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Thursday 7 April 2011

Talking Down Talking Points

One factor behind the nickname of the Maily Telegraph is the paper’s attitude towards the EU: in the old days, the Telegraph would be sceptical towards Europe, but would ensure its reportage was accurate and trustworthy. But now, the confirmation that the paper is just a broadsheet version of the Daily Mail is underscored by its relentless and carping Europhobia.

And this anti-EU and anti-Euro stance is shown to good effect today in a piece by James Hall, who is considering the problems in Portugal, where José Sócrates, now merely caretaker Prime Minister following his recent resignation, has concluded that his country needs financial assistance.

Hall, as befits someone peddling Euro-frighteners, homes in on the real crisis, which is not with Lisbon, Berlin or Frankfurt am Main, but here in the UK: we could have to contribute £4.4 billion towards the Portuguese bail-out. He then offers rather later in his article the qualifier “up to a potential £4.4 billion”. This rapidly revised amount, of course, includes the figure Zero.

And that isn’t the only deeply ambiguous item in Hall’s piece: he cannot resist the temptation to make a party political point, and says of the temporary bail-out fund signed on to by Alistair Darling just after last year’s General Election that it was “fiercely opposed ... by George Osborne”, which is at the very least contentious, and may yet prove flagrantly dishonest.

In any case, Hall misses much of the real news in his attempt to write to the Maily Telegraph agenda: as the Beeb’s Robert Peston has pointed out, the UK’s banking sector has an exposure to the Portuguese public sector, and that country’s wider economy, far smaller than banks in Spain, France and Germany. This will ensure that Osborne can minimise any contribution the UK makes to the bail-out.

But for James Hall, it is kicking the EU and Euro that is top of the agenda, so he blithely carries on with the knocking copy, telling of “the shaky credibility of the Euro”. That would be the currency that gave between 1.4 and 1.5 to one Pound Sterling until the recent financial crisis, but now yields less than 1.15. The starting Euro/Dollar rate was less than 1.2 USD for one EUR: now it’s well over 1.42.

If the Euro’s credibility is “shaky”, then heaven help the UK and USA.

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