This article appeared on page 35 of today's Times.
March 07, 2005
The face that launched 1,000 Eurosceptic quips
By Anthony Browne, Brussels Correspondent
IT WAS meant to bring the European Union closer to its citizens, putting an appealing face on what often appears to be a distant bureaucracy. But the personal blog, or internet diary, of a European Commissioner has been hijacked by British eurosceptics.
They are using it, instead, to attack the EU and to pour scorn on those who lead it.
Margot Wallström, the Vice- President of the European Commission, was handed the job of boosting support before the wave of referendums on the EU constitution and she started her blog on the Commission website after the new year, mixing the personal and political to emphasise the benefits of Europe.
Her efforts have been engulfed in a cyber-war, however, with British Eurosceptics leaving hundreds of messages attacking the Commission for destroying British industry and Britain’s democratic traditions.
The row has got so bitter that Ms Wallström replied recently: “The EU-negative crowd in the UK or elsewhere seem very happy to have found in me another object of hatred — help yourselves!” In the very first entry in her blog, Ms Wallström emphasises her concern about the Asian tsunami, before turning to the problem of the long lunches that she has to have for her job. Worrying about the weight that she has put on over Christmas, the Swedish commissioner wrote: “The official meetings don’t last that long, but the lunches are three or four or even more hours from now on.”
A man named Sean replied: “At least you are making an attempt to communicate with the great European public. But I’m afraid there is no getting around the fact that you represent an elitist, corrupt, and unelected politburo, which for some reason exercises enormous power over the lives of millions. Why? Why do you have this power? Who voted for you?”
An entry on the benefits of recycling, in which the commissioner mentioned that she had been sent a bag from India made from used newspapers, prompted a round of derisive comments. She replied: “The one I liked the most was the guy who wanted my recycled bag to throw up in! Funny!”
Detailing the benefits of new EU legislation on hazardous chemicals, she recounted that a doctor once found 28 “chemicals” in her blood and said that she was worried about passing them on to her children through breastfeeding. “This is not the stuff that I want my boys to inherit first thing!” she wrote.
Richard North, a prominent Eurosceptic, replied: “That, I am afraid, is the classic cry of the charlatan and the snake oil salesman throughout the ages. Tugging on the heartstrings may be all right for the tabloid newspapers, but it is not something that politicians should indulge in.”
A reader called John Coles suggested: “She should be locked in a room and told to read Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations before being allowed out.”
The arguments are so onesided that one reader asked for someone to agree with Ms Wallström to add balance. “It’s a bit like shooting fish in a barrel otherwise.”
Sometimes the comments descend into English nationalism. A contributor called Kissingengland listed triumphs from the Magna Carta to the defeat of Fascism, adding: “This free, unconquered nation of mine, which has nourished, defended and preserved its institutions and liberties through eight centuries of continental despotism and warmongering, has nothing to gain from suborning itself to the inferior political structures of the EU.”
The 10 Downing Street website quickly closed down its public message board because it was exploited as a platform to attack government policy, but Ms Wallström’s spokesman said that she had no plans to follow suit. He added: “It’s true a lot of it comes from the UK. It’s a pity we get so many comments from people who seem to be very eurosceptic. It proves those in favour are the silent majority .”
Why am I posting this slightly ponderous if important chunk of British journalism? Take another look at those quotes. The first one, from a 'man called Sean', was made by - yes - me.
Impressed? You should be. Now scroll down. See that later quote, from someone called 'kissingengland'? Well, that's also me. Yes, me. Me. Me me me. ME!!! ME I TELL YOU! ME!! BWAHAHAHAHA!
For those that don't read great literature, Kissing England was my second novel.
And what does this prove? Not much I suppose. Apart from the fact that it pays, when blogging obsessively, to use pseudonyms. And that I am quite extraordinarily articulate. And that the Times is hard up for stories. And that the EU Commission, like the EU itself, sucks the Devil's semen. But you knew that last bit already.