Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

A letter to Private Eye

(I’ll copy the offending article below the fold, for those who are interested. And for non-UK readers who don’t know what Private Eye is, it’s the UK’s best satirical political magazine – and also one of the few publications to still bother with proper investigative journalism. I’ve been reading it pretty much every issue since the early 90s, and can safely say that it’s far and away my favourite magazine, and probably the prime thing that inspired me to start blogging.)

Come on, Strobes – your EU coverage is becoming laughably bad. In Brussels Sprouts in Eye 1227 you quote the “director” of “The National Platform EU Research and Information Centre” (later just “the EU Research Centre”), who has supposedly “exposed” yet more devious details of the Lisbon Treaty as Ireland looks set to vote again on the damned thing.

Aside from the fact that what is supposedly “exposed” is actually just re-hashed, unproven speculative analysis that did the rounds of the Euroblogs well over a year ago, what’s most shocking is that had you bothered to look it up on Google you’d find that the impressive-sounding National Platform EU Research and Information Centre is actually nothing more than one man and his blog, most of the content of which consists of cut and pasted newspaper reports. Not only that, but judging by blog search engine Technorati, it’s a singularly unknown blog (only six inbound links) – probably why I’d never heard of it.

I’ve been running a well-regarded blog on EU affairs for nearly six years now (shortlisted for Best UK Blog in the 2008 Weblog Awards and given the Jury’s Commendation in the UACES-Reuters Reporting Europe Awards 2008, among various other accolades). But now I see where I’m going wrong – I should start referring to myself as the director of some grandiose-sounding institute and start spamming people with “press releases” to make people assume that I’m from a thinktank.

Seriously – if you need a fact-checker for your EU stuff, let me know. Brussels Sprouts has always had a tendency to believe the worst of the eurosceptic conspiracy theories, but now it’s getting silly.

As for the rest, keep up the (mostly) good work!


J Clive Matthews (aka Nosemonkey)
Nosemonkey’s EUtopia
(henceforward to be known as The European Institute for EU Insight and Objectivity – E.I.E.I.O.)


Yet more phoney guarantees by Brussels to the Irish have been exposed – this time by The National Platform EU Research and Information Centre.

In their desperation to get the Irish to vote again for the same constitutional treaty they rejected (now renamed Lisbon), Eu leaderss have deluded the irish into believing the new treaty would guarantee them an EU commissioner in Brussels (Eye 1226) who, they claimed, would have been taken away under the old Nice treaty.

But the EU Research Centre’s director, Anthony Coughlan, reveals that it is actually the new Lisbon Treaty that plans to take away the commissioners from member states. Says Coughlan: “It is the Lisbon Treaty which proposes a reduction of one third from 2014. What Nice provides for is a reduction in the size of the Ccommission by an unspecified number from 2009… to be agreed unanimously.” However, he explained that since such unanimity was unlikely, the current situation would remain if Lisbon were not ratified and all member states would keep their commissioners.

The centre also exposed false claims that the Irish could choose their commissioner under the Lisbon Treaty, when in fact the decision would be made by the commission’s president, with the help of larger member states. “What is the value of every EU state continuing to have one of its nationals on the EU Commission under Lisbon… if member state governments can no longer decide who that person will be?” asks Coughlan.

Have our leaders forgotten how to read, or are they simply lying?

There are so many misunderstandings, misinterpretations, factual inaccuracies and weak semantic pedantry there that any proper fisking would end up far longer than the article itself. And it’s hardly worthy of that.

Poor show, Private Eye – poor show.


  1. You say “There are so many misunderstandings, misinterpretations, factual inaccuracies” in the article, but they were the accusations of Prof Anthony Coughlan about the Irish Referendum Commission.

    He also made the point that the Irish Referendum Commission was backed by public money and therefore had a legal duty to represent the facts honestly.

    He has made a clear record of where they did not meet their obligations backed by evidence so anyone can verify his points and if they wished, try to disprove them.

    The door is open, I will assume that if you cannot be bothered that will be euphuism for you cannot do so and are just trying smear tactics.

  2. EIEIO, LOL!

  3. Not really interested in the specific and boring minutiae that Ken seems to be.

    The real point is the complete ignorance of journalists regarding new technology which enables them to get suckered in.

    However, having had my own run in with an article in the Sun based around my what my PhD was on (I know the topic), there is also the possibility that journalists are actually using the ignorance of their readers regarding new technology, which could easily prove their story to be wrong, to push very biased and blatantly wrong stories.

    The number of times I have had discussion about people regarding inaccuracies regarding the EU, in which their full back position is that it was in the Sun/Daily Mail/Express. Papers NEVER lie do they? That would be illegal right?

