single currency, the greatest economic issue of our age — they were right for the right reasons. They foresaw with lucid, prophetic accuracy exactly how and why the euro would bring with it
financial devastation and social collapse.
Financial Times, which claims to be Britain’s premier economic publication. About 25 years ago something went very wrong with the FT. It ceased to be the dry, rigorous journal of economic
record that was so respected under its great postwar editor Sir Gordon Newton.
Naturally it supported Britain’s entry to the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1990. In 1992, under the slow-witted editorship of Richard Lambert (in a later incarnation, as director general of the
Confederation of British Industry, Sir Richard was to become one of the most sycophantic apologists for Gordon Brown’s premiership), it endorsed Neil Kinnock as prime minister. It has been
wrong on every single major economic judgment over the past quarter century.
dismissed. Here is the paper’s supposedly sceptical and contrarian Lex column on 8 January 2001, on the subject of Greek entry to the eurozone. ‘With Greece now trading in euros,’
reflected Lex, ‘few will mourn the death of the drachma. Membership of the eurozone offers the prospect of long-term economic stability.’ The FT offered a similar warm welcome to
explanation,’ sneered Stephens as Tory leader William Hague came out against the single currency.
has taken flight,’ asserted the newspaper’s leader column. ‘However improbable the celestial design, it has succeeded in real life.’ For a paper with the FT’s
pretensions to authority in financial matters, its coverage of the single currency can be regarded as nothing short of a disaster.
they had the director general they wanted in the shape of the impeccably well connected Adair (now Lord) Turner, later to become chairman of the disastrous Financial Services Authority and chairman
of the Government’s Committee on Climate Change. Few pieces of conventional wisdom are ever too conventional for Lord Turner. His corporate bosses (Niall FitzGerald of Unilever, David Simon
of BP, British Airways’ Colin Marshall) claimed that an overwhelming majority of British businessmen backed the single currency — a vital propaganda tool for pro-euro campaigners. The
figures used to support these claims were, however, very flimsy indeed: they could only be sustained by ignoring the views of small businessmen, and in due course they were exposed — a
crucial early defeat for the pro-euro cause.
in effect a partisan player in a great national debate — all the more insidious because of its pretence at neutrality.
height, the Today programme featured 121 speakers on the topic. Some 87 were pro-euro compared to 34 who were anti. The case for the euro was represented by twice as many figures, interviews and
soundbites as the case against. BBC broadcasters tended to present the pro-euro position itself as centre ground, thus defining even moderately Eurosceptic voices as extreme, meaning that they were
defeated even before they had entered the debate.
deep, ‘explosive’, splits within the Conservative party rather than the merits of the policy argument. Again and again the BBC would lead its news coverage on scare stories that failure
to join the euro would lead to economic or industrial disaster. When those reports turned out to be false, it failed to correct them. In fact Britain was enjoying record levels of foreign
investment: but when Office for National Statistics figures showed this, the BBC made very little of it.
went very deep indeed. As Rod Liddle, then editor of the Radio 4’s Today programme, said: ‘The whole ethos of the BBC and all the staff was that Eurosceptics were xenophobes and there
was an end to it. The euro would come up at a meeting and everybody would just burst out laughing about the Eurosceptics.’ Liddle recalls one meeting with a very senior figure at the BBC to
deal with Eurosceptic complaints of bias. ‘Rod, the thing you have to understand is that these people are mad. They are mad.’
But they grasped with stunning clarity the problems the euro would bring. They deserve full credit for their courage and foresight today, and our gratitude too.
past is to enforce effective action at the present’. So what are the lessons we should learn from the British argument over the euro?
labelling them cranks. Here’s just one example, taken from the Observer columnist Andrew Rawnsley’s column on 31 January 1999: ‘On the pro-euro side, a grand coalition of
business, the unions and the substantial, sane, front rank political figures. On the other side, a menagerie of has-beens, never-have-beens and loony tunes.’
Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson, Michael Heseltine, Ken Clarke, Charles Kennedy, Danny Alexander. So here’s another lesson: be wary of cross-party alliances. Again and again it is the lonely and
cussed figures who stand outside the establishment orthodoxy who are vindicated over time.
needed very soon — plunging the EU right back into the heart of our national politics.
chairman, Lord Patten, and the vice chairman, Diane Coyle, took a heavily partisan position in the euro debate.
Independent ten years ago. Here’s an example of her prejudicial analysis: ‘The defenders of sterling are, in the main, a group of elderly men with more stake in their past than in our
future. They clothe their gut anti-Europeanism and Little Englandism in the language of rational economic argument.’
Trust. The presence of Lord Patten and Ms Coyle as the two most senior figures of the BBC Trust, with a statutory duty to enforce impartiality, is unacceptable, all the more so because of the
BBC’s disastrous past record of bias and prejudice.
path of joining the single currency. Let’s consider the remark made by Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, that those he labelled as anti-European isolationists or nationalists
were ‘enemies of growth’.
way past time for the pro-euro supporters to be called to account.