The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

Presenting only one side of a complex argument. I suppose the most obvious illustration is the reporting, across a wide range of newspapers, of the European Union over a long period of time. We have heard every sort of daft story, from the Commission demanding we had square bananas to all sorts of things. There are many things about the European Union that I don't like. I think at the moment it's in a very great mess, but this is not the occasion to talk about it. I didn't want us to go into the euro, as I've already said.

But there were many things about the European Union that were in the interests of the United Kingdom. Very few of those actually found their way into proper news reports. The things that were wrong with it found their way into news reports day after day after day and into editorials day after day after day. Now, I am not a Europhiliac. As I say, I see lots of things wrong with it, more now than one might have imagined in the past. But it was unbalanced reporting, and it is very complex. Europe isn't easy. Government, these days, isn't easy. The easy decisions were taken generations ago. Every group of politicians coming into office are now finding it more difficult, in our multifaceted world, to produce policy than their predecessors. I don't have any envy for the people trying to govern now or in the next few years because it is so complex, and if only one side of a complex argument is presented, it takes root in the public mind, and as I say, there are many reasons to be opposed to the European Union, but over the last 20 years or so, the diet of negativity that has been served up, day after day after day, month after month, year after year, has presented only one side of a complex argument.

One forgets, for example, the one reason the European Union was formed was at the end of the Second World War, the European nations were bankrupt, all of them, and they looked around the world and they saw the power of the United States, they foresaw the power of Asia and China, and they said to themselves, "If we don't act together economically, we are going to be pygmies in a world of economic giants", and until things went badly wrong because of overspending, they were beginning to show a good return to that.

The other point is, I suppose, for a thousand years, the European nations had been at war. They are so closely enmeshed now that this generation and the next generation and our grandchildren need never fear the concept of a war starting in Europe. You don't find that sort of balancing factor anywhere in the scales when people talk about the European Union. That's the sort of imbalance that has come about after so many years of negative publicity.

Keyboard shortcuts

j previous speech k next speech