I invest a large amount of time keeping this blog up-to-date. Wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, I think up things I might write, most often matters with an EU-angle. But is it actually worth the effort?

Since the No vote on the Treaty of Lisbon things have been hellish hard. I don’t fit into either of the traditional camps of opinion on what to do. I don’t think the EU is an evil conspiracy and want the whole thing to fall apart, but on the other hand bland ‘pro-Europeanism’ as advocated by those very much part of the political system is no good either. So I’ve been ploughing a rather lonely furrow. I’ve done my best to respond to the critique of my standpoint, but it’s far from easy.

All of this is set against the backdrop of UK political blogging which, despite being resident most of the time in Brussels these days, is still my yardstick. I’ve never been a Westminster-insider blogger, and I’ve never been obsessed with the internal machinations of the Labour Party, meaning that people in the UK with my sort of political ideology don’t really read what I write. I manage to rile eurosceptics and libertarians, but is giving DK a reason to rant enough reason it itself to blog?

I have some readership among EU politics people in Brussels, yet a couple of entries this week at Kosmopolit and on the FT Brussels Blog made me very much realise how marginal blogging is to EU affairs. Tony Barber of the FT posted an entry about how the UK has come up with an ingenious proposal to deal with the challenges posed by the Nice Treaty and a smaller European Commission. He reckons the fine minds devising solutions are in UKRep. Well, if he had been reading this blog he would have been able to read the very same proposal from me written less than 48 hours after the Irish No. I also speculated that Patricia Hewitt would be the UK’s next European Commissioner a good 4 months before the Daily Telegraph covered it. So, if the ideas are reasonable, why so few readers? Well, among the Brussels press corps only 10% read blogs about EU affairs, according to this summary of research on the matter from Kosmopolit. Brussels is a place where you have to represent someone or something – I am independent, and being a blogger in your own right is not enough. I’m also tired of having to explain to people in Brussels what a blog actually is. I would estimate that you could count on the fingers of one hand the numbers of MEPs that have ever read this blog.

So why then do I bother writing this blog about the EU? It’s a place to vent my frustrations, to demonstrate to myself that my views are held by very few other people (but I knew that anyway), and to allow myself to get more and more bitter about the political establishment. That’s not a very optimistic list.

17 Comments

  1. I hope you keep up this blog on the EU Mr Worth, absolute best place to follow this issue, even though by reading it I have come to where I disagree with you on the subject.

    Reasons this blog rocks:

    A: There isnt another that is this informative on the issue of the EU.

    B: There arent many blogs of any sort where one can read and enjoy while disagreeing with the blogger. Usually thats just a way of getting oneself incensed just for fun, cant actually get anything from it.

    C: There is no other place I know of with so many well-informed people arguing so respectfully of each other on any political issue. There is no better discourse on any issue out there. Wish I could find blogs like this on other topics.

    D: Reading this thing is making me the foremost expert on the EU in Texas I reckon.

  2. Plough your own furrow. Keep an open mind. These things are complicated.

    Seeing as you’re of the labour party, I hope you’ve read Hugh Gaitskell’s famous speech on the Common Market:

    “There are certain ways in which we should not decide this issue. It is not a matter to be settled by attractive pictures of nice old German gentlemen drinking beer on the one hand or, on the other, by race or national hatred stimulated by past experiences. It should not be decided because on the one hand we like Italian girls, or on the other, we think we have been fleeced in Italian hotels. It should not be decided on the basis of whether we think French food is the best in the world, or because, as one of my correspondents put it, she was afraid Europe was out to poison us!”

    http://www.ena.lu/speech_hugh_gaitskell_october_1962-020003043.html

    http://www.ena.lu/speech_hugh_gaitskell_october_1962-020003043.html

  3. Thanks for the kind comments! 🙂

    You can see from today’s post about football that even when watching Turkey-Germany I’m still wondering what to write about.

    In reply to comments by Central Scrutiniser and European Union Law Blog about party politics: it’s hard to assess how much the party line tempers what I write. Relatively little I think. I have a sympathy for centre left parties, and have been a member of the Labour Party for more than a decade, but I am very critical of the Labour Party too – especially its internal procedures, how it deals with the EU, and its policies on things like nuclear power. More important to me are the people in the Labour Party, good folks who have been politically influential for me.

    In short I see it like this: at present what I write here is my choice. If it causes problems or offence then so be it, although I do not set out to offend. If I’m undecided on something that’s because I’m genuinely, as an individual, undecided – I’m not taking commands from anyone and that’s good.

  4. Central Scrutiniser

    Good! We all agree that Jon should continue to devote himself to EU blogging and not spend more time inline skating or meeting his friends.

    But Jon, I do worry about your addiction to party politics. What a waste of potential blogging time! I wonder how often your views are tempered by the party line or how pained you might feel when departing from it in your posts.

  5. Waldo Vanderhaeghen

    You do an excellent job Jon, keep up the good work. I love your work and insightful posts and the forum it gives to discussion on the EU.

    I think blogging is a thing that still needs to grow to be honest. It’s especially younger people who know blogs, although that’s improving. In addition I remark an over representation of the British in blogs witch has probably got to do with the language and the culture.

    Being independent and on the margin means you are not part of the decision making process, but you do influence people. I’m gonna work next year in an independent think tank next year, so you are definitely influencing me already 🙂

    Keep up the good work

  6. Keep on keeping on Jon. Your blog is excellent – independent and thoughtful, not many can make that claim. It is a must-read. One of the reasons you have particularly good insights is because you do not buy into the moronic conflation of the EU and being pro-European that is so prevalent here in Brussels. Don’t give up, we need you.

    It may not be immediately obvious, (I often get totally infuriated) but I have tried to push a pro-Europe, anti-EU, internationalist and progressive line on my blog (which I do for love not cash). Some of my traditional Eurosceptic readers have spotted it and they don’t like it.

