Opinion: America – a sense of proportion?

The American Primaries are in full swing, and the race is on for the next President of the United States who will be, as the journos will constantly remind us, the most powerful person in the world. Assuming of course the Chinese Government doesn’t call in the mortgage!

As soon as a few middle-class, middle-aged Americans attend a few meetings somewhere out in the plains, in a state few of us have heard of and even fewer have visited, our press are fascinated. As are our chatting classes and the webocracy.

But where is the sense of proportion? Last year, France, our closest neighbour, elected a new President. France, where millions of us take our holidays every year. Where tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of us have second homes. And how was the presidential election campaign in France reported, last year? Superficially to say the least.

35 years after what we joined what is now the European Union, we continue to remain unaware of it’s importance in our lives. Millions of our citizens live there. The greater part of our trade is with our European partners. But our Media pay scant attention to what goes on.

I’m pleading for a sense of proportion. Of course, I accept the pre-occupation with the US Elections until November. But I would like to see some attention devoted to the possible change of government in Spain, to developments in Eastern Europe and to the problems being faced by Sarkozy in France.

My suspicion remains that the main reason behind the poor coverage of Europe is the lack of journalists who understand anything other than English (and then…).

Next year sees elections to the European Parliament; a body which represents many of our interests and those of close to 500,000,000 Europeans. As Liberal Democrats we should be working hard (after November) to bring European issues to the forefront and to try to ensure that our media is giving proper attention to Europe and our role in the European Union.

For it or against it, Europe remains the most important factor in our lives, both culturally and economically. Hence my plea for a sense of proportion.

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This entry was posted in LDVUSA and Op-eds.


  • Peter Bancroft 9th Jan '08 - 2:09pm

    Martin, you must be delighted that the first comment to your post was a prime example of attitudes here in the UK.

    To dismiss with one foul swoop the intricacies of Finnish coalition-building, Spanish/Catalan regional negotiations, the continual Polish political rebirths, the struggling of the left in Italy and the continuation of the liberal legend in Estonia is only something which a Brit could manage.

  • You have a point about the European elections but I think the coverage of the French Presidential election was actually pretty good.

  • C’mon folks – we’re a Europeanist party!
    You’ll find european elections can be interesting. After all, most are done with PR – which we are calling for for Westminster….

  • David Morton 9th Jan '08 - 5:00pm

    You are right and its a fair article but the coverage is due to what i call the “West Wing” complex. The US Presidency with its power, iconography, imperial baubles, ballons and the direct democoracy of the primaries is always going to be more attractive to 24 hour news than a multi lingual hemicycle and the d’hondt formula.

    If you throw inj the anglo american invasion of Iraq, the linguistic ties and the fact that you’d much rather be on expenses in New York than Munich you get a recipe for the kind of infated coverage that we are all seeing. I thought the last French preisntial Election did get signifigantly more coverage than usual but that because it felt more american with its novelty candidastes of a woman and and a reform candidate.

    I suppose the conterpoint would be to use the Euro elections to actually talk about Europe. In 2004 most of the literature i saw had pictures of Bush and Blair on it. I suppose its the challenge of adapting our unltra localist campiagning techniques to the least local of electoral systems. ( closed list PR on regional lits)

  • Martin Land 9th Jan '08 - 8:44pm

    Just a point or two about last years coverage of the French Elections. It was better than it often is, though nearly all the reporting was from Paris, whearas the real battlegrounds were the North and the Rhone-Alpes and not one single journalist (that I noticed) mentioned the ENA – THE underlying key to understanding French political alliances. How many British Journalists were at the launch of the campaign of Bayrou? (none – I was there!) – but they have been following the movements of even minor candidates around the mid-west plains!

  • Dinti Batstone 9th Jan '08 - 10:48pm

    James @ 7

    I’m No. 3 on our London Euro list and have been working on targeting EU voters in London- if you’re interested in helping/ hearing more please get in touch (I’m on Facebook, or contact me via Cowley St).

    David @ 8

    I agree with you about 2004- we need to have the courage of our convictions this time. But the best way to campaign on Europe is to show that it is relevant to people’s every day lives.

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