Whilst out canvassing for the Council elections one of our helpers said he wished he knew more about what happens in the European Parliament. I have promised to restart writing the Blog more regularly.
Votes in the EP can be very close. On Thursday we won a vote of the 754 members just 7. It does feel good when ones own vote make a difference, especially as the difference was due to the handful of Conservative MEPs who travelled back to Strasbourg late the night before after attending the extra-ordinarily powerful funeral of Lady Thatcher - everyone will have their own moments of that day, mine was the total stillness of the congregation as Elgar’s Nimrod floated across the cathedral as the close of the service.
Thursday’s vote stopped an EU tax on Ship owners. Even my 11 year old son pointed out that ships move, if we tax them when registered in Europe they will use non EU ports.
Over two years ago we lost a vote in Committee on a similarly crazy EU tax proposal. We lost that one by just one vote. I remain furious that the UK UKIP MEP on the committee left an empty chair in the room that day, as he so often does. We could have stopped this whole battle years ago if UKIP had turned up to vote. The Financial Transaction Tax (FTT), if set unilaterally in Europe will cause financiers to relocate their transactions, but pensioners, businesses and small investors who can not move overseas will be left paying the bill. George Osborne was right to veto it at the EU level. Now proposals from 11 other countries seek to impose it again - and the new structure will push up the cost of borrowing for companies and governments. UK borrowing is already too high, the last thing we need is extra costs. So I am delighted with the decision that the UK is going to take the EU to court over this crazy tax proposal.
I’ve just had a great couple of days knocking on doors with local candidates for the up-coming County Council election. I’ve been out and about in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Essex in the past 2 weeks. The feedback from our campaigners is actually extremely positive. Yes there are bound to be mid term blues, and there are patchy challenges from what I call the “so-called-independents-who-used-to-be-affiliated-with-mainstream-parties-but-were-not-reselected-usually-because-they-didn't-do-any-work”. Yes there are a few more UKIP candidates and there are a few glossy posters, but my feedback from the doorsteps suggests that blue East Anglia is definitely not Eastleigh. These are local elections, and it is important to vote.
This was all beautifully summed up in a blog by Cllr Nick Clarke, leader of Cambridgeshire County Council yesterday.
In Norfolk on Friday I took a break from campaigning to catch up with Cromer Crab fisherman and local district councillor John Lee. He puts out to sea single handed before dawn every morning to lift over 100 crab pots. He then works through the day to cook and process the crabs, before racing to Council meetings. As a volunteer he chairs the Fisheries local action group in North Norfolk. John has been one of the experts who has taught me so much about the need to reform fishing policy - it felt so good when we voted to end fish discards recently. However, I was concerned to hear that money which has been promised to support our small boat fleets, like the Cromer crabmen, is being tied up in Brussels red tape. I’ve promised to investigate.
John explained how as a district councillor he has helped 3,000 local residents form an Energy Club to buy gas and electricity. This is saving each household roughly £10 a month on bills. Good Councillors really can make a difference - they are worth voting for on May 2.