I was working on Twitter yesterday evening and I noticed a tweet from Alyn Smith, the SNP member of the European Parliament. He described a recent article from the British newspaper, the Daily Telegraph as “Dangerous and irresponsible. Alyn was referring to a piece by political correspondent, Laura Hughes that went with the headline on Twitter as, “Britain’s Navy is ‘far weaker’ than it was during the Falklands but could still ‘cripple’ Spain”.

Laura’s piece was centered on former Tory leader Lord Howard, who hinted that Theresa May could go to war over the sovereignty of the British territory Gibraltar, and also included a number of follow-up quotes from a former director of operational capability at the Ministry of Defence, Rear-Adml Chris Parry. Quotes from Parry in the piece include lines such as “We could cripple Spain in the medium term and I think the Americans would probably support us too. Spain should learn from history that it is never worth taking us on and that we could still singe the King of Spain’s beard” and “If the Government wants to talk big over Gibraltar, or indeed anywhere else, they have to invest appropriately in the military capacity to back that up”.

What is both sad and terrifying here is that this article was not scribbled together by some semi-retired right wing journalist but written by a relatively young woman who in the past has penned some pretty decent work. It is shameful that a mainstream British newspaper has decided to lead the charge in jingoism and nationalistic rhetoric against a fellow EU member state and in the process, entice and encourage journalists like Laura to write this type of work and attempt to call it credible.

Europe was the battlefield of the world and whether you believe it was through NATO or the EU that for the last 80 years, we have enjoyed unparalleled peace, the fact remains that both institutions have worked because of partnership and allied co-operation. Yet despite the fact that Britain has yet to even leave the EU, already certain parts of the media there are drumming up well-used catcalls against ancient enemies who have no intention of recreating the Battle of Trafalgar. This is 2017, not 1805 and yet somehow, young journalists like Laura Hughes seem happy to sacrifice a small bit of their credibility with nonsense work like this.

Look across Europe today and you will still see disagreement but most importantly, there is little or no conflict. It was assumed that we are well beyond the precipice of war in Europe to even contemplate discussing the notion of threats towards fellow European states. We considered that the realm of corrupted Middle East states or emerging nations who are struggling to shake off the shackles of totalitarianism and mob rule. We have numerous institutions like the EU and NATO which enable us to sort out minor disagreements before they escalate into a major crisis. And like it or not, Gibraltar is a minor disagreement on the world scale which although is important enough for both parties to still allow it to remain a diplomatic issue, is not a matter that should bring two major EU member states into military conflict.

Articles like this do nothing but show the rest of the 27 EU member states that large sections of the British media are out of control and have no moral compass when it comes to being respectful to how disagreements are resolved in the diplomatic world. It is beyond thinking that a journalist should allow this kind of patriotic nonsense becomes a part of their resume if they really consider themselves professional. This type of work is for the Steve Bannon’s of this world who are those self-penned ranters that thrive on clickbait and posturing. They should certainly not be the work of aspiring young political writers who wish to work in the mainstream media.

However, these ranting articles could now be part of the mainstream media and those who have worked hard to get a diploma or a master’s degree in journalism now must compete with the part-timers and hacks. Europa United is a volunteer group who enjoy writing and we don’t attempt to call ourselves journalists or a media corporation as that would not only be ridiculous but completely disrespectful to those who actually work within that industry.

But it doesn’t take a master’s degree in journalism to know that this type of work is below the line of decent journalism and it is up to everyday people like us to call it what it is – jingoistic propaganda. Writers like Laura should really know better and their bosses should not encourage such work on them. Going on about the merits of Brexit or defending the honour of Katie Hopkins and Nigel Farage is one thing but to openly suggest that conflict between two friendly states exists over small diplomatic disagreements is not only poor journalism, it is indeed “Dangerous and irresponsible” and needs to stopped before it becomes the normal rhetoric of a nation isolated and under pressure.

Ken Sweeney
Committed to idea of supporting aspiring writers and journalists. Serial podcaster.

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