nine-year old grandson who is already a star wind-surfer.  They have a sauna set up at the bottom of the garden, and we did the full routine — heating up in the steam room, then plunging into the rather cool river which is conveniently placed nearby.

Latvians are watching developments in Ukraine with some concern.  Like Ukraine, they have a border with Russia.  Like Ukraine, they were formerly in the USSR.  And like Ukraine, they too have a very significant Russian minority population.  But unlike Ukraine, they are members of NATO, and have a joint security guarantee.  I believe that this should give Latvia (and the other Baltic states) very considerable confidence.

But the main focus of my trip to Riga was the Opera House.  I have been there a number of times, and never cease to be amazed, on the one hand by the quality of the performances, and on the other by the price of the tickets, which was around €20 for a good seat.  A similar seat in London would be well into three figures.

On the Sunday of my arrival I saw a ballet.  And on the Wednesday, they were doing my favourite opera, Traviata.  It was magnificent.  No matter how many times I see it, it remains intensely moving, and by the end, as Violetta dies of consumption, I daresay there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.  I actually managed to arrange a very brief photo-op before the show with the star, . Sonora Vaice  who sang the part of Violetta. Sonora is Latvian, and is a highly regarded soprano on the continental opera circuit.

If you love opera, then Riga is a great place to go.  In fact it’s a delightful city to visit even if opera is not your thing.  I recommend it (and before the trolls ask the question, No, I have not been given a brown envelope stuffed with money by the Latvian Tourist Board).

For ladies with a keen interest in fashion, I append a full length picture of Sonora’s gown.

 

Roger Helmer and Senora

 

You can see more pictures from my visit to Riga on my website

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Wishful thinking on immigration

John Hayes MP

John Hayes MP

I have a high regard for John Hayes MP, whom I have known for many years.  But I fear his piece on immigration (Aug 11th) relied too much on rose-tinted spectacles and wishful thinking, rather than the facts as they are, and as the people of Lincolnshire know them.  The word “complacency” springs to mind.

He says that new government rules on benefits have persuaded many British people to take jobs, and he may be right.  And he adds that “the need for immigrants will decline”.  That may be true, but no one has told the immigrants, and in the case of EU immigrants, there is nothing we can do to stop them.  The government has made it (a little) tougher for new immigrants to claim benefits, but that didn’t stop the number of Romanian & Bulgarian immigrants reaching a new record — over 150,000 – in the latest data.  That’s up 10% on the previous quarter, and up nearly 25% on a year ago

One in ten new jobs in Britain go to Romanians and Bulgarians. And it’s not just Romanians & Bulgarians.  Immigrants from the “A8” (mainly East European low-income countries that joined the EU in 2004) are now up to 861,000, up 178,000 year-on-year.  The government may think it has taken measures to slow the pace of immigration, but if so, they’re just not working.

Mr. Hayes says “We’ve made it easier to deport illegal immigrants”, but again, the government’s plans are not working.  Press reports say a record number of illegal immigrants are winning appeals, being allowed to stay in Britain. Many of these people are serious and/or repeat offenders — rapists, child molesters, murderers.  And they often win appeals on spurious and perverse grounds, that seem to defy common sense.  The “Right to a Family Life” is over-interpreted beyond reason.  We cannot resolve these problems while we are bound by the Human Rights Act, which may have been well-intentioned but has become a monster.

UKIP wants a rational immigration policy where an overall annual figure can be agreed, taking into account the needs of industry for additional skills.  Within that envelope, we should be selecting precisely those skills we need.  And we should be blocking unskilled people from poor countries.  We should be deporting serious offenders and those who represent a danger to the public.

This is the sort of common-sense immigration policy that (for example) Australia has.  We need a similar approach.  But as Mr. Hayes knows perfectly well, we can’t do that as long as we’re in the EU.  There is absolutely no question of Brussels “renegotiating” its Free Movement rules.

 

 

 

 

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