Sally McNamara was a new graduate, with a degree in politics, when she applied in 1999 to be Press Officer for the East Midlands euro-candidate team. She did a cracking job during the election, and I naïvely assumed that when three of us were elected — myself, Chris Heaton-Harris and Bill Newton Dunn — we’d keep her on to work for us as MEPs. I’d reckoned without Newton Dunn, who in his supercilious and patronising way insisted that Sally was much too young and inexperienced to do his press work — an early example of his profound lack of judgement.
Sally stayed on as Press Officer for Chris and me until 2002, when she came across to Brux to work in my office. At the end of the 1999/04 parliament, Sally decided it was time to move on, and asked if I would sponsor her for a summer sabbatical in Washington with ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council (which was later to honour me as its first Adam Smith Scholar). Sally obviously hit the spot with ALEC, as they offered her a full time job. Then in 2006 she was hired away from ALEC by the Heritage Foundation, and she’s now a Senior Policy Analyst in their Margaret Thatcher Centre.
On May 5th, Sally was a witness before the US Congressional Sub-Committee on Europe and Eurasia, at a hearing dealing with security issues. The Chairman of the Committee is, of course, a Republican, so Heritage gets a fair hearing. Sally had some rather robust and critical things to say about the EU, the European parliament, and Europe’s cooperation (or lack of it) in security matters. She particularly urged members of the Committee to pay more attention to individual member-states, rather than to the EU in general, and she commended the ECR (European Conservatives) group as an interlocutor in the parliament, since the ECR has a positive attitude to transatlantic cooperation and to an intergovernmental approach.
This horrified Dr. Piotr Nowina Konopka, Director of the European parliament Liaison Office in Washington (the WHAT?! I hear you cry …. Oh yes, there is such an office!). He hurried to get a report back to the parliament, in which he regrets that no Democrats were present, and no other witness contested Miss McNamara’s remarks. Miss McNamara (he said) “dominated the second half of the hearing”, and “gave the members of the Europe Committee a one-sided impression of the role and opinions of the European parliament”. (The European parliament Liaison Office, of course, would never dream of giving a one-sided impression of the EU … would it?).
Then came the sting in the tail. The ultimate condemnation. The killer line. “Miss McNamara is a former assistant of MEP Roger Helmer (UK, ECR)”.
Now that there is a Republican majority in Congress, the good guys are getting a better hearing, and the good guys don’t come better than Sally (and Heritage). And having been fed the official euro-propaganda line for years by the EU institutions, and by the big parliamentary groups like the EPP and the socialists, the Congressional Committee is now benefitting from some more balanced comment — and about time too.
When I look back on my parliamentary career, one of the things I feel really good about is the progress and achievement of former staffers whose careers were helped along by what they learned during their time in the parliament. And when I read Sally’s very professional, thorough and informed evidence to the Congressional Committee on Europe, I felt a special glow of pride. Well done Sally.