This magnificent Spectator polemic by Peter Oborne (the author of two of the finest books on recent British politics in recent decades: The Triumph of the Political Class and The Rise of Political Lying) and Frances Weaver on British supporters of the euro is a must-read, and not only for Brits. In just a few paragraphs, the authors offer up a classic example of how the groupthink of a small elite clique in media, politics and the corporatist establishment can distort and suppress debate and set a country — any country — on the path to disaster. And yes, U.S. immigration policy since 1965 comes to mind.
But back to Blighty . . . Oborne names the guilty parties. Among them tri-partisan, oh so respectable, euro-enthusiasts like Tony Blair, Tory Ken Clarke (now in government), Liberal Danny Alexander (now in government, as the chief secretary of the Treasury, no less) and the Confederation of
Business British Industry under a director general for whom “few pieces of conventional wisdom are ever too conventional,” a well educated, well-connected buffoon, who went on to become chairman of — wait for it — the government’s committee on climate change amongst other inglories. Amongst the guiltiest of all, the Financial Times: (my emphasis added).
Turning its back on its readers, it was captured by a clique of left-wing journalists. An early sign that something was going wrong came when the FT came out against the Falklands invasion. 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.
The central historical error of the modern Financial Times concerns the euro. The FT flung itself headlong into the pro-euro camp, embracing the cause with an almost religious passion. Doubts were 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 Ireland.
The paper waged a vendetta against those who warned that the euro would not work. Its chief political columnist Philip Stephens consistently mocked the Eurosceptics. ‘Immaturity is the kind explanation,’ sneered Stephens as Tory leader William Hague came out against the single currency.
And then (predictably) there’s the BBC:
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.’
In truth the Eurosceptics were only too sane. Politicians like Margaret Thatcher, John Redwood, David Owen, William Hague and Bill Cash were mocked — often very cruelly — at the time. 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.
They do (if you are a Brit). And so, ironically, does Gordon Brown. He may have been one of the worst finance ministers in British history, but he stopped Tony Blair from taking Britain into the euro. For that, if for nothing else, he deserves his nation’s thanks.
In any event, read the whole thing.