Coverage of the Dutch elections last week is clear evidence that in the pro-Brexit media a toxic combination of ignorant hostility and selective perception continues to inform views about Europe. This attitude has led Britain to leave an organisation it never bothered to understand, in the hope of a future it did not examine. It is now leading Britain to fundamentally misunderstand the countries it depends on for a reasonable Brexit deal.
More than 300 foreign journalists descended on the Netherlands in the weeks and months before the elections. Many seemed to have come on the promise that after Trump and Brexit another domino would fall to populism because the staunchly anti-Islam, anti-EU and anti-immigration PVV party of Geert Wilders was either leading in the polls or getting stronger and stronger. So those foreign journalists set out to interview one Wilders voter after another, and guess what? They all said that Wilders was going to do really, really, really well and that Brexit is a dream for every sane Dutch citizen.
How ignorant can you be? A government led by Wilders delivering a referendum on the EU was never, ever on the cards. Yes, Wilders had led the polls for a brief period over the winter months. But what Brexit media either did not know or chose not to share with their readers is that this means something very different in a system of proportional representation. “Leading the polls” in America’s or Britain’s first-past-the-post system means…