Today has brought what I believe is the first piece on the website of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) by their new political director Jonathan Isaby, whose work experience outside journalism and politics is precisely zero. His subject is the EU – maybe Lee Rotherham, author of the “dodgy dossier” on the ECHR was not available – and it seems that the low standard of TPA copy has been maintained.
The target for Isaby’s article is the EU’s new visitor centre in Brussels, which opens to the public on Friday. The centre, which provides information and displays on the EU’s past, present and potential future, will be a free-to-enter attraction open seven days a week, and will also explain to visitors the workings of the European Parliament and how it affects the everyday life of those living in member states.
So what is the TPA’s problem with what is known as the Parliamentarium? Well, Isaby homes in on the cost, which he reckons to be £15.5 million. Sounds like a large number. So how much has it cost the UK? Our net contribution to the EU was around 6% of the total budget in 2010, which means the UK is on the hook for rather less than £1 million in this case.
That isn’t such a large number, but nevertheless the TPA has a point: publicly funded visitor centres are not universally popular with hard pressed taxpayers. So can we expect to see Isaby and his colleagues going after those that cost rather more that we’re chipping in for the Parliamentarium? The answer from Belfast suggests not.
There, the Titanic Visitor Centre is taking shape ready for the centenary of the ill-fated liner’s maiden voyage next year. First two names in the list of funding sources (out of four) are the Northern Ireland Executive and Belfast City Council, which suggests that these two are making the largest contributions. The total cost of the centre is around £100 million. And on this occasion, the TPA is silent.
Which suggests that it isn’t about cost, or whether visitor centres are A Good Thing. So what is Isaby’s real target? This is not hard to discern: one look at the title of his piece (“Brussels’ New £15 Million Propaganda Temple”) says it all. He goes on “be in no doubt, it is propaganda central ... a special effort has been made to indoctrinate children”.
Yes, Jonathan Isaby’s overarching concern is that people might start to learn about the EU, and not from sources of which he approves. Whenever someone starts screaming “propaganda” and “indoctrination” (two terms much favoured by our old friends at Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse)), you know that someone is frightened of reality, and wants to shut down the debate.
So the new man at the TPA is just like all the old ones.