The rise of the Labour placewoman Baroness Ashton to Europe's new foreign ministry, without ever deigning to be elected by the general public, is an insult to democracy. If you listened to Justin Webb's reports from Brussels on this morning's Today programme, however, you would have got a very different impression of the story:
The feature at 7.34 featured short bites of praise from Gordon Brown, David Rennie of The Economist (38 seconds) and former Labour MP Kerry Pollard (defeated 2005) (23 seconds), as well as a short bite of tepid criticism from the Conservative leader in the European parliament Timothy Kirkhope (26 seconds). The main feature here though was a remarkable interview with the failed Labour leader Lord Kinnock. This gooey confection lasted 4 mins 30 seconds, with Justin chuckling away at the not-so-noble lord's little jokes at democracy's expense. Justin added warm words of his own too: "Since her arrival in Brussels she's impressed people with her diligence and her diplomacy." Who are these "people"? Are they "all people", "most people", "some people", "a small number of people"? *
A full-scale interview between Justin Webb and Cathy Ashton herself followed at 8.10. This was no toughie either, with plenty of softly-struck questions and few critical interruptions. The democratic deficit was not dwelt on for long (passed over in less than a minute).
Our friends at the BBC seem to want us to believe that the Euro-sceptic belief that European federalism is alive and kicking and that the Lisbon Treaty (aka the European Constitution) has breathed new fire into it has been refuted by the installation of these nobodies. Webb put this very point to Baroness Ashton: "What do you make of the idea that your appointment, and Mr Van Rumpuy's as well, suggest that the Eurosceptics are wrong, that the idea of a kind of federal state emerging and Europe having powerful people of stature who go around speaking for Europe, that that's all been rather given up on now. European people like you are going to speak for Europe but in amongst all the other foreign ministers and nation states?" He then pursued the point with the Beeb's new Europe editor Gavin Hewitt: "Is this the end of federalism Gavin? Is this a kind of sea-change, a moment where Europe has looked at a route and decided not to go down it?" Hewitt told us "that the person they (the EU leaders) were looking for was a low-profile chairman, a coordinator" and went on to say "for some Eurosceptics today, they are celebrating because the big powerful president who would impact on the world stage that hasn't happened." I'm not sure Hewitt is qualified to speak for Eurosceptics. He doesn't speak for me, nor for many others I'd wager: http://derekbennetteu-sceptic.blogspot.com/2009/11/nonenities-to-fore.html.*
B*tch-Gate in 60 Seconds
3 hours ago