Newsletter Edition 57
Many Conservative supporters understandably will have been concerned at the constant stream of tendentious publicity about MEPs’ expenses. Of course, I can only speak for myself, but you will have seen my responses to articles about me and Dulcie on the website and you should be aware that I am taking legal action against the News of the World, the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Times for publishing distortions and lies.
I must also tell you that Conservative MEPs, encouraged by me when I was Deputy Leader, are at the forefront in the Parliament in producing a Code of Practice for our expenses - from April 1st this year - which will present a properly audited and transparent account of all that we do and how we do it. Many of the recent problems have come about because the advice from the Parliamentary Authorities has often been culpably weak and invariably contradictory - a feature of 27 member states and differing attitudes. I have consistently and continuously abided by the rules on every occasion, only to find them changing and rechanging every few months. This must improve and British Conservatives, encouraged by David Cameron, are taking the lead in this regard.
In this frenetic climate of rumour, innuendo and downright lies to create a headline, we are all walking a tightrope. Thank you for the great support and encouragement that many of you have shown to Dulcie and myself. It is much appreciated.
Now the really big issue confronting the EU at present - the result of the Irish referendum. Whatever may be your views on ‘Europe’, there is a huge majority in Britain for being able to express a view on the subject via the ballot box. And, after all, the Blair/Brown axis made a solemn promise at the last General Election that such a vote would be held. There is great division amongst MEPs as to the next steps. Some wish to marginalise Ireland, some to ignore, some to revote after negotiation and some to demand the death of the whole project. One thing is clear, however, matters have changed and the EU leadership has to understand that the fundamentally undemocratic way in which the Union operates at this level has to be reviewed and altered. And, of course, Brown should implement his promise for a British referendum!
I spent a delightful afternoon in Leyland recently, when I was invited to open the new all-weather nets and coaching facilities at the local cricket club.
The project cost £65000, funded by Sport England’s Community Clubs Development Programme, and will provide superb support to cricketers of all ages. The club made the whole event an Open Day and there were various demonstrations by youngsters from 4 years to 18 years old, followed by a charity match against an ‘Emmerdale Farm’ XI.
I was saddened to hear about the defection to Labour of Cllr. Les Byrom, formerly Leader of the Conservative Group on the NW Regional Assembly. Not only has he let down his own supporters in Southport but, by all accounts, has done so for strange reasons. Whilst with us he worked hard for Conservative objectives but, if this is all it means to him, we are better off without him.
Sport and the EU
I found myself sitting next to Giles Clarke, Chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, at a recent Test Match and he gave me a detailed briefing on the problems that cricket - and other sports - were having with freedom of movement and employment of players in the EU. The Commission has produced a White Paper on the subject and the essence of the ECB’s complaint is that there are conflicting proposals which may allow the same rights to countries with Association or Economic Partnership Agreements as EU citizens. The ramifications of this for national teams are far-reaching and the confusion has to be resolved. I have tabled a Parliamentary Question to the Commission to try and establish the truth of the matter.
EP Elections 2009
Many of the selected candidates for next year’s elections met for the first time last weekend in Milton Keynes.
As you can imagine, there was much to plan, to organise and to finance and, unsurprisingly, much to gossip about. Some of the NW team had a brief meeting in the sidelines of the conference and we will be announcing some of the details of the campaign in the autumn.
Manifestation (French for Demo!)
We had a mini-riot in Brussels a week or two ago, when fishermen from throughout the EU came to express forcible views about the high cost of fuel and its damaging effects on their industry. Tempers became short and were eventually lost on both sides. Rocks - from where, I do not know! - were thrown, windows broken and cars overturned. None of this achieved very much but I suppose steam was let off. The serious point here though is the huge tax burden applied by many EU States on the already high price of fuel. Britain is the highest (of course!) and Brown really needs to understand how strongly people feel about the issue - particularly in rural areas.
I was present at a splendid and successful dinner on the Wirral last Thursday. With Guest of Honour, William Hague MP, it set out to highlight the importance of potential Conservative victories in three local constituencies (Chester, Wirral West and South).
The three candidates, Stephen Mosley, Esther McVey and Jeff Clarke were much in evidence and a lot of money was raised for campaign funds.