The media need to get over their Europhobia

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 31 March 2011 in Diary
MEP Mary Honeyball argues that the public are genuinely interested in what goes on in Brussels - it's just our media who don't think it's entertaining enough

Politicians and specifically MEPs often face derision from the mainstream press, especially the right wing press. So it was hardly surprising to read in the Daily Express that MEPs are the least trusted profession, overtaking that of the more traditionally disliked professions.

The survey was hardly ground breaking and actually doesn’t reflect the experiences I’ve had in 10 years as an MEP – and that’s not because I’ve surrounded myself in Brussels Bureaucracy.

Last weekend was a good example. I was invited to take part in the Sunday Times web chat. It followed the week of the story where four MEPs had been caught taking cash for their services. It was of course disgraceful and I was fully prepared to answer questions relating to this terrible episode.

But to my surprise the chat which ensued couldn’t have been more different in terms of the questions people asked. There was genuine interest in Brussels, in the work we do; in how legislation is made and in what the Brussels machine does.  Most people just wanted to know more, they were intrigued.

There is more interest in European politics than the media gives the general public credit for. Indeed one of the Europe correspondents, who I know well, told me recently how difficult it is for him to get anything past his editors about Brussels. ‘The news editors back home just don’t get it’ he said somewhat dejected.

What I find most curious is the disdain the media seems to perpetuate in this country. Other parts of Europe enjoy fruitful debate. Their media closely follows the work of the Parliament, it understands it and as a result is able to more closely investigate and scrutinise it.  I would welcome the same level of scrutiny in this country.

The truth is the British media seems to be dominated by the likes of Nigel Farage, who comes across as media friendly and provides good TV. The Boris Johnson of Europe I Suppose. How many times has the Labour leader in Europe, or the Conservative for that matter, appeared on Question Time? They haven’t. But Farage who isn’t a member of a mainstream political party in this country receives disproportionate coverage precisely because he’s considered to be so entertaining.

There is one saving grace; BBC Parliament, specifically the Record Europe, covers European politics more seriously than any other outlet in this country and therefore gives a better reflection of what we are really about. I hope this spreads across to other media agencies and the public can get a better reflection of what we are really about. They deserve it after all.

Tags: Brussels, Daily Express, Europe, Mary Honeyball, MEPs

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