The raucous Europhobic Tory press and their pitch to mould the new conservatismby John Lloyd / June 20, 1996 / Leave a comment
A poll commissioned by the French Geopolitique institute earlier this month showed that roughly 60 per cent of French voters did not want to switch from the franc to the euro-or indeed any other currency. This was reported as being a shock for the country’s main political parties, all of which support monetary union. (These parties had commissioned their own polls, showing that their supporters, or the citizenry, were pleased to exchange the franc fort for the euro fort.)
The Geopolitique poll revealed that French sentiments on European matters are closer to those of the British than we might think, given the respective positions of the two countries’ political elites. Yet not only does the French president feel free to take a strongly communautaire position; the French media feel free to ignore the evidence of their audience’s scepticism in favour of an almost uniformly pro-integrationist discourse.
This must be remembered when we consider the campaign presently being run by right wing newspapers in Britain against the EU. They are fighting dirty: in a de haut en bas piece in the Sunday Times (12th May), Robert Harris said that there was “something rather ugly here.” Indeed there is. The Daily Mail, the Daily Express and the Sun have in Richard Littlejohn, Peter Hitchens and Trevor Kavanagh commentators who are professionally (and at least in the first two cases personally) dedicated to a journalism of outrage, hyperbole and abuse. This, mixed with their journalistic skill and experience, produces a high octane prose of great power. All three journalists cut their teeth as tabloid labour reporters-a rough trade in the 1970s and 1980s, which honed their talent for confrontation and taught them lessons in the often brutish encounters with trade union officials and members.
Their targets are now across the channel. These people can occasionally be heard on the Today programme, expressing puzzlement as to why they should be savaged so by the British papers. Or they can be found in nos. 10 and 11 Downing Street, disgracefully refusing to join in the chorus of hop off froggy which swells from the miasmic swamps along the Thames where these newspapers are housed. When the Daily Express can-casually-call Helmut Kohl a fat old hypocrite, it becomes clear that any instinct grounded in fairness, or balance, or even simple good manners, no longer operates. We are in a fantasy euro-game of Dungeons and Dragons.