In a vivid denunciation of Brexit journalism, Alex Massie, the Scottish editor of the Spectator, has asked why so many on the right were “mad about Marine”, as he puts it.

I have just finished a book about Brexit, which I am hurriedly updating to take in the election and one of my chapters is on the extraordinary role of the offshore-owned media over the last 20 years in creating the climate which made last June’s vote inevitable. Put me down as a sore loser of course, though I have never challenged the sincerity of many journalist friends who oppose Europe. But even my jaw dropped when, on BBC Any Questions last week, I heard Nigel Farage endorse Marine Le Pen – a woman whom a court in Paris has declared can legitimately be called a fascist.

Massie is also strong when he writes:

“If you needed an example of how a mania for Brexit has corrupted elements of the Right, then here you had it: the possibility France might be led by someone who, if we are being kind, could be reckoned a house-trained fascist, was fine and dandy because, look, Le Pen hates the EU too. Could Brexit be followed by, god help us, “Frexit”? For a certain type of Englishman there was something priapic about even thinking so.

A reminder, too, that some of the talk about a civilised, grown-up, respectful Brexit was only talk. For some, it is not enough that Britain succeed; the EU must fail.”

That point was made by Massie’s fellow Scot Gerald Warner, who proclaimed here on Reaction that the referendum vote “sounded the death knell of the EU”. Brits announcing the death of the EU and the Euro have been ten a penny for years, but the best clichés never die. Actually, the Brexit vote coincided with remarkable surge in EU growth and job creation, and drops in unemployment. German exports amounted to €110 billion in March, which hardly suggests you have to leave the Customs Union to trade profitably.

Massie condemns the longing on the anti-European right for a crisis in France and a further undermining of Europe. But were the liberal-left opinion-forming classes any better?  The Guardian, Financial Times, New Statesmen, and Observer were all full of pages of excited Marine Le Pen coverage, as were BBC outlets like Today, Newsnight or the World at One.  Even Politico put up a front-page story on the Friday before the election explaining how Marine Le Pen could win.

There were endless profiles in the left-liberal press and on the BBC describing how she had cleaned up her party and that it was no longer rancid and racist. This line fell apart when she quit as party leader after the first round and named as her successor someone who had traditional Front National views on the Holocaust and World War 2. He was quickly replaced, but Le Monde and other papers dug up plenty of evidence about just how noxious the Front National was and how Le Pen’s closest aides were linked to the extreme racist and anti-semitic right.

The endless “Marine is Coming” reports in the left-liberal press meant little space was available to report what was really happening in France. As a result Britain is very poorly informed about Emmanuel Macron, even though his programme, ideas and policies are all published in detail. Instead it was the age difference with his wife – the same age difference as between Mr and Mrs Trump, or, closer to home, nearly as between Alex Salmond and his 80-year-old wife – that seemed to take up the most column inches since he was elected president.

Massie is honest in pointing out that right-wing Europhobes were gagging for a Le Pen victory. But the left-liberal writing community hardly covered itself in glory as it bigged up the fascist-lite candidate as the coming force in France and Europe.

Denis MacShane is the former Minister of Europe. He wrote a biography of François Mitterrand in 1982 and appears regularly on French TV and radio.