    I also wrote an e-mail to said journalists, asking if journalists where internet illiterate and correcting all her inaccuracies. It was done light heartily but she took ‘offence’….having read her previous work she comes across as a bit of a cow….I guess all that cocaine up the nose down in the London media bubble really messes with your brain! The worse part was the way the story was reported she clearly knew enough of the reality of the situation to be able to produce such a pack of mad about as much sense as waxing an owl!

    Its important to catch the journalists when they misbehave but it makes you think that there needs to be something stronger than the PPC and its voluntary codes. Information is power and it can easily be abused…didnt Mussolini start of as a journalist?

  4. Ken – the Irish Referendum Commission wasn’t mentioned in the article, and I have no interest in anything else this Coughlan chap’s written. What I care about is the factual accuracy, fairness of presentation and newsworthiness of a magazine I like and respect.

    To act as if this chap is from a proper organisation when he’s just a blogger like you or I is misleading, and his analysis – at least that quoted by Private Eye – is full of misunderstandings and inaccuracies.

    To wit – and to stress, looking solely at Coughlan’s claims in the Private Eye article itself – to blame the Lisbon Treaty for the reduction of the number of commissioners is pure semantics; his point about the current situation remaining in force if Lisbon isn’t passed is a one that was made by pro-EU blogger Jon Worth (among others) several months ago (and is entirely speculative, as to keep the current situation after the end of this year would technically be to breach the terms of the Treaty of Nice); and his rhetorical question about “the point” of national commissioners conveniently ignores the fact that all EU commissioners have to take an oath to act independently and not as the tool of their member states’ own governments while in office.

  5. Pingback: Smear Tactics |

  6. Up to a point Lord Copper.

    To state that Prof Coughlan is nothing more than a common blogger – like you or I is rather doing him a diservice. The National Platform which he runs has been around for years and years. He is a well respected commentator and campaigner on European issues and other issues for many years.
    Should give you an idea of his credentials.

    That being said I did think that the Brussels Sprouts was a tad overhashed and recycled myself.

  7. Credentials he may well have, but Private Eye failed to mention them. (And the National Platform blog thing doesn’t mention them either that I could see). But as I’ve been trying to convince Ken, my problem isn’t with Coughlan – it’s with Private Eye.

  8. I really enjoy Private Eye but its coverage of the EU in Brussels Sprouts is simply cretinous.

    It also pushed the MMR/autism scare until the weight of evidence demolishing the link got too embarrassing for it to carry on.

  9. Enjoyed that. Wished I’d written it. Will you be covering more CAP stories then as EIEIO ;) ?

  10. My specialist areas are 1) transport infrastructure 2) PFI 3) consumer goods marketing.

    I’m wholly aware that enormous amounts of disastrous badness goes on in all these regions (many of which I’d love to pass onto PE but for risk of being sacked).

    However, nearly everything that appears in PE in these areas that I actually know about, which is quite a bit, is embarrassing nonsense (Dr B Ching on the rail front, most obviously, reproduces crap Evening Standard lies about almost everything).

    While I still read PE because they’re the only people who bother covering libel-heavy parts of the journosphere, the fact that whenever they cover anything I know about it’s nonsense doesn’t fill me with confidence.

    Your fine is another nail…

  11. Just had the following back from Private Eye. In the interest of balance, and all that:

    Brussel Sprouts writes:

    Re: Your statement that the National Platform for EU Research and
    Information Centre “is just one man and his blog”.

    The National Platform is a highly reputable lobby group which campaigns
    against a Federal superstate and highlights the very serious
    shortcomings in the Irish Referendum Campaign. The secretary of the
    group is Dr Anthony Coughlan, a former Senior Lecturer Emeritus in Social Policy at Trinity College, Dublin. The group has challenged the Oireachtas
    (Irish Parliament) on the failure of the Irish Referendum Commission to
    inform the Irish people about the Lisbon treaty despite receiving
    millions to do so. Their explanation about the commissioners that you
    dismiss as “rehashed unproven speculative analysis” was a clear
    statement of fact made in answer to false claims made to the Irish
    people. The National Platform website is not a blog but contains
    detailed and careful analysis on the subject of the EU. Dr Coughlan has
    written extensively on the effects of the EU Constitution.”

    I remain unconvinced that the National Platform has enough people to be considered a “group”, or that it exists as anything other than a Wordpress-powered website run out of Coughlan’s front room (the address given on the site is for a house in a residential Dublin street, after all).

    I know this will sound petty and pedantic, but in the context of the article the fact that Coughlan himself has impressive academic credentials is neither here nor there – the impressive-sounding name of his organisation is assumed to be enough to lend his opinions (and they ARE just opinions, no matter what Brussels Sprouts may assert) credence. One man’s view, after all, is less credible than the views of many – hence, I suspect, the grandiose title he’s given to the organisation which appears to have no members other than him.

    Anyway, I’m impressed that I got a reply, even if I remain unimpressed with the article.