By Tim Montgomerie
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This week's Spectator trails a Peter Oborne pamphlet for the Centre for Policy Studies. Oborne names the guilty men (and women) who attempted to lead Britain into the €urozone. He names prominent businessmen, politicians and other establishment figures. He pays particular attention to the BBC's dreadfully biased coverage at the time:
"In the nine weeks leading to 21 July 2000, when the argument over the euro was at its 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. But this was not the worst of the unfairness. The Eurosceptics were too rarely given time to state their reasons for favouring sterling. Their position was too often covered through a paradigm of 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."
Over at The Economist Janan Ganesh writes an important follow up blog. Janan argues that the British establishment has been wrong about a very big issue in each of the last three decades:
- "First, in the 1980s, it was Thatcherism. Privatisation, flexible labour markets and non-punitive tax rates are the common sense of our times, but Thatcherism was, at least at the turn of the 1980s, disdained by much of the British establishment as a transient fad propagated by a crazed fishwife from Grantham."
- In the 1990s it was crime: "[Michael Howard] turned the Home Office into a crime-fighting department: mandatory sentences, expanded prisons, the works. Crime began to fall in the mid-1990s, and has continued to fall since under a succession of Howard-esque home secretaries."
- "Finally, in the last decade, the elites got it badly wrong on the euro."
And what about today? I'd argue that the elites are badly wrong about global warming or climate change, as it's now be rebranded. The BBC is even more relentless in arguing for action on climate change than it was for European integration. The planet might be warming. It might be partly man-made. But the idea that we turn western economies upside down in a futile bid to stop it will look as mad in five or ten years as the craze for the €urozone looks today.