The Euro Hell – thank God for Sir James Goldsmith
So irked by the suggestion that we had the former prime minister to thank for our economic salvation that His Grace was moved to tweet on the matter.
But Mr Brogan was unequivocal:
Yes we are not Greece, or even Ireland, but without the freedom to act independently does anyone really think that with our level of exposure to the bank crisis we would have escaped intact? So who gets the credit for our escape? Recently it has become fashionable to give Gordon Brown the gold star, arguably the only one of his short administration. It was the then Chancellor after all who stopped Tony Blair from taking the UK into the single currency (although given his enthusiasm for taking Britain into the ERM, Mr Brown’s euro-scepticism was said by some to be shaped largely by Ed Balls).And then he goes on to heap praise upon ‘the Bastards’; the euro-sceptic Tories who rebelled over Maastricht and suffered the indignity and humiliation of having the Whip withdrawn. They were Rupert Allason, Richard Body, Nick Budgen, Christopher Gill, Teresa Gorman, Tony Marlow, Richard Shepherd, Teddy Taylor, and John Wilkinson. In the House of Lords Baroness Cox also defied her party, and voted against the Treaty.
But surely we have to go back further, specifically to John Major, whose dogged all-night resistance at Maastricht in December 1991 secured for Britain the single currency opt-out that kept us clear of the evolving mess and made it easy for a Labour government to stay out of EMU.
All brave men and women, for sure.
But no, Mr Brogan, we do not have them to thank for keeping us out of the euro.
And yesterday, Ed West reiterated the Brogan line, adding only that ‘we should also thank the Right-wing press’ (by whom he happens to be employed).
He explains: ‘…without pressure from the Daily Telegraph, Mail, Express and Sun, Tony Blair would probably have signed us up.’
No, Mr West. By that time, Tony Blair was bound by the same pledge as that which prevented John Major (or Ken Clarke) from ditching sterling and grasping the euro with both hands: a referendum.
And this was not the brainchild of Major, Blair or any of Maastricht rebels: it was the hard-fought strategy and policy proposal of Sir James Goldsmith, who, while UKIP were fighting among themselves like ferrets in a sack, poured millions of his own billions into founding the Referendum Party to contest almost every seat in the 1997 general election (unlike UKIP, he did not stand against known euro-sceptics). The strategy was simple: to win the election, give the people an instant referendum, and then immediately ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament and call a general election. This was not about power, but democracy.
Ed West is undoubtedly right that those who stood on the Referendum platform were labelled ‘Little Englanders, xenophobes, extremists’.
And few endured this more than Sir James, who invited His Grace to dine with him on a number of occasions at his London residence near Hyde Park. And very stimulating those conversations were, too: "Why should ‘a grocer’ intervene in British electoral politics?"
Because he could.
And he was a patriot who seemingly cared about the fate of the United Kingdom more than the political class who appear intent on its destruction.
Ed West hits the nail on the head with Ireland’s religio-political heritage:
Ireland has a historical attachment to continental Europe, as liberator from British rule, but it perhaps goes even deeper than that, back to its monks’ preservation of Western civilisation during the Dark Ages. Ireland, more than most countries, feels itself profoundly European and its Catholicism was always a part of that. It is not entirely a coincidence that as Christianity faded Ireland adopted a replacement ideology – the dream of Brussels. Or the world’s biggest suicide pact, as I think of it.And yet Pope Benedict XVI preached a contrary sermon, as did the Commission of Bishops.
The Irish political elite, progressive in social and cultural issues, naturally loves Brussels’ social agenda, which is hostile to the Church, religion or any moral opposition (warning sign No. 1). That explains why seriously devout Catholics in Ireland joined with the far-Left and the ultra-nationalists in opposing the Lisbon Treaty.
And so does the Church of England.
Euro-scepticism is heresy. Recalcitrants are not simply ‘oddball, imperial throwbacks suffering from dementia’; their ‘swivel-eyed extremism’ renders them unfit for public office.
Almost as much as the Christians.
So God help you in public life if you happen to be both Christian and euro-sceptic.
As Sir James lay dying at his home in France, His Grace sent him a letter thanking him for his political intervention, and for securing the British people a referendum at least on the matter of the single currency.
Of course, His Grace also wrote of more pressing eternal matters, which Sir James was kind enough to acknowledge just a few days before he went to meet his maker.
Let us never forget that we owe this man a huge debt of gratitude. It was not any professing-Christian politician who saved Britain from the euro and the image of that horror: it was a Jewish businessman and financier who cared more than a little about democracy and liberty.
So, please, let us eschew the Major hagiography and redacted history which credits the scurvy politicians. We owe our euro salvation to one man, who single-handedly popularised the whole referendum concept: Sir James Goldsmith. יִתְגַּדַּל וְיִתְקַדַּשׁ שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא