[Update at end of post]
As the news from Brussels is slowly digested, it is followed by the rabble of pundits and hacks desperate to do their editors’ bidding and apply sufficient spin to the outcome to justify what they had said in the build-up – or not. At the Telegraph, Bruno Waterfield, whose appetite for serial dishonesty I’ve observed previously, has gone beyond the call of duty and produced a magnificent string of whoppers.
As with the Mail, the headline and sub-heading tells readers what they are supposed to believe: “EU treaty: Britain now faces a Europe that is becoming hostile” it warns, going on to say “Britain faces a wave of hostile legislation battered through the European Union by a new ‘Euro-Plus’ bloc dominated by France and Germany as senior figures call for the British to be driven out of Europe”.
It sounds positively apocalyptic. But, sadly for its author, there is precious little to back it up. For starters, as any fule kno, legislation does not pass through the EU, but the EP. One would think that Waterfield, or whoever subbed the piece, might have spotted that one. And there aren’t any “senior figures” calling for the British “to be driven out of Europe”, either.
It is asserted that German MEP Martin Schulz “predicted that Britain could be forced to quit the EU”. The quote from Schulz doesn’t support the assertion. Nor does the quote from Bundestag member Gunther Krichbaum. Nor does the quote from German MEP Elmar Brock. And quoting an online poll from Le Figaro is just desperate.
Then there is more unattributed assertion: we get “British officials [unnamed] are deeply concerned”, followed by “A decision taken by the Euro-Plus summit is a fait accompli for the EU”, this from “a source”. A word in your shell-like, Bruno: there hasn’t been confirmation of the agreement from last week’s summit yet, so nobody yet knows if there will ever be a “Euro-Plus summit”.
What next? “A Franco-German letter ... will act as the programme of the new Euro-Plus summits and makes chilling reading for Britain”. Without context and attribution, the quotes are meaningless. What was being discussed? But never mind, this is followed by “The resulting grouping will be a battering ram to force through EU decisions”, attributed to “a diplomat”. Yes, that sounds truly diplomatic.
But all is saved as Waterfield finds someone who is an MEP and who, he alleges, “has called for an offensive against the City”. But the words from Daniel Cohn-Bendit don’t quite stand up yet another dragging up of World War 2. Telegraph readers may believe the sub-heading: others should continue to beware of anything with the Waterfield by-line claiming to be reporting fact.
Know the difference, once more.
[UPDATE 12 December: much of Waterfield's article has been shamelessly copied and pasted - parts of it word for word - by the Express. The piece, "Eurocrats Plot Revenge On Britain", has the by-line of Macer Hall, but is clearly thinly disguised plagiarism. Maybe the Telegraph could have a word with Richard Desmond's finest - you might think the Express would at least do as the Mail does, and credit their source]