The media need to get over their Europhobia

I’ve written a blog for Total Politics on the Eurosceptic British press and why I think the public are genuinely interested in what goes on in Brussels. You can read it in full below.

Politicians and specifically MEPs often face derision from the mainstream press, especially the right wing press. So it was hardly surprising to read in The Daily Express that MEPs are the least trusted profession, overtaking that of the more traditionally disliked professions.

The survey was hardly ground breaking and actually doesn’t reflect the experiences I’ve had in 10 years as an MEP – and that’s not because I’ve surrounded myself in Brussels Bureaucracy.

Last weekend was a good example. I was invited to take part in the Sunday Times web chat. It followed the week of the story where four MEPs had been caught taking cash for their services. It was of course disgraceful and I was fully prepared to answer questions relating to this terrible episode.

But to my surprise the chat which ensued couldn’t have been more different in terms of the questions people asked. There was genuine interest in Brussels, in the work we do; in how legislation is made and in what the Brussels machine does.  Most people just wanted to know more, they were intrigued.

There is more interest in European politics than the media gives the general public credit for. Indeed one of the Europe correspondents, who I know well, told me recently how difficult it is for him to get anything past his editors about Brussels. ‘The news editors back home just don’t get it’ he said somewhat dejected.

What I find most curious is the disdain the media seems to perpetuate in this country. Other parts of Europe enjoy fruitful debate. Their media closely follows the work of the Parliament, it understands it and as a result is able to more closely investigate and scrutinise it.  I would welcome the same level of scrutiny in this country.

The truth is the British media seems to be dominated by the likes of Nigel Farage, who comes across as media friendly and provides good TV. The Boris Johnson of Europe I Suppose. How many times has the Labour leader in Europe, or the Conservative for that matter, appeared on Question Time? They haven’t. But Farage who isn’t a member of a mainstream political party in this country receives disproportionate coverage precisely because he’s considered to be so entertaining.

There is one saving grace; BBC Parliament, specifically the Record Europe, covers European politics more seriously than any other outlet in this country and therefore gives a better reflection of what we are really about. I hope this spreads across to other media agencies and the public can get a better reflection of what we are really about. They deserve it after all.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “The media need to get over their Europhobia

  1. Daniel Oxley

    There is nothing disproportionate about the media coverage of Nigel Farage. He is an interesting charismatic leader and people want to see him.

    To add some weight to my assertion I did a bit of research. There was no EU grant for it and it only took me a few minutes. Mary is unhappy with the infrequent appearances of Glenis Willmott (Labour MEP leader) compared to Nigel Farage.

    I went to You Tube and typed in Nigel Farage indicating that the video clips should be ranked by the number of viewings and I then repeated the procedure for Glenis Willmott. Mr Farage’s most popular video clip had been watched 711,718 times and Ms Willmott’s most popular video clip had been watched 584 times. So, members of the public are more than a thousand times more likely to watch Nigel Farage than Glenis Willmott!

    No wonder the media want to feature him. If there is any bias in the BBC it is a bias against Nigel Farage. He should appear mch more frequently.

    Mr Farage is described in the article as not being in a mainstream party. If this is true I am not sure that there are any mainstream parties. UKIP beat the Labour Party and many others in the last Euro Election and in the most recent Westminster by-election UKIP beat the Tories, the LibDems, the Greens, the BNP, etc.

    Some day in the future UKIP will win a general election with a huge majority and the Lib/Lab/Con Party will still be going on and on about it being just a fringe party, not part of the mainstream, etc.

    The media needs to get over its Europhilia and reflect the Eurosceptic nature of the British public.

  2. Daniel to say I disagree with you is an understatement. You suggest that the disparity between nigel Farage and Glennis Willmott is only beacuse of some inate greater demand for Farage’s views. This is spurious to say the least the fact that Nige recieves so much extra air time means that he is bound to be searched for more often on YouTube. I also think that it is extremely unlikely that a party that has never come close to winning a Westminster parliamentary seat (finishing about 40% behing labour in a bye election does not count!) is going to sweep into power (or coalition!) any time soon. UKIP’s realtive success in European parliament elections does show there is a significant minority out there that are in favour withdrawal. The reality is that the many in the UK may be wary of the EU, but see it as an unavoidable necessity, which is why as country we would benefit from more coverage of the EU in a more reasoned way.

    Mary, I entirely sympathise with your point about the Express, in my locality, Ealing, they have recently published a nonsensical article about the local Labour council and its efficiency savings (http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/234192/Cash-hit-council-to-spend-1m-on-shortening-desks), which was so partisan that not even the Tory party press release went as far! Like you I have been trying to blog to debunk their nonsense…

  3. Daniel Oxley

    It is always good to see a new person commenting on the Honeyball Buzz and I hope that Neil Reynolds will continue to respond to the articles. I have said it before and I will say it again – this blog does not get the attention it deserves.

    It would perhaps have been a better comment if he had read my comments a little more carefully. I did not speculate on UKIP sweeping to power ‘any time soon’, I said ‘some day in the future’.

    Those seeking a return to Labour’s previous policy of a UK withdrawal from the EU are described by Mr. Reynolds as a significant minority but according to a poll undertaken by ComRes for the BBC Daily Politics, 55% of us want to leave the EU. It is hard to see how this can be dismissed as a significant minority, surely it is a majority.

    The poll also found that 84% believe that voters should decide whether any further powers should be transferred to the EU and that 51% did not think that there was any benefit in trade or jobs from EU membership.

    It is a pity that the Lib/Lab/Con Party holds views which are so remote from those of the public. They nearest they have come to consulting us so far has been to make unfulfilled promises about a referendum on EU membership.