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The soap opera view

Posted by Richard Saturday, September 18, 2004

Trivial, superficial, uninformative and downright parochial. And that's just The Times, with its story today on Mandelson’s submission to the European parliament, preparatory to the acceptance hearings as part of the "investiture procedure".

If possible, the Independent is even worse, but then at least it did cover the story, which is more than either the Telegraph or the Guardian did.

On the face of it, the stories are unexceptional. The Times has "Mandelson tells Europe how to be popular" while the Independent has "Mandelson pins hopes on substance not spin", the thrust of the stories being that Mandy "has started handing out advice to the EU on how to improve its public image".

This, we gather from these news stories, is garnered from Mandelson's statement to the European parliament, and we learn from The Times that it is a 12-page statement – which is actually available on the Europarl website.

But it is what we are not told that matters. Mandy's 12-page statement is one of two – his response to the general questions posed by the European parliament. Accompanying it is a second, longer statement, 17-pages in all, in response to specific questions on his proposed management of his trade portfolio. It is detailed, thoughtful, and highly technical, to all intents and purposes a detailed manifesto. Nothing, but nothing, of this is mentioned.

And here lies the true dereliction of the media. Mandelson is by no means alone in submitting his statement – there are twenty-four others, all available on the Europarl site, collectively amounting to a comprehensive manifesto for our new government.

Just looking at one other, the specific portfolio response from Joe Borg, the fisheries commissioner designate, it is horrendous. There, in black and white is spelt out the commission's intention to set up its own fisheries inspectorate, complete with its own vessels and inspectors.

But, from the media coverage, you would have no clue whatsoever that these highly revealing and important documents existed. The media – and then only two of the newspapers - have gone for the cheap, superficial, soap-opera story, with a distinct "little Englander" tinge, and left their readers entirely uninformed.

Once more, we have been badly let down.