I’m afraid I’ve been away from the blog for a bit, largely because I’ve been doing too much other stuff. By way of explanation, if not apology, let me run you by it.
W/c October 22nd was the exceptional five-day Straz week. As a ploy to cut the twelve trips to Straz each year, the parliament decided to have two “sessions” in one week. The first Monday/Tuesday; the second Thursday/Friday. This was a wheeze promoted by Ashley Fox MEP (well done him), but is likely to be overturned by the ECJ (European Court of Justice), which of course has nothing at all to do with Justice, and everything to do with promoting the European project. Expect them to rule that the parliament has to do twelve separate weeks anyway. The travelling circus is alive and well.
On the Friday, I flew to Copenhagen (via Amsterdam), at the invitation of my good EFD colleague, Danish MEP Morten Messerschmidt. He’s been organising a forum in Denmark between several euro-critical political groups, and had set up a meeting in the Christiansborg building (above), which houses both the Danish Parliament and the Danish royal palace. We met on Saturday in the former upper house of the parliament — vacant since Denmark moved to a unicameral system in the fifties. I was speaking, and the other key speaker was none other than Danish EU Environment Commissioner Connie Heddegard.
Now the Commissioner knows very well that I disagree with her profoundly, both on climate change and on Europe, so top marks to her for agreeing to share a platform with me. We were in fact debating the EU and Barroso’s “State of the Union” address. But she gets a D minus for pleading “diary pressure” and heading off after her speech, but before mine. I may say that though her remarks were heard with courtesy and attention, I felt that mine were greeted with rather more enthusiasm.
Arriving back home around tea-time on Sunday (not too many flights from Copenhagen to Birmingham), I set off some fifteen hours later, on Monday morning, for Brussels. On Monday evening, I flew to Dublin as the EFD member in a delegation of the parliament’s Industry & Energy committee. We were going to Ireland ahead of that country’s up-coming six-month Presidency of the EU, commencing in January.
We had meetings with Sustainable Energy Ireland; the Industrial Development Authority; IBEC (the employers’ federation); the Google HQ; the “Digital Hub” project. And with two government ministers: Richard Bruton, Minister for Jobs, and the agreeably-named Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte. Amusingly, several members of the delegation peeled off during the second day of the two-day visit, and by the time we got to Minister Rabbitte, there only remained an Irish MEP, a Spanish MEP, and myself. So I had the opportunity to present, in rather robust terms, a counter-consensual view on the EU’s renewables policies. I was heard with courtesy, if not with total agreement.
I took the opportunity to raise the issue of nuclear power. The Energy Minister replied that Ireland, for its part, rejected nuclear power, but he seemed to imply that during his presidency he would keep and open mind on nuclear in Europe.
Returning home late on Wednesday, I was ready to start out early on Thursday to drive down to Exeter University, where I addressed their Freedom Society on climate and energy. A 450 mile round trip, so best part of twenty gallons of petrol burned in the day. In Exeter, I bumped into Ashley Fox (see above) who as chance would have it was addressing an unrelated event at Exeter University.
On the Friday, I participated in a confrontation set up by the BBC. They had me visiting the new department of Landscape and Climate Change (odd mixture) at Leicester University. Their piece based on the ensuing debate will be broadcast on the East Midlands Politics Show on Nov 11th. Since they have perhaps 45 minutes of film, and the piece will be less than ten minutes, the tone of the outcome will depend critically on the editing. The journalist assured me that this would be done to the highest standards of BBC impartiality.
On Saturday, I was on the road again — to UKIP’s North-West Conference in Liverpool, at the invitation of Deputy Leader Paul Nuttall MEP. This was a lively affair with an audience of over 300, and I made my pitch on climate and energy, which was well received. I also had a discussion on industrial policy and education with a former Tory councillor who has recently joined UKIP — a matter I plan to revert to in a subsequent blog.
A ridiculously busy fortnight, so today (Sunday) I have a well-deserved day off (apart from e-mails & blogging). Brux tomorrow.