It says something for the insularity of the UK media that The Guardian makes such a big deal of the idea of special reports from our European neighbours. Too often, the editor rightly says, the countries of Europe are reported purely in terms of their relations with Britain.
This was something of a bugbear of mine when I worked for the government, and European summits tended to be seen through two equally distorting lenses – Europe is ganging up on Britain; or Britain fails to get its way.
Pick up any broadsheet French or German newspaper and you will see more coverage of the UK – and generally pretty straight – than you will see about France or Germany in most UK newspapers. Yet these and other EU countries are fundamental to our interests.
So even if it is a response to a strategic failure, well done The Guardian for recognising it and may it herald a change elsewhere.
That being said, I am now going to zone in on a very British aspect of their big spread today on Germany, namely the findings in their Europe-wide poll about attitudes to public spending. People were asked whether they agreed with the statements that their government had been spending too much, borrowing too much, and needed to cut the national debt as a priority. The UK was the least convinced on all three fronts.
So despite having had such a free ride in setting the terms of the debate, the government seems to have failed to win its argument that there is no alternative to the draconian cuts they are making. That is interesting, and hopeful.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has blinked first following the Lib Dems’ spring conference vote against his reforms. The door is now open to drive through real change. Poor old Clegg. Just as student fees was made ‘his’ issue, the same is now going to happen with the NHS. Tory policies for which he will pay the political price.