by RAY FLEMING
WHAT a gift for the Europhobes that the European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, should have been chosen by listeners to the BBC's Today programme as “the most powerful man in Britain”. Tony Blair came only seventh in a list of ten alongside Sir Terry Leahy the boss of Tesco. Anyone who knows anything about the way the European Union is run will also know that the result of this poll is nonsense. The likelihood that those who are root-and-branch opposed to the EU voted en masse for Senhor Barroso cannot be dismissed; the leader of the UK Independence Party, Roger Knapman, was quick with his judgement that the result was “quite shocking”. I don't want to seem to be rubbishing the poll because I don't like its outcome but the Today programme made a serious mistake in mixing individuals and institutions in its final short list of ten. For instance, how could “Google” be compared with Gus O'Donnell, the new Cabinet Secretary? Why were “Parliament” (placed third) and “The British People” (fourth) separated since the only way in which the people can exert power is by electing a Parliament? If these categories had been merged they would have finished ahead of Senhor Barroso. If this poll carries a serious message at all it is surely to be found in the name of the person who finished second with 15 per cent of the votes cast. The name? Rupert Murdoch, of course, whose newspapers have a readership in excess of ten million and whose support is widely credited with helping Tony Blair to win three elections. It is extraordinary that newspapers which give such minimalist coverage of politics should be able to wield such influence. Or do they? May it not be that Mr Murdoch and his editors are so acutely sensitive to shifting social and political winds that they reflect rather than create voting trends? One of David Cameron's trickiest tasks will be to judge how to respond to the inevitable invitation from Mr Murdoch to address one of the annual gatherings of the senior staff of News Corporation. Mr Blair jumped when the call came. Will Mr Cameron or Mr Brown do likewise? Or should they play hard to get?

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