One of the issues that would not go away during the last years of Margaret Thatcher’s time at 10 Downing Street was whether or not Sterling should join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). One protagonist who backed the move, and ultimately resigned his office in protest at the lack of movement on the matter, was Nigel Lawson.
Today, that same Nigel Lawson is telling whoever wishes to listen that the UK should leave the EU – the exact opposite of what he was so passionately advocating back in 1989. Some are surprised at his pronouncement. They should not be: Nige has already called for the Euro to be “dismantled in an orderly way”. This, too, is the polar opposite of his previously held view.
We need only look at where the Lawson bombshell – or damp squib, as it is likely to be remembered – was dropped: at the Murdoch Times, where it was enthusiastically talked up by Rupe’s new recruit Tim Montgomerie. Monty is an anti-EU shill, and this is part of why he has been recruited. As his new boss would have expected, he has brought in and promoted the kind of views that Murdoch wants to hear.
Murdoch droid gets it wrong ...
After all, Rupe despises the EU: not only is it a huge market, but also one where those pesky Brussels Eurocrats have a habit of trying to enforce a level playing field. And fair competition is something that only interests Murdoch if it is in his interest. If Rupe’s already a dominant market force, he would rather the regulators look somewhere else and leave him to screw his competitors.
So is this intervention significant? Put bluntly, no it isn’t: Lawson is a has-been, whose anti-EU stance is already well known, as is his willingness to shill for the climate change denial lobby. He was a bloody awful Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose late 80s boom may have halved unemployment, but the succeeding bust restored the dole queues.
... followed by a Tory crawler
And his advocacy of ERM membership, later realised by his successor “Shagger” Major, ended up with the debacle of Black Wednesday in September 1992, the result of using high interest rates to help pretend Sterling was worth more Deutschmarks that was the case. In this, the Tories repeated Winshton’s 1925 mistake, as had Labour Governments in 1946 and 1967.
The only notable side-effect of Lawson’s article is how Montgomerie’s promotion of it has been so grovellingly echoed by the likes of Tory MP Stewart Jackson, another of the Europhobic fringe. Other than that momentary amusement, and all the associated (and