I heard my name mentioned on the Today programme yesterday, which is always nice, to be
remembered by your old manor. The journalist Peter Oborne was castigating the propagandist forces, as he saw them, which back in 2000 attempted to convince of the need for greater European
integration and joining the Euro. These were, he said, the Financial Times, the CBI and the BBC, pre-eminent amongst which latter was the Today programme. Jim Naughtie picked him up on this and
pointed out that at the time the programme was edited by me, and I could hardly be described as a Europhile (Jim said this with a soft veneer of loathing). He was right; I was editor back then and
was mildly Eurosceptic. Oborne responded by saying that I had also complained about pro-Euro bias in the BBC but that my complaints were ignored.
This isn’t quite right; Oborne seems to imply that there was a covert plot within the top echelons of the BBC in favour of the European project, and that’s not true either. It is rather
more the case that the civilised, decent middle class liberals who ran the corporation genuinely believed that the Eurorealists were a bunch of deranged xenophobes, one step up from the BNP, and
therefore their arguments should be discounted. I realise that covert plot or otherwise the result was the same – a heavy pro-Euro bias, and so you might argue my quibble does not matter. But
the BBC’s bias was arrived at through a sort of inherent wet liberalism, rather than an actual plot as such.
One part of the Beeb back then which was, however, entirely on board with the Euro project was the Brussels office. We presented the programme from their studio on one occasion and kicked the EU
from pillar to post, to the clear discomfort of the resident correspondents. Our team, in the manner of football hooligans, then plastered their office with Just Say No and Referendum Now posters
and stickers. I suppose you could argue that this showed clear anti-Euro bias on our part, but it was really just a spirit of mischief and an attempt to remind our Brussels colleagues that the
country was not entirely behind the project, as they might have thought.
Incidentally, the European correspondent for the BBC back then was a charming and talented chap called Angus Roxburgh. While doing his job he wrote a book the new nationalist parties emerging in
Europe at that time – Pim Fortuyn in Holland, Vlams Blok in Flanders, the Front Nationale and so on. As a BBC correspondent Angus is required to be absolutely politically neutral. You can
judge just how neutral if you read his book, which is entitled “Preachers of Hate”.