I never cease to be amazed by the nonsense and folly and downright vindictiveness you find on Twitter. Mostly I don’t respond, but let me share some choice items with you.
In September, like migrating birds, a new batch of American interns appeared in the European parliament. I have one, Melina from Philadelphia, who’ll be with us two days a week for four months. So I Tweeted “It’s that time of year again: the arrival of the American interns. Good to have them around”.
This produced an outburst of spleen. We had “Helmer changes his position on immigration”. “Bloody foreigners – send ’em back, eh, Rog?”. And “Are they taking jobs that an English person could have done?” from a J.P.Janson de Couet. Maybe Janson has something against the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish?
So let’s unpack this one. First, these are not immigrants. They are genuine students spending the third year of an American University four-year course in Belgium, and they welcome the opportunity to have some exposure to the European parliament. Secondly, even if they were immigrants, they’re not coming to the UK. Third, they’re not doing “jobs that an English person could have done”. In a sense, they’re not doing jobs at all (though they do help out). They’re on unpaid work experience. And before you ask, they’re not being “exploited” as cheap labour. They’re happy to have the experience.
How many times do we have to repeat – UKIP has nothing against foreigners. Nigel Farage is married to a German. My lead Brussels staffer (she’s been with me for three years) is an Italian lawyer, and is doing a cracking job. What we oppose is uncontrolled immigration to the UK on a scale that puts undue pressure on social cohesion and infrastructure.
UKKITTY: Then we had an exchange regarding Exxon-Mobil. I Tweeted a newspaper headline that the firm was defying EU sanctions by working with Russia in the Arctic. Next day I met a senior Exxon-Mobil executive, so I asked him about it. He insisted that the company conformed to US and EU sanctions, so I felt the only decent thing to do was to Tweet the denial. One of my regular followers and critics Tweeted: “How much did you get paid for that retraction?”. What a twisted and bitter response!
Just for the record, I have been a prominent opponent of climate alarmism for best part of a decade, and I have never at any time received any financial inducement from the fossil fuel industry. I’m trying not to sound self-righteous, but my position is based on firmly-held convictions and I believe it is in the interests of sanity and prosperity. We shall all profit from it when common sense finally prevails (and there are some promising developments on that front).
Third example. I tweeted from a breakfast briefing on carbon capture and storage. A certain Don Collier Tweeted: “Advertising he is getting a free breakfast! @RogerHelmerMEP clearly thinks it’s a good thing to sponge off of his opposition”. Anyone who thinks it’s worth getting up early in the morning for a cup of European parliament coffee has obviously never tasted it. Another Tweet criticised me for attending an event (and accepting minimal hospitality) from an organisation I disagreed with.
In the European parliament there are constant breakfast, lunch and dinner events dealing with one issue or another. That’s because most MEPs are tied up with committee meetings during “normal office hours”. I attend many such events which are related to my key issue, energy, and I make no apology for doing so. As an elected parliamentarian, and as UKIP Spokesman on energy, it’s part of my job to be as well-informed as I can be on these issues (and I am keenly interested anyway).
But what the critics fail to grasp is that the organisers actually welcome contrary views. What sort of debate would there be on important issues if they were just cheer-leader events for one view, and no one argued the other case? Do they imagine we should invest billions in Carbon Capture without airing the issues? And do they really think that getting the right answer is not worth a cup of coffee?