Everyone must love the EU... says Tony Blair
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From the Evening Standard
Last updated at 22:22pm on 02.12.06
A multi-million pound propaganda war to force the British people to love the European Union and Brussels bureaucrats is to be launched by Tony Blair as part of his legacy as Prime Minister, it has been revealed.
The operation to overcome strong opposition to the EU in Britain and soften them up in the event of fresh moves to forge closer links with Brussels was secretly agreed by Mr Blair and his Ministers at last week's Cabinet meeting.
Details of the plan, obtained by The Mail on Sunday, show how the Prime Minister is so frustrated at his failure to persuade voters that the EU is a good thing, he is to spend a fortune from public funds in a final attempt to brainwash them before he resigns next year.
They include banning Ministers and officials from referring to unpopular EU institutions like the European Commission, places such as Brussels and Strasbourg, the euro currency, terms like 'Eurocrat' and 'EU directive' and controversial policies such as the Common Agricultural Policy and the EU constitution.
Instead they have been ordered to try to promote the 'EU brand' by linking to popular European events and institutions such as the Eurovision song contest, the Cannes Film Festival and the UEFA soccer organisation that runs the Champions League tournament - even though none of them has anything to do with the EU.
Every Whitehall department is to appoint a spin doctor responsible for promoting the EU. And Downing Street will draw up an 'EU Grid' to make sure stories portraying Brussels in a good light are leaked to the media on a regular basis.
The leaked plans state that propaganda must be tailored to win over all groups by encouraging them to think that 'as a tourist, as a mother, as a birdwatcher, as an entrepreneur... the EU is relevant and can make a difference.'
More controversially, it suggests Ministers should not waste their energies trying to win over the elderly and people with few academic qualifications.
It says the 'young and educated' have much more appetite for learning about Europe than 'the old and uneducated'.
The plans were drawn up on Mr Blair's instructions by Whitehall's £180,000-a-year head of communications Howell James, a close friend of EU Commissioner Peter Mandelson.
Mr James had a relationship with Mr Mandelson's partner, Brazilian Reinaldo da Silva, before Mr Mandelson met him.
Mr Howell's links with Mr Mandelson are thought to have been a factor when he was appointed as Whitehall's first permanent secretary in charge of media relations two years ago.
At last week's Cabinet meeting where the EU propaganda campaign was approved, Ministers were told it was needed because of a growing expectation that Brussels would revive plans for an EU constitution, further reducing Britain's ability to govern itself.
The constitution was abandoned last year after it was rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands.
They will shortly receive a 'new core script and toolkit' suggesting that issues such as climate change, Blue Flag beaches, cheap flights and cheap mobile calls when abroad should be emphasised with the EU downplayed.
The paper presented to the Cabinet by Mr James complained of the continuing 'negativity and euro scepticism' among British voters, adding: "Indifference and apathy remains significant." Ministers must claim victories for Brussels, not Britain. "There is a risk of overplaying the UK's role and achievements at the expense of the EU,' it stated.
The new pro-EU message will be dumbed down, using a 'reframed and compelling narrative with accessible and "friendly" themes, wherever possible steering away from institutions, politics and legislation'. And pro-European politicians should be replaced by pro-European celebrities with a 'range of non political voices'.
In one of the most controversial sections on 'rebranding the EU', the Cabinet paper provides a chart showing the most unpopular aspects of the EU: the constitution, the commission, Brussels, Strasbourg, the Common Agricultural Policy, Eurocrats and the euro, described as issues towards which the public feels 'cold'.
They are contrasted with popular - or 'warm' - aspects of Europe, including UEFA, the Eurovision Song Contest, the Cannes Film Festival and Liverpool, Europe's "Capital of Culture' for 2008, though none have EU links. The best-known 'warm' EU topics were its Pet Travel Scheme and the EU-sponsored "Blue Flag' clean beaches.
Titled Reframing The Debate, the paper says Ministers must use 'themes with a "natural" European dimension to maximise impact and increase familiarity with Europe'.
The objective is to 'realign the EU brand via alliances with familiar, trusted organisations and brands'.
A new network of Whitehall spin doctors with orders to promote the EU has been created, with one senior "Press co-ordinator' in all 23 Government departments.
They will help No 10 draw up a 'rolling grid of upcoming EU issues' to ensure British voters are fed with a constant diet of pro-EU news.
Mr James told Ministers Press releases about the EU must be censored, removing references to the EU and its directives.
Instead they would refer to 'Europe' - which Mr James describes as 'a European sub brand' which people warm to.