Monday, January 02, 2006

Barroso is king

Additional photograph here

It was very clear from the tenor of the Today programme this morning that this was the result the Beebies least wanted – for Barroso to come top of the poll on "who runs Britain".

Furthermore, of the ten shortlisted entries, El Presidente of the EU commission won by a handsome margin, with 22 percent of the vote polled in his favour, compared with the runner-up, Rupert Murdoch, who polled 15 percent. Uncle Tone trailed in seventh place with a mere seven percent of the votes.

The Beeb website quotes political editor Nick Robinson, who on the Today programme, did his best to downplay the result, his line being that: "voters may be using the poll to say Europe has too much power."

The piece does, however, note that Barroso is unelected, which allowed Roger Knapman, UK Independence Party leader, to come up with one good comment in an otherwise lacklustre performance, noting that the BBC poll was "the only chance you'll get to vote for him or for that matter against him".

He was countered by former Europe Minister Denis McShane who asserted that it was "an urban myth" to suggest that Britain's laws were decided by Europe, claiming that only nine percent of our current laws were of EU origin.

The egregious Robinson expands his theme on his own blog (yes, even the BBC is dipping a foot into the blogosphere), repeating the dismissive tone he took on the Today programme, declaring. "There'll be hearty laughter in the Barroso household today and a few raised eyebrows in tomorrow's papers after the verdict of Today programme listeners that José Manuel Barroso runs Britain."

The electorate is, of course, never wrong, sneers Robinson, his tone clearly suggesting otherwise, averring that "Today listeners may be using this poll to send the message that Europe does more than they would like."

Barroso, adds our egregious hack, "would point out that given that he does not even get to choose the members of his own Commission - a body smaller than some county councils which can only propose laws and not actually pass them", which makes the idea of the president being all-powerful "an implausible idea."

In what passes for balance, Robinson goes on to ask whether you can "dismiss the verdict of Today programme listeners?". In answer to his own question, he responds, "not that fast", which almost certainly means that he will dismiss it slowly. "The problem of Europe," he adds, "is that voters - not just on Today but in electorates across the continent - cannot easily identify a name to blame for political developments they dislike." He continues:

Take just one row on the Euro map at the moment. Euro-sceptics are warning that the Commission could soon have criminal powers - powers they believe are a defining characteristic of the government of a nation state and, therefore, should never be given to the EU. This follows a European Court of Justice ruling that "Community legislature may take measures relating to the criminal law of Member States when that is necessary for the achievement of an important Community objective".

The ruling was about EU environmental protection regulations - such as those controlling the cleanliness of beaches. If you're concerned by this, who should you blame? The Court, the Commission, the governments who agreed to the rules of the EU and would have to agree to any extension of EU law? What about Jose Manuel Barroso? Why him? You can't even vote for him - except, that is, in the Today programme poll.
This, I think, is called “muddying the waters” and how typical it is of a Beebie to pick on "cleanliness of beaches" as the one tangible example of EU power. Where Robinson goes badly wrong, however, is that he is confusing "blame" with the reality. As leader of the government of Europe, Barroso is indeed - in the commission's areas of competence - more powerful than Blair. Who is to blame for that situation is a completely different question.

However hard the Beeb tries to fudge it though, the fact remains that their own poll put Barroso in the lead position, way above Blair. That makes a statement that cannot be ignored.


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