Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I watched the news today, oh boy!

Many years ago, probably more than I realise, my newspaper of choice was The Times. There were two reasons for this. First of all, as a young man stepping out of the warehouse and into the office, I wanted to look like the "executive" type and, back then, executive types didn't go around with a copy of the Currant Bun tucked under their arm. The second reason was that it was a newspaper that tended to offer intelligent insight and grown up commentary on the days news.

After I was married I continued to get The Times delivered daily, along with the Mail for the missus, and only finally stopped around 10 or 12 years ago. I was never quite sure why I stopped, but reading Bronwen Maddox in today's online edition reminded me why. The Times "chief Foreign Commentator" offers a column of such infantile tosh as to be hardly worthy of CBBC's Newsround let alone a supposedly grown up newspaper.

With the headline screaming out "Iraq and Afghanistan are not the problem" Maddox attempts to persuade us that the real problem for Gordon Brown as far as foreign affairs is concerned is what to do with the European Constitution being forced through the back door and under a different name.

She starts off by talking up Brown as a heavyweight player.

Other European governments, now trying to discern his views from his past behaviour in finance ministers’ meetings, have an impression of big-shouldered abrasiveness, and a desire to take Europe to task for its financial self-indulgence, beginning with its farm subsidies.

Yeah, sure. Mr Brown was so stout in his desire to take Europe to task over it's financial self-indulgence that he gave up our rebate. Boy, that sure showed them! Funnily enough, it made no difference whatsoever to farm subsidies - which remain as entrenched now as they were before. Having given Mr Brown an overture he doesn't deserve, Maddox then tries to remind us just how great his predecessor was at playing the EU game.

Tony Blair, when just elected in 1997, teamed up with Romano Prodi, the Italian Prime Minister, and then Gerhard Schröder, when he arrived as German Chancellor in 1998, to spin out their Third Way theories for the centre Left, sweeping Bill Clinton on to their conference platforms too.

And 10 years later the EU has deviated not one iota from it's path. Tony Blair's "Third Way" politics turned out to have as much content as a gnat's bladder - and had about as much impact on the path of the EU as a gnat's bladder would have on a steamroller. The "Project" suffered it's first setback not at the hands of Blair, Prodi or Schröder - not even from Brown, Sarkozy or Merkel. It came from the people of Europe who said no to the constitution. And the response of the EU has been to ignore the people and carry on regardless. The steamroller stopped for a brief moment, but didn't back up and didn't deviate. They just re-stoked the boiler and pushed back on - right over the people.

But between Brown and any such alliance is the task of striking a deal with the other 26 members on a new treaty to steer the European Union. The only point on which they agree is that it should not be called a Constitution, to put as much distance between it and that ill-fated, 400-page effort of 2004.

You don't "steer" the EU. The best you can hope for is to apply the brakes to momentarily slow down it's relentless roll across Europe and it's people.

My biggest beef with Maddox's article, though, is not the way she talks up Brown and Blair - or even her misguided view that the EU can be influenced by Brown - it's the preposterous notion that this constitution by another name being forced through the back door is going to be a bigger test for Brown than Iraq and Afghanistan.

The only way that this could happen is if the news reporting turned away from Iraq and Afghanistan and onto the EU, but the EU has never been a big news story in Britain. It just isn't discussed in any great detail - and if it is, it is done so in such a blatantly biased and pro-EU way that there isn't the slightest possibility that a viewer could get a proper balanced perspective. Add on the fact that the workings of the EU are so impenetrably complex that the average viewer hasn't a hope in hell of understanding it (nobody does, not even the most inside of insiders understands every aspect of the EU) and you have a recipe that does not make good news headlines at six o'clock.

A bunch of talking heads discussing quotas, rebates, QMV, subsidiarity, weighted voting and crosss-border collaboration doesn't make good telly news. What does make good telly news are big bangs and flying bullets. Iraq and Afghanistan will continue to dominate the news and continue to be reported in a one-sided way that there isn't the slightest chance that the new EU Constitution - or whatever they decide to call it - will raise an eyebrow.

Brown's big tests won't be decided by Maddox, me, you or anyone else unless they work for the TV networks.


bernard said...

Ranting Stan:

I don't understand your beef about the Maddox article.
All she was saying was that the two wars the UK is embroiled in are not as important (in the long term) as that posed by the EU on us, and Europe (in the long term).
And in that she is right. Wars DO come to an end, but the EU and it's supporters look set to dominate our lives for the foreseeable future....referendum or not.

Stan said...

I have several problems with the article, bernard ...

1) The way she talks up Brown as taking on EU finance - but Brown was complicit in giving up our rebate.

2) The way she talks up Blair and his "Third Way" as somehow significant - even though it made no difference whatsoever to the direction of the EU.

3) The ludicrous suggesttion that the constitution will be a bigger test for Brown than Iraq or Afghanistan. It won't because the agenda is set by TV news reporting - and primarily the BBC - and they will ensure that war receives more coverage than the EU.

I agree with you that the big issue for BRITAIN is the EU, but Maddox is suggesting that it is the biggest issue for BROWN - it isn't because the TV media will not make it so - especially considering the complex nature of the EU.

bernard said...

Fair enough, Stan..