Fainting in Coyles An occasional letter from the
Heart of Euroville
Friday, August 27, 2004
Lying Bastard My least favouritre politician Denis MacShame, the miniture for Europe was caught bang to rights by Peter Oborne in the Speccy last week- and I quote at length.
The case of Denis MacShane, Europe minister, is similar in certain respects, but more flagrant. MacShane too operates by trashing thecharacters and misrepresenting the motives of his opponents. Twoweeks ago, during the course of an interview with the DailyTelegraph, MacShane insinuated that Eurosceptic newspapers and some Tory politicians were encouraging racism. Later he went on the Today programme to enlarge on this proposition. He called for a `fact-based debate'. Then he denounced the Eurosceptic press for telling monstrous lies and myths about Europe, citing in particular the case of one newspaper which had described Eastern European immigrants asa `murderous horde'. MacShane told Ed Stourton, the Today programmeinterviewer, that this sort of thing must stop.
Afterwards I consulted a database to discover which newspaper had used inflammatory language in this shameful and probably illegal way.Nothing came up, so I rang the Foreign Office news department, whichpromised to get back with an answer. Five minutes later, to my surprise, MacShane himself came on the line. When I asked about the `murderous horde', MacShane became vague, changing the subject by citing other stories, one by the Sun journalist George Pascoe-Watson and another by Ed Heathcoat Amory in the Daily Mail, which he alleged to be false. I informed MacShane that I would warn these journalists that he was blackening their reputations behind their backs, then continued to press him about his `murderous horde'. MacShane startedto wriggle, eventually denying that he had ever used the phrase. `Inever said it,' he insisted.
Once our conversation was over, I listened again to a tape of MacShane's Today programme interview. This is what he said: `You remember in the winter there was all this hysteria about people from Poland and Hungary coming into the country. They were described inone of our papers as a murderous horde — a murderous horde. These arenurses and hospital workers from Poland. They are European citizens. They are paying taxes here. When is somebody going to stand up to that kind of language?'Millions of people were listening to that Today programme interview. They heard a senior government minister make a charge of extreme gravity. He repeated it twice. Listeners were entitled to assume thathe was telling the truth. In fact he had made up the quote. Government ministers nowadays talk a great deal about the need torecapture public trust in politics. But they themselves feel free to smear their opponents and distort the truth. It is a horrible way of conducting public debate. In their different ways David Miliband andDenis MacShane are bringing democratic politics into contempt.