Richard North, 01/05/2004  

One common and possibly uniting feature of prominent Europhiles, it seems, is their sheer unpleasantness in the face of opposition to their beloved European Union. No better example of that can be found than in Mr Patten, slated for the post of EU Commission President.

For instance, no reasonable person would deny that concerns about the EU are not justified, and that to have serious reservations about our membership of the EU is a respectable stance – even if you do not agree with it.

Such tolerance is not for Mr Patten. He dismisses the debate, describing it on the BBC Today programme as “this psycho-drama of our relationship with the EU”. One can understand that he might be irritated by the debate, but is there any need to be so unpleasant?

But unpleasantness now seems to be Patten’s stock in trade. It re-emerges in an article by The Scotsman, where he demands that “Teachers Should Counter EU Myths”. Now, once again, no reasonable person would deny that fears about mass immigration are not entirely ill-founded, especially when the government has been so transparently lying on the issue.

There is no middle way for Patten though. Concerns about immigration are “pernicious nonsense” peddled by the tabloid press, as he makes the case that schools are the “first line of defence”.

Patten himself considers that children are ill-educated about the EU (true, but why stop at the EU?) but, to him, this “worrying shortfall” has allowed the tabloids to fill the vacuum with xenophobic “half-truths and outright invention”. Nice one Chris.

These are hardly the words of a democrat, but then the last time Patten submitted himself to an election, in the 1992 General, he was roundly defeated. Methinks he would hardly have any better success now. But then, if he gets appointed as Commission president, he will not need to trouble himself with the inconvenience of appealing to voters.

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