    I think blogs are important part of an emerging debate. The demographics of the No vote in Ireland show that young working class people and women, who do not vote in general elections, used the Irish referendum to score a hit on the political establishment.

    Traditional Euroscepticism was parasitically based on the decay of the right and left, the Labour movement and Tories in the UK. The referendum Nos are not Euroscepticism, they are something new.

    Political establishments in many, or most, European countries are increasingly unable to mobilise or to take voters with them. And, many Europeans are not convinced by how the elites explain the world.

    This seems to be a genuine European trend. That’s why I likened the Irish referendum to a James Larkin moment on my blog, after the rousing words on his monument by the French revolutionary Camille Desmoulins, a past era of European internationalism.

    It is interesting that while turnout in elections is dropping (a marker of disenchantment with established politics) the referendum turnout grew (the same in France and the Netherlands, I think).

    Could it be that as Europeans we have in common a mistrust of our national governing classes, and their combined expression in the EU? Could it be a pre-political-party stage of the beginning of the beginning of a new oppositional politics?

    This could be a fertile soil for ideas.

  7. What I find strange: while everyone is overwhelmed with “information” and more and more people are looking for “opinion” it is information that newspapers pay journalists for, not so much their opinion.

    Jean Quatremers said once during a conference that he is paid for his print reporting and not his blog (which reflects far more his opinion). But he spends far more time on his blog than on the newspaper articles.

    So maybe you could invest half of your blogging time in useful background reports for newspapers and support your blog activity with that? Knowing the earnings of Brussels EU journalists I probably know your answer…

  8. Ranting is good for the soul, and as rants go you are very reasonable.

    Few people manage to have a critical and positively engaged perspective on the EU. I am happy for each of the few euroblogs that are out there.

  9. Well, that’s a totally personal decision you have to make. I’ve been a blogger since about 2001, and one lesson I’ve learned is that when you start questioning the reasons why you’re blogging you’re already done with it, it’s only a matter of time until you stop.

    Be glad you’re at least not bullied by people for the opinions you post. Though you’d know a lot faster whether to waste your time on it or not.

    And I know what you’re saying about politics, though even within a party there are very different people. Some want you to kiss up, and some enjoy it if you expressively don’t kiss up, but just tell it like it is. It’s more difficult to achieve something if you do not kiss up, but I just managed to get elected for a position even though it was obvious that one of the kiss-up-fraction leaders wanted me out for being an annoyance to his behind I expressively avoided to kiss. Seems like a majority thought I did not have to kiss up – speaking my mind must have gotten me there.

    Maybe it’s also a matter of attitude in the end – you want something, then you got to fight against all odds, or you sit back and watch others walk their paths.

  10. Have you read Jill Evans view on the Lisbon crisis yet?

    As for blogging, we all have our moments of doubt, but let’s face it, it’s addictive. But at least it’s free.

  11. Yes, well, it does make you smile (or grimace) when that happens and someone uses your words without citing the source!

    As for being active in politics – party politics for me is like some awful kind of drug addiction. It hurts like hell, but I can’t stop coming back to it. However I value the ability to speak my mind (hence this blog) and that’s rather a dangerous behaviour in party politics I feel.

    Essentially the calculation is this: I have a finite amount of time and energy, and some of the things I give time and energy to have to earn me some money. Blogging doesn’t, so it’s a free time pursuit, and I have to weigh up how much time to devote to that versus whatever else I could spend my time doing – campaigning, inline skating, meeting friends etc. – and at the moment I’m just wondering whether it’s worth putting so much effort into the blogging as my energies could have a greater impact elsewhere I suppose..?

  12. I do not really know why a blog needs to have an impact anyway. In the first place you should do it, because you enjoy doing it.

    I enjoy it when I notice that it additionally has an impact. It’s just fun when you know you were quoted by a politician, but she didn’t mention your blog. At least you know she is your reader. *lol*

    What you say can have an impact, but if you really think what you do HAS to have an impact to make sense I’d suggest to turn the tables and become active in politics yourself instead of trying to come up with ingenious blog entries.

  13. Yes, this is a really good blog and finally after the referendum there was also some good comment thread. I had a lot of fun arguing with people.

    More Generally I agree with you that the impact of pro-EU blogs is zero. But if one of the stronger blogs, like your blog, would close its doors that would certainly not improve the situation.

  14. Central Scrutiniser

    Jon, it is worth the effort – it is an excellent blog, well written and insightful. Apart from the BBC’s Mark Mardell and the excellent FT folk this is one of very few Euroblogs offering cool-headed, considered analysis of EU matters.

    And Quarsan is correct to say that you are far from alone in feeling isolated from the pro- and anti- camps. Many of us feel that way. We are firmly in favour of Europe but we know that something has gone badly wrong somewhere along the line and so we feel bullied into simplistic, fake choices that entrench the status quo.

  15. Oh, yes, hell I do still care about it – a lot! Part of the frustration is turning that caring about these issues into something useful. Blogging is one part of that.

  16. Jon, you may be disillusioned, but perhaps you are still passionate about the subject(?)

    As to Kosmopolit and his post on the Brussels press corps(e), it is fairly easy to edit ready-made press releases.

    Having to represent someone or something leads to a necessary but often dull diet of predictable opinion.

    There’s more to life than that.

    Looking for new or outside views is more demanding, but also more stimulating – one of the reasons for me to read blogs in general and yours in the top tier.

    One of these days the EU and even most member states’ governments are going to realise that they need active and constructive citizens.

    Our grandchildren will rejoice 🙂

  17. Jon, I wrote on Blairwatch about this post.
    http://www.blairwatch.co.uk/node/2053

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