Is this a premature departure by a former journalist who found the procedures and disciplines of his new employer rather harsher than he expected? Or perhaps the disillusion was on the other side and the powers-that-be in DG Press and Communications applied just enough pressure to encourage the man to go?Not so, say the directorate-general’s senior officials, who ask why they should want to see the back of another head of a national office at a time when they have 16 still to fill. Since his resignation at the beginning of the month, Mr Dougal has ‘gone public’ with contrasting explanations in articles in the The Independent and The Sunday Times. Both are incoherent and studded with prejudices and clichés stolen from Eurosceptic lockers. Initially, Mr Dougal gained my sympathy by opening his piece in the Independent with the humble explanation that he had renounced his job “because convincing people in the UK to tolerate, let alone love, Europe in present circumstances is an impossible task”. Few would have any difficulty in accepting this justification for throwing in the towel.Yet the second paragraph suggests that Mr Dougal’s “present circumstances” refer more to the “stifling” bureaucracy in the Commission than to the British public’s distaste for the Union. Seven years on from when he first joined the payroll, we learn that the ex-head of the London office spent “two years in London pushing paper around my desk…dealing with rules which appeared more to impede communication than facilitate it”. What had changed to cause this painful disenchantment in someone well-schooled in Commission arcanery?He offers few clues but asserts, misleadingly, that the Commission should not have “taken on responsibility for selling Europe throughout the Union” and argues, more accurately, that it should be “the government’s job to present its European enterprise to its people”. But by the time he sat down to write for The Sunday Times, Mr Dougal had changed his mind about why he was leaving the Commission. He had decided to go “because it had become intolerable for me to work in such a bureaucratic nightmare”. The reality of working in the Commission, he regretted to say was “not far from what its greatest critics claim: that Brussels does indeed control each country of the European Union with stupefying one-size-fits-all rules”. After seven years of taking the Commission’s euro, our man in London has just discovered that the Union operates on the basis of common laws.That Mr Dougal is confused and confusing is quite apparent. He may even have caught the virus of Euroscepticism that he was paid to grapple with. But he is also obviously deeply frustrated by the difficulties of trying to communicate the benefits of the EU in an alien and hostile culture. And he feels that the Commission’s procedures are an obstacle rather than an aid to his mission. But he has done his cause great harm by indulging in the usual clichéd attack on Brussels bureaucrats. This is a pity because there are senior people in the Commission prepared to acknowledge that a strict fidelity to procedures has been imposed at the expense of creativity and innovation since the arrival of a new director-general at Press and Communications two years ago. The current leadership knows nothing of communications and brings neither vision nor expertise to the task. It is the old story of allocating crucial tasks to the wrong people. With the change of Commission coming up, Jim Dougal should not have allowed himself to collapse into angry despair. The next Commission needs a five-year integrated communications strategy that will allow national offices to play a proper role. The new commissioners will need good advice, not bitter recrimination. John Wyles is a former Financial Times Brussels bureau chief and is now a partner in GPlus Europe. Incredibly, up to 17 top jobs will soon be lacking permanent occupants in offices that ought to have a key role in any communications strategy run from Brussels. Organized and staffed with the right professionals, each could be a vital and creative relay station for passing the Commission’s messages to national audiences. Sadly, levels of professionalism have rarely attained the heights needed for the role, not least because political acceptability has weighed much more heavily in these appointments than knowledge of, and skills in, the theory and practice of communications.I confess, without bitterness, to having been considered and rejected many years ago for the post which Mr Dougal has just abandoned. Without being told in advance that I was in the frame, I was ‘lunched’ in an expensive Westminster restaurant by a senior Foreign Office person who subsequently earned a considerable reputation. Over the entrée he quizzed me on how I saw the role of the Commission’s London office in what were then the mid- years of Thatcherism. During the main course, I talked of proactivity, above-the-parapet explanations of the purposes of the Union and its benefits to Britain, and of the need to find responses to the danger of Euroscepticism.By the dessert, my candidacy had collapsed and we were talking of other things.Mr Dougal must have long since passed the acceptability test, since he had been running the Commission’s office in Northern Ireland for five years before his appointment to London in 2002. He was, therefore, no neophyte in the ways of the Commission when he moved to Storey’s Gate. He understood the Commission’s attachment to procedures, its frequent lapses of courage in dealing with the media and, one assumes, he understood the challenge he faced in England. As a former BBC journalist, he could not have had much hope of fostering enthusiasm for the EU in a culture prone to the worst kinds of dishonesty and intellectual loutishness on the subject.