You did make it up

In his article "Brussels? You couldn't make it up . . ." (27 November), Stephen Bates has made several things up. As one of the lobby correspondents he mentions, let me correct him. He says we write our EU stories almost exclusively from the lobby.

Since I joined the lobby for the Mail, I and my colleagues have attended every European summit in the past ten years, including Biarritz, Lisbon, Florence, Bordeaux, Portschach, The Hague, St Malo, Helsinki, Maastricht, Amsterdam, Oporto, Vienna . . . need I go on? What's more, we turn up when other, no doubt poorer, papers don't.

Nor is it true that we lack a reporter in Brussels. We have had one in that wonderful city throughout the 1990s, as Bates knows. We do not "maunder about in a disconsolate herd waiting for Alastair Campbell's next briefing". That I was repeatedly attacked by the premier and Campbell, during the recent trip to Russia, for questioning the government line on EU matters I think establishes our independence on the subject.

The suggestion that we view foreign food "with disdain", like knotted-handkerchiefed Monty Python characters, is just the sort of stupid cliche he accuses us of peddling. Far from "counting the moments to the first flight home" to the brown sauce and fry-ups that he suggests we relish, I often linger on in my own time, and recently viewed both the Prado in Madrid and the Musee d'Orsay, as well as supped the odd Belgian beer in the Grand'Place.

His "doubt" that we have "ever spoken to a minister, politician or even a journalist from another country" is wrong on every count. That he can make such a remark questions his honesty.

Our job as journalists is to challenge the executive on behalf of the people. I cannot remember a single story that Bates wrote during his time in Brussels that confronted the received wisdom or gave the government a moment's pause. His article is utter lickspittle bilge.

Paul Eastham
Deputy Political Editor, Daily Mail

This article first appeared in the 04 December 2000 issue of the New Statesman, Goodbye to the dirty mac image