Rotten eggs, EU squabbles and a bit of Boris blather…

HOW biased are some newspapers in the run-up to next month’s EU referendum? Very, according to new research. Here is one small example involving an egg that wasn’t thrown in York yesterday.

According to the virulently anti-European Daily Express, this was quite a moment, as shown by the teaser on its website: “Man ‘tries to throw an egg’ at Boris Johnson & he replies with most EPIC put down ever…”

Well, I reckon eggs, rotten ones and all, have been thrown at the dictionary if that was an EPIC way to deal with a heckler. I clicked on the video clip idly expecting a bit of widescreen wit. Instead all I got was a spot of Boris burble – “There are people hungry in this country, my friend; don’t waste that egg.”

My old newspaper reported the incident in a more straightforward manner, noting that Sam Grigg, a university student, had booed the politician’s arrival while holding three eggs he’d brought along for the occasion. Sam told the Press that he had “never planned to throw the eggs and he was protesting not against Brexit but Tory Government benefit cuts”.

That does leave me wondering why you would take eggs along as a form of protest and not throw them, but never mind. Sam has kindly provided a theme for today.

You see I reckon rotten eggs are being thrown in all directions in this debate over Europe – and, as it happens, in allowing fracking to go ahead in North Yorkshire. As I shall now explain by rolling a few hard-boiled verbal eggs.

According to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University, press coverage of the first two months of the campaign has heavily favoured the pro-Brexit side of the argument, with 45 per cent of articles in favour of leaving. The Daily Mail and the Express were among the papers most obsessed with being anti-Europe (well, you could knock me down with an eggy soldier).

During that period, a survey of my own feelings concludes that all the politicians on both sides of the divide have done is throw eggs at each other – and, by implication, the voters too. The level of discussion has been vindictive, threatening and petty. And anyone who remains undecided is as likely to find the answer listening to that lot as they are to make an omelette from all those discarded eggs (don’t choose the rotten ones – that will never do).

Scare story has been matched by scare story, with David Cameron and George Osborne trundling out a new supposed horror every day – only for those who wish to leave to come up with some matching spittle-flecked nonsense of their own.

The differences cross parties, but the most vicious fighting has been among Tories, where the blue-on-blue action spits and seethes with long-stewed resentment and dislike. Whatever the outcome next month, the Conservative Party is going to suffer a long hangover from all the internecine nastiness.

Instead of informing people properly, all the squabbling politicians have done is trade insults and scare stories – and, in metaphorical terms, do untold damage to the truth, which has been scrambled, fried, coddled, boiled, baked and poached.

At North Yorkshire County Council, the eggs have been reserved for those protestors who opposed fracking on a site near Kirby Misperton in Ryedale. The council’s planning committee voted seven to four in favour of allowing the first fracking operation in England since a ban was lifted in 2012. Third Energy’s bid to extract shale gas was approved yesterday, as hundreds of protesters attended a meeting in Northallerton to voice anger at the project.

The council received 4,375 objections and only 36 letters in support of the plans to frack for shale gas an existing well owned by Third Energy. By that calculation alone, the council has thrown box loads of rotten eggs at those very many people who were opposed to fracking taking place in the village.

Strictly speaking, this was a local decision. But the Conservative council has followed the Government line, as set down by David Cameron in 2014 when he said his administration was “going all out for shale”.

So more companies will surely want to follow suit. So now a rotten eggy smell hangs over the environment.

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