It’s worth reading Garrison Keillor’s hilarious book “Lake Wobegone Days”, if only for the very perceptive chapter on the small protestant denomination in which he was raised. I recognise the scenario, as I was raised in a rather similar one. Such groups are riven with factionalism and schism. Each faction has some slightly different (but vital) alternative interpretation of Holy Writ, and the divisions become smaller and smaller, even within families, until you have the impression that each adherent is convinced that he is the only true believer, and that all the others are suspect one way or another.
Sadly, the Eurosceptic movement in Britain is rather similar. Too many eurosceptics spend their time sniping at each other, rather than turning their guns on the real enemy, which in this case is Brussels.
I was alerted by my indomitable press officer Neelam Cartmell to a web-site called Autonomous Mind, which appears to be of the UKIP persuasion, and has a host of contributors eager to attack Conservative Eurosceptics who clearly (in their terms) are not Eurosceptics at all, but part of a great Tory plot to burnish sceptical credentials whilst pursuing an integrationist policy. Autonomous Mind (AM), by the way, is said to “disdain Nigel Farage” — illustrating my point about factionalism and schism.
AM had published an “Open letter to Roger Helmer MEP”, which had attracted some angry comment. But at least Mr. AM invited me to respond — so I did. You may be amused by some of my replies.
Bellvue alleged that Roger Helman (sic) MEP was a cowardly shit. “I recognise neither the name Roger Helman, nor the appellation “cowardly shit”, so I think you must be engaged in a different conversation”.
Brian H asserted that all politicians were liars: “Unlike George Washington, I would not claim that I’d never told a lie. But I would say that I have never knowingly dissembled about any political question: indeed if you had followed my career you would know that I am in constant trouble for too much straight talking”.
David Phipps insisted we all knew that repatriation (of powers from Brussels) would never happen: I certainly don’t “know that repatriation will never happen”. There is a head of steam building up in the parliamentary party. It has been commented on by, amongst others, Tim Montgomerie, who has his ear to the ground. We now have the European Union Act which prescribes a referendum in specific circumstances. Those circumstances could arise with the proposed new arrangements for a euro-debt-union. I don’t think Cameron can move at this stage without upsetting the Coalition — and therefore the fiscal recovery plan. But he could do so before the next election.
Jeremy Poynton asks “Exactly who do you represent?”. I think you mean “whom”. I represent about 4.2 million people in the East Midlands, and I have been elected top of the list on three successive occasions — ‘99, ‘04, ‘09. I think my democratic legitimacy probably exceeds that of most correspondents to AM.
Patrick Harris asks why politicians don’t sue the European Commission for breaches of EU law: I think your answer is that there is no realistic hope that the European Court of Justice would ever hand down a ruling opposed to European integration. A court action would be a huge waste of time and money. But of course if you think you have a case — there’s nothing to stop you bringing an action.
Jones “Do you at least agree that commentators on this blog have a point?”: Indeed. Many of the commentators have a point. But I’m not sure that they have a strategy.
Uncle Badger rants: “Antipathy to the EU is rife …. If you are not willing to represent that view….”. What do you imagine I have been doing for the last twelve years? I’ve been expressing my antipathy to the EU in blogs, newsletters, Tweets, (@RogerHelmerMEP), web-sites; press releases, books, DVDs; on radio and TV; in the Conservative Party and in the European parliament! You might check your facts before sounding off. And you might note my earlier comments: too many Eurosceptics spend their time attacking each other, not attacking Brussels.
AM is said to disdain Nigel Farage: Sorry to hear that you regard Nigel Farage with disdain. I have a lot of time for him. A good guy.
John Payne argues that European integration in the Conservative Party is driven by the Whips: Interested by your theory that EU integration is driven by the Whips. Last time I checked, the Chief Whip was Patrick McLoughlin MP — he’s on my patch and I certainly don’t see him as a fifth column for Brussels.
Finally, they ask, why do some eurosceptics in Westminster occasionally appear to support some integrationist measures? Is it better to seek to move the Conservative Party in a Eurosceptic direction over time (which implies some compromise with Party policy), or to make one grand kamikaze gesture which rules you out of the action ever after, even though it gains the applause of Autonomous Mind?