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Thursday 20 October 2011

Don’t Look Now, But Press Credibility Just Died

The thought that a referendum on the UK’s EU membership might not, after all, come about got the assembled hackery at the Maily Telegraph in a froth yesterday, as I noted earlier. Today, their opposite numbers labouring in the service of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre have taken their turn to go over the top and spray any residual credibility up the wall.

Hack Nigel Jones, in a piece titled “Don’t look now – but democracy just died”, has met the challenge superbly, with a high octane mix of hyperbole, demonisation, dishonesty and forthright ranting. The characterisation of the debate on Monday next (Jones wrongly asserts it will take place on Thursday) as “a tiny shaft of light in an otherwise dark night”, sets the tone.

Jones tries the idea that the UK in 1973 joined a mere free trade area and that this was transformed into the rotten EU by stealth, and of course by those who are “unelected”. Where is the first mention of “ever closer union”, Nige? When the EEC became the EC? When the EC became the EU? Wrong on both: it’s in the original 1957 Treaty Of Rome. Jones falls at the First.

Yet he remounts and continues in ever more desperate style, telling “the EU has crept up on us and taken away our ancient liberties ... something valuable and irreplaceable has been filched from us by thieves who came in the night, and ... stripped us of our birthright. And what they have taken is democracy”. So we now have less elections, being in the EU?

Well, no, we don’t. We have just as many Parliamentary contests as before, just as many local polls, and EU ones on top of those. But Jones has another trick up his sleeve: “we are the only European state to have had continuous representative Parliamentary democracy since the Middle Ages”. And to that I call bullshit. Rotten Boroughs and less than 10% of males allowed to vote doesn’t cut it.

The UK did not give all males the vote until after World War 1, with universal suffrage not following until 1930. So when Jones pontificates that “Dictatorship, not democracy, is the European norm”, he’s trying to con the Mail’s readership into believing that disenfranchisement of around 95% of the population, plus the “fix” of rotten boroughs, equals “democracy”.

The reality of democracy in the UK through the years is more complicated – and interesting – than Jones admits. Likewise the reality of the EU, and there’s the rub: the scare stories get more and more desperate for one good reason, and that is that some politicians, hacks and interest groups would rather we are kept in the dark on the subject, ignorant and frightened of a non-existent Brussels bogeyman.

Being informed on the EU means true democracy. Anything less is not good enough.

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