One casualty of the revelations about Theresa May’s less than triumphant dinner date with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has been the Daily Mail, which had clearly decided before that news broke on maintaining its usual line on anything EU related, which is to say, a mixture of righteousness, indignation, delusion, and abuse. That this was pre-determined was confirmed by an editorial backing it up.
Why the f*** shouldn't I have the boot put on on some foreign c***s?!?
The key comment piece comes from Stephen “Miserable Git” Glover, one of the most faithful retainers of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, who has penned a supremely delusional article titled “I'm more glad than ever we're leaving: The approach of the EU elite towards Brexit seems calculated to be aggravating and we have every right to be offended”. Once again, an “élite” is involved, but it isn’t the Mail.
“What no one can reasonably pretend is that [Ms May] has been rude, overbearing or threatening towards our European friends” Glover notes, before launching into a tirade worthy of all those attributes. “And yet these are the characteristics a number of European leaders have been displaying over the past few days. Have our own ultra-Remainers complained? Of course not. When Mrs May is tough, they say she is hysterical. But when EU leaders are hysterical, they keep quiet”. Do go on.
“It wasn’t statesmanlike of France’s President Francois Hollande to reiterate over the weekend what he has said before – namely, there would ‘inevitably be a price and a cost for the UK’ and that ‘Britain will have a weaker position in the future outside Europe than it has today within Europe’ … Nor was it very friendly of German Chancellor Angela Merkel – hitherto one of the most level-headed of EU leaders – to speak scornfully of British ‘illusions’ in the Bundestag last Thursday”.
Glover missed that there was a good reason for Frau Merkel’s comments, as I pointed out earlier. But research, eh? “As for the puffed up Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, he’s said to have told Mrs Merkel that Mrs May was ‘in a different galaxy’. He later accused her of ‘underestimating’ how complex the process would be. The suggestion is that she isn’t all there”. No it isn’t. And it gets worse.
“This is not the normal language of diplomacy between allies … We have every right to be offended … They are insisting - as though Britain were some pathetic little petitioner rather than a great nation state - that the Government must follow their timetable”. It’s their show.
Try again. “First, we must agree to stump up a ‘divorce settlement’ of £50billion … Then … we must make a ‘serious response’ regarding EU citizens in Britain after Brexit … The combination of these bullying negotiation techniques and incendiary language is enough to make one’s blood boil. This is no way for friendly states to behave”. Guess what’s next.
You got it. “Nor can I help reflecting that, 73 years ago next month, Britain supplied some 40 per cent of the troops in the D-Day landing, which led to the liberation of Europe – or that part of it not occupied by the Soviet Union … [the EU] is an organisation in crisis which has lost the support of near-majorities of the populace … In many countries there is a rising tide of scepticism”. And then comes the delusion.
“[Angela Merkel] will strike a pragmatic deal with this country … we have numerous friends throughout Europe. They may have gone along with the pantomime in Brussels, but once negotiations are under way they will act as a check on Juncker”. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
This rant is backed up by a supremely intemperate outburst from Daily Mail Comment, the authentic voice of the Vagina Monologue, titled “Why these EU bully boys fear democracy”. The contents were light on reality, but heavy on abuse. Of last Saturday’s Brussels meeting, it tells “they deliberated for just four minutes before issuing a set of absurdly draconian demands”. And then came the tirade.
“Like some 1970s meeting of the Chinese Communist party … what they presented was not so much a negotiating position as an ultimatum … Jean-Claude Juncker, the insufferably pompous, cognac-loving head of the European Commission … Unlike Mr Tusk and Mr Juncker, Mrs May has a democratic mandate and she intends to honour it … These ludicrous blowhards …”. And then comes the dead giveaway.
“Britain imports billions of pounds a year more in goods and services from the EU than we export to them. So German car makers, French wine producers and Irish farmers have more to lose from a trade war than UK manufacturers”. They need us more than we need them. And besides, the EU was in a mess, honestly.
“With Euroscepticism rampant across the continent, the EU high command wants to punish Britain for leaving as a warning to other member states not to follow suit. They are terrified that a blast of democracy could soon destroy their cosy little club”. The democracy the Mail pontificates about is alive and well in the European Parliament, thanks.
This is the standard of alleged “opinion” that is driving so much discourse in the popular press. It is as delusional as our Prime Minister and her circle of close advisors. The only response to the cold reality of our position is to play the victim, wrap themselves in the flag, hark to days long gone, and stick up two fingers at the rotten foreigners.
That may give Paul Dacre and Stephen Glover a nice warm feeling. Some Daily Mail readers may even believe it. But engagement with reality, rather than petulance and abuse, is going to serve the popular discourse rather better.
And in any case, the Mail’s frothing has been overtaken by events already. The press may realise this in the fullness of time. But not just yet.