Opinion: The PR fight over Europe gathers pace

Thanks to Tony Blair's decision to kick Europe into the long grass, the Queen's speech this week wasn't dominated by the new constitution.

There will be a paving bill for the referendum but that's a long way off.

And there is one man who won't stop fighting the European PR battle - Peter Mandelson.

When Sir David Frost mentioned my name to the former MP on his Sunday Breakfast show, I was intrigued as to what he would say. Our new European Commissioner told Frost that he wanted to 'draw a line' under the long-running feud with the Chancellor and his supporters. He also said it was time 'to move on'. Now who could possibly disagree with that?

Some in the media were even fooled into believing it. 'Let's kiss and make up, Mandelson tells Brownites,' roared one headline. 'Mandelson reignites Brown feud with attack on Treasury,' was the more thoughtful line from The Independent.

On this occasion the ex-MP for Hartlepool went on to say a little more than 'let's all be friends again'. Mandelson effectively blamed the Treasury for briefing that his CBI speech was an attack on the Chancellor but, much more significantly, attacked the way the recent Alan Wood report into EU markets was spun by the Treasury press office. But it wasn't just them, it was the Chancellor too who used the report to attack Europe and argue the case for reform.

I was at a Treasury bash the other day and, while it's clear that everyone is delighted to see the back of Mandelson, they also made it clear to me that they are not going to give him peace so long as he tries to interfere with their view on Europe and the euro.

They were delighted with the fact that they had 'spun' the Wood report to lead the BBC news on the Today programme last week and firmly believe that the best PR strategy is to come clean about Europe's failings and argue for reform. So determined are they to win this battle that they sent out a press release in response to Mandelson's Frost interview in the full knowledge that this would guarantee a winding up of the story.

The Treasury statement clearly set out the Brown European strategy: 'The best way pro-Europeans can build a pro-European consensus is by making the case for reform in Europe and standing up for the British national interest.'

This line has incensed pro-Europeans who, like Mandelson, want us all to have rose-tinted glasses when looking at Europe.

The differences over how to fight the next election may be buried for now but the fight over how to win the PR war over Europe is only just beginning.

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