Euro and GLA elections June 2004
Harold Wilson once said a week is a long time in politics -well the last month has seen dramatic change in our Party. Following a bitter vote of no confidence in Iain Duncan Smith we now have an experienced new Leader, Michael Howard, who is attempting to lead the Party from the centre and build on the good work done by Iain in terms of policies on public services and avoiding division over Europe. Already we are 2 points ahead according to the most recent polls. Michael and Co-Chairman Liam Fox have already been out to visit us MEPs to listen to how we wish our re-election campaign next year to be run. Over a memorable dinner, I made the suggestion that we need to compulsorily involve the 1000 strong parliamentary candidates list as part of their demonstration of commitment and also that CCO needs to raise our profile in the run-up to the election by finding us more media slots. The triple election of Mayor, GLA and European is only 6 months away and I have been selected to sit on the policy committee which meets regularly to look at the "big picture" issues for the manifesto committee to be guided by in writing the detailed document. I have also been involved with my colleague Geoffrey Van Orden in preparing the draft section on Foreign Affair, Defence and Security issues for the manifesto.
As member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I was part of a delegation to Rome to meet the President of the Italian Republic, members of the Government and Parliament to discuss the programme of the Italian Presidency, which has been one of the most controversial in memory due to the outspoken comments of Prime Minister Berlusconi. We also visited the Vatican where we discussed its relations with the Islamic world and the move to incorporate a reference to Europe's Christian heritage in the proposed Constitution. I was able to discuss the wider Europe debate and the particular interest shown by Italy in developing good relations with Russia and Ukraine, whose EP delegations I serve on, and about which I have made frequent speeches and drafted many amendments in the Parliament. I was recently host to a visit by a Ukrainian Leader of the Opposition. I have also been defending the state of Israel in its trade dispute with the EU both in plenary debate and TV, and have protested about the recent suppression of the publication of a report on anti-semitism by the EU Centre for Racism and Xenophobia based in Vienna where I called for a full debate over the fact that it appears for reasons of political correctness this report was shelved when part of the blame was placed on young Arab and Moslem immigrant groups as the EUMC wished to understandably protect them.
I visited a London Heart Valve bank with my colleague John Bowis to hear about expressed concerns regarding proposed EU legislation to harmonise their regulatory environment. I attended the opening ceremony of the largest Mosque in Europe of the Ahmadi Community whom I have sought along with Christians to protect against discrimination in Pakistan. I recently attended a City of London seminar to hear about the Industry's concerns on the Financial Services Action Plan and I give support regularly to Theresa in her work on EMAC Committee. I have been active in speaking engagements from Northwood-Ruislip and Harrow West constituencies to the annual dinner of our sister party the Democratic Rally Party pf Cyprus. I am keeping my fingers crossed for the first test of our strength in the Kew (Richmond) by-election where I spent the morning with our candidate Ewan Wallace.
Future Direction of Europe
We do not support the idea that the proposed European Union Constitution as discussed currently at the IGC in Rome is merely a tidying-up exercise. We believe it significantly alters the balance of power between Member States and the European Union institutions. We believe it is one more stage in the process of setting up a federal super-state with its flag, currency, army and now Constitution, rather than a simplifying treaty basing itself on a unique supranational creation between sovereign Member States. We are concerned at the new, high-profile role of the Council President and the proposed Foreign Minister and EU legal personality, which will enhance the perception that the EU is a de facto state and will shortly be demanding membership of the UN Security Council. All of this supported by our Liberal Democrat friends!
We are opposed to the passerelle or escalator clauses (see my letter to the Daily Telegraph of 27th November) which jeopardise our veto rights over taxation, social security and, most worryingly, the Common Foreign and Security Policy, which includes security and defence. Theoretically, it becomes possible for a new British Government to be out-voted over the deployment of its own troops already committed by a previous administration. We have also already seen concessions over a separate planning headquarters for autonomous EU operations, which will play into the hands of isolationist US strands who will be happy to see Europeans go it alone and increase their Defence spending as they question the need to keep the US tied into multilateral NATO, an organisation which in my view has served us well for so long. We reject the European Charter of Fundamental Rights - with its vague rights to jobs, health and social security and incursions into Criminal Law - becoming legally binding. Keith Vaz as former Europe Minister dismissed it as being no more legally significant than the "Beano" whereas instead it is a recipe for judicial activism of the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice in its agenda to enforce the social market economy, move the federalist agenda forward and undermine the Thatcherite economic reforms of the 1980s which made our country a magnet for foreign direct investment. Lastly, we are adamant that such major constitutional changes require a full public debate in all the Member States. With particular reference to our country, Conservatives call upon Prime Minister Blair to allow the British people a say through a referendum on the outcome of the Intergovernmental Conference.
Lastly we are now joined as an MEP for the remaining of this Parliament by my friend Ian Twinn who will undoubtedly make a valuable contribution to the team as well as being a selected candidate for next year. In the meantime I wish you and your families all a very Happy Christmas and New Year.