Barroso charms on Andrew Marr show. But does he convince?

Barroso charms on Andrew Marr show. But does he convince?

Amazing what a nice warm smile can do. The portly EU President, José Manuel Barroso, even more relaxed than usual owing to his imminent departure from office, resembled a big cuddly Eurocrat Buddha on the BBC studio couch yesterday morning, conveying the message that: I no longer have an axe to grind, but please think long and hard before leaving the EU.

He’s not a regular on British TV, so it was fascinating to see how he coped with prodding, probing, leading questions and various other banana skins so beloved of British journalists. Andrew Marr has never been the most aggressive interviewer, but he knows how to create a headline or two – so Barroso needed to be on his mettle. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that one of his predecessors, Jacques Delors, became a British media hate figure after various loose comments.

Overall, Barroso did splendidly. His key messages (“The UK gains influence by being part of the EU” and “The Free movement of people is a fundamental EU principle”) stood out like headlines, backed up by solid evidence and colourful examples. The one about Gibraltar was particularly good. He refused to be drawn into speculation about whether David Cameron would be bound to recommend an exit from the EU. And he spoke with passion, yet intelligence and warmth throughout.

Could he have done better? Well, of course he could. I thought it unwise and undiplomatic to criticise the Foreign Secretary for “his tone of voice”. Even if Philip Hammond has used military metaphors to describe Britain’s negotiating tactics with the EU, Barroso didn’t need to criticise him for it. It wasn’t his place to do so. And, most importantly, he could and should have shown more empathy and understanding for the sincere, unprejudiced concern that many people in the UK have about immigration – that an already over-crowded island is bursting at the seams. If you empathise with how your opponents think and feel, you draw the sting from their hostility and encourage them to consider your point of view.

But, notwithstanding all that, Barroso articulated the case for continued membership of the EU rather more convincingly, and certainly more charmingly, than one or two UK politicians have managed, speaking in their own language. Many British people are yet to make up their minds about how they might vote in a possible referendum on EU membership. Barroso’s passionate, yet reasoned style might help them make up their minds to stay.

Article date

October 21st, 2014

Robert Taylor

Media Trainer

@RT_MediaTrainer

My main passion is media training, and I’m proud to be one of the UK’s most experienced and successful trainers in this field.

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