Lib Dem attack crashes and burns


On Tuesday March 12th, during a rather long speech in the Strasbourg Hemicycle from Israeli President Shimon Peres, I’m afraid I inadvertently and momentarily dozed off.  As it happens, I was in the parliament that day for fourteen hours, and next day for twelve, so I don’t think I necessarily have to apologise for a quick mid-day power-nap (except perhaps to President Peres).

But someone rather disobligingly took a photograph of me snoozing.  I’m not sure who it was, although I suspect Tory Chief Whip Julie Girling — at least, it was she who Tweeted it, and of course it went viral.  I first saw it on Guido’s front page.

Not content with that, my old sparring partner and Lib-Dem MEP Bill Newton Dunn saw fit to send it out to the East Midlands press, as a sort of impromptu press release.  And BBC Radio Nottingham invited Bill and me onto their morning show at 7:50 a.m. next day.   So I was there at my desk and on the phone at that early hour (having left the building the previous evening around 10:20 p.m.).

Bear in mind that the BBC had invited me to talk about sleeping on the job, while Bill was there in an attempt to ridicule and humiliate me.  And I have to say (without undue modesty) that what followed was a master-class in how to turn around a political attack and dump on the attacker.  I was reminded of Tolkien: “The biter bit, the hawk under the eagle’s foot”.

The interviewer started the good work, asking if Bill thought I was working.

BND: Well I think it is true, he works for UKIP so he is opposing everything, but I suppose he is working. He is there. Yes we can all nod off, I can understand it.

INT: But you sent out a press release saying: “Roger and the team hard at work again”.

BND: Well I give him the benefit of the doubt, but it’s for the public to decide, not me.

INT: Well that’s not the benefit of the doubt, sending out a press release with a photo of him asleep…that sounds very much like you’ve made your mind up, Bill.

BND: Well Roger does work very hard, that’s what I’ve decided.

In fact I had already checked the stats.  Bill and I are both assiduous about attending and voting, and our figures are very similar, so he could scarcely accuse me of slacking without accusing himself as well.  But I didn’t need to quote the numbers.  Bill’s response begs the question: “If you agree that Roger works very hard, Bill, then exactly what point did you think you were making when you sent out the photo?”.

But in the next breath I suggested that instead of talking about a joke photo, we ought to be talking about the reforms to the CAP, and the vote on the EU budget multi-annual framework, both of which were to be voted later that day.  And I demanded to know why Bill was going to vote to increase the budget.  He started to flannel.  The conversation continued:

RFH: Today we have really important votes.   I’m always really happy to talk to you about a photograph that’s on twitter, but I would much rather talk to you about what’s going on in the Chamber.  I’m going to be voting against an increase in spending in Brussels, and I want to know what BND is going to be doing.

BND: It’s nice to talk serious politics, but the Parliament is going to be voting today on a mandate to go and talk to the 27 leaders, representatives. There is some talk about rearranging the spending, because we think that the deal the leaders made over 30 hours was a total mess. It should be improved, and we don’t know what the final outcome is going to be yet, until the negotiations have been undertaken.

RFH: But the Parliament is going to be calling for higher spending, and you’re voting for that, yes?

BND: No, no, we’re not voting for higher or lower spending. We’re asking for different lines on the budget. Let’s wait and see what happens.

RFH: If you’re voting for the Parliament position you’re voting for more spending in Europe, that’s absolutely clear. If you haven’t read the document, then perhaps you should.

INT: Guys… Would you like to respond to that?

BND: It’s absurd; Roger is taking a position that doesn’t yet exist- let’s wait and see. We do these things in a proper methodical way.

RFH: It does exist and we’re voting on it today.

In fact Bill did indeed vote for the parliament report, which calls for higher EU spending, an end to the British rebate, new EU-level taxes, and for the proceeds of the proposed Financial Transaction Tax to be paid directly into Brussels’ coffers.

But I’d like to pick up another of Bill’s points.  He says I am “opposing everything”.  And I guess he’s right.  I’m against everything, except maybe independence and self-determination and democracy.  And free markets, and enterprise, and prosperity.  And hard work and self-reliance.  And limited government and low taxes.  And property rights and enforceable contracts and the rule of law.

I’m in favour of education, and grammar schools, and our great universities.  I’m in favour of secure and affordable energy supplies — currently put at risk by EU policies.

