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Wot no Dan?

Mark Mardell | 16:00 UK time, Thursday, 26 March 2009

There have been so many comments attacking my decision not to blog on Dan Hannan's reply to the prime minister's speech to the European Parliament on Tuesday that I have to plead guilty to missing the speech. What a good thing it is on YouTube. But what is my excuse? Sorry, Sir: I was doing my job.

In radio and TV reporting, there is often a tension between watching an event and broadcasting about it: you can't do both at the same time. Dan Hannan spoke as I waited to go on the BBC News Channel. Unfortunately, I was dropped... but that's another story familiar to broadcasters.

But that is not why I didn't blog on the speech. I note that no-one has complained that I didn't report the reply of the other British MEP to speak - Graham Watson, the leader of the liberal group. Or that of the leader of the Greens. They both called on the PM to show European commitment by joining the euro.

Ignoring that, you could argue, is anti-European bias. But nobody has made that complaint. Or you could object that I ignored the leader of the EPP, which is the biggest party. Nobody did. I gave a cursory mention to the speech by the socialist leader, simply because he was the only one who had spoken by the time I finished the post.

The main BBC outlets covered Brown's speech as part of the story about Mervyn King's remarks on fiscal stimulus, so it would have been most odd to have other speeches from the European Parliament in a much broader piece.

So we are talking about this blog. It tries to be many things, from reportage to analysis; on this occasion, it gave an instant newsy report with a bit of interpretation. What the blog will never be is some bulletin of record on everything that is said, however interesting it may be.

Even more curious, one comment calls for me to be "purge[d]" for observing that it was "interesting" that the prime minister's speech moved him closer to the French and German agenda, which opposes pumping more money into the world economy and focuses on new rules.

It is interesting because it is uncertain if this is rhetoric or a real reflection of a change in direction for Mr Brown. We will only know after the London summit. But, as I say, interesting. So would it be backing the Iraq war to say that Blair's closeness to Bush was "interesting"?

While I am in rebuttal mode, "EUROSOMG" responds to an earlier post about a think tank article on what leaving the eurozone would mean for a country in practical terms:

Working on EU affairs you should have added that CER is quite neo-liberal and close to the Conservatives (aka Eurosceptics) - the fact that you are not doing it and you also call their report 'fascinating' (!!!) makes me wonder whether you are ignorant or you just want to add to the English (i.e. not Scottish) emerging propaganda about the collapse of the Eurozone.

I think you must be thinking of another organisation - perhaps Open Europe? CER was close to New Labour after the '97 election, but has since become more independent albeit from a pro-European union, Foreign Office-ish sort of perspective. They say of themselves: "The CER is pro-European but not uncritical. It regards European integration as largely beneficial but recognises that in many respects the Union does not work well. The CER therefore aims to promote new ideas."

Perhaps I should have stated this, but I don't recognise your description of them and felt that the article I was witting about was not particularly pro- or anti-EU, but simply rather - how shall I put it - "interesting".


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