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On not having the foggiest

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About the author

A freelance writer and editor based in London, J Clive Matthews is Managing Editor of openDemocracy's EU and deliberative democracy blog, dLiberation.

In the real world he has co-authored two books and edited numerous others (ranging in subject-matter from movies to modern Russian politics), been acting editor on a glossy history and travel magazine, editorial consultant for a big name women's magazine, a freelance news editor for AOL UK, worked in both the House of Commons and the European Commission, and contributed to publications as diverse as Starburst and the Times Literary Supplement.

Best known as Nosemonkey online, he has been blogging about British and European politics daily for several years both at his own blog and sites like The Sharpener, General Election 2005 (now defunct), AgoraVox, France 24 and the Washington Post / Newsweek's Postglobal, as well as about movies for the BBC, and has been shortlisted for blog awards by the likes of the Guardian, Deutsche Welle International and the Weblog Awards, amongst others.

Approaching Brussels, a thick mist had enveloped the fields of Flanders - a homogenous gray mass, broken only intermittently by a bedraggled cow or the odd row of poplars. A featureless expanse, with little clarity amidst the gloomy early afternoon.

The Tomorrow's Europe poll is set to kick off in a little over two hours - and the events of the coming weekend remain about as clear to me as the view from the train.

One vague bit of reassurance, however - at Waterloo I bumped into a representative of one of the poll's partner organizations, met at the launch last month. It seems that I'm not the only one without the foggiest what's going on - despite the fact that they are due to sit on the launch panel this evening, and despite repeated requests for information, they also have no idea precisely where tonight's events are taking place beyond "the European Parliament". It's a big building, the European Parliament...

If even partner organisations - and people who are meant to be sitting on the panel at this evening's launch - don't know what's going on where or when, and haven't been informed of any details, what hope have the press got?

This isn't, however, just the usual moaning journalist thing. Considering the vast expense of publicising initiatives like this, getting the press on board and interested is vital to let people know what's going on. If the press haven't got a clue, how can the people of Europe - the essential part of the mix to get on board if this sort of poll is ever going to be able to be taken seriously as a tool of government - be made aware of what's going on in Brussels this weekend? Without convincing the people that such polling methods are every bit as transparent and fair as courtroom juries, their findings will always be rejected.

The Tomorrow's Europe organisers are claiming to be creating "the EU in microcosm". That's becoming prophetic in ways not envisaged by the organisers - for the lack of press coverage and accessible information has long been one of the biggest obstacles to the formation of a European demos. Is this a taste of things to come, or will Tomorrow's Europe be able to pull something out of the bag at the last minute? I'll hope to report back soon - assuming I can find where this evening's events are taking place...


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