And of course I’m in favour of history and culture, art and architecture, music and opera and ballet, literature and poetry and drama.  I’m in favour of food and wine, of real ale and country pubs, and walks with friends along canal towpaths.  I’m in favour of travel and fast cars.  And though I’m a bit past it now, I was certainly in favour of distance running and marathons and sailboards, in my time.  I’m in favour of dogs and cats and horses, of the English countryside and country sports, of country fairs and county shows.

Above all, I’m in favour of freedom.  And that’s something that the EU institutions know little about.

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6 Responses to Lib Dem attack crashes and burns

  1. UKIP is moving into the limelight. Dangerous. Not everyone out there is an honourable person. The limelight tries so hard to make nice, normal people into lying hypocrites.
    We had a very nasty case of that here in Wisbech this week-end. Roger, please do stay decent, nice and honest like you are at the moment!

  2. Will says:

    Good for you Roger! Keep true to UKIP’s principles (and your own of course) and keep these duplicitous c..c…c..colleagues firmly on their back foot with their double-dealing, pro EU fakery, and anti democratic, anti British voting

  3. Avoid 14 hour days. They’re seriously counter productive.

  4. Acredypants says:

    In teen language ” you owned him” Roger. well done
    I notoce you say you are in favour of property rights. This ties in with rumours that property ownership under the EU is at threat? Is this Agenda 21?

  5. matthu says:

    Toby Young in today’s Telegraph had this to say about freedom:

    There are several reasons why defenders of press freedom should oppose the compromise deal over Leveson that the three main parties have agreed.

    The first and most important point is that membership of the new regulatory system won’t be truly voluntary. Non-signatories will be liable to larger financial penalties if a court upholds a legal complaint against them – larger than they are at present and larger than they would be if they were signatories. That’s the “incentive” that’s supposed to encourage publishers to join without compelling them to do so. (It’s more like a whopping great stick.) But what if a publisher refuses to pay the fine on the grounds that it’s not fair that he should be penalised for not signing up to the new regulator? The answer is that he’ll be sent to jail – or, at the very least, have his trading license withdrawn. That’s not voluntary self-regulation.

    That means that whatever the details are of the new regulatory system, the fact that the Royal Charter enshrining that system can be changed by a two-thirds majority in Parliament effectively hands politicians control over the press.

    Two-thirds of MPs and Lords could decide the code isn’t strict enough and alter the Royal Charter to guarantee it’s made more so in any number of ways. For instance, they could insist that the code applying to our papers is compliant with some yet-to-be-drafted EU code of practice. (The EU is busy extending its tentacles into this area already.)

    And don’t think a two-thirds majority is out of reach for those who want to muzzle the press. Labour ended up with more than two-thirds of MPs after its landslide in 1997. In any case, if Parliament can pass an Act granting itself the power to change Royal Charters by a two-thirds majority, what’s to stop it passing another Act that lowers the threshold to a simple majority? Nothing, says Charles Walker MP, the Chair of the Commons Procedure Committee.

    For that reason, I hope that as many newspapers, magazines and websites as possible refuse to join the new regulatory system.

    So we have the EU extending its tentacles but we as yet are unclear what their intention is. And Cameron and the others are only too eager to get ready for the next directive.

    Nobody in the mainstream media (except perhaps Toby Young above) has really drawn attention yet to the fact that websites (such as this one, and Douglas Carswell’s and Bishop Hill and Guido) are included within the ambit of the legislation – but they are included.

    And whenever the three main parties agree on something, we know that the detail has not really been scrutinsed. Think joining the EEC. Think joining the ERM. Think Climate Act 2008. Think setting up an independent Central Bank to ensure “no more boom and bust”. And now, press regulation underpinned by statute.

    I grew up under a regime that used laws like this to suppress criticism through fear of being banned, imprisoned or having your passport taken away. We are only a very short step away from that when journalists begin to censor what they write or what appears on their blog through fear of government action.

    And all three main political parties are supporting this. We need to make our feelings known about this, but as usual we are not being consulted. And UKIP, please, make even more of a noise about standing up for freedoms that are being eroded by successive governments (or over-protected by onerous legislation).

  6. Jane Davies says:

    We believe in the same things Roger (well, maybe not fracking!). You are making me nostalgic for the old Blighty! Well done for “besting him”. I believe that’s another “cool” expression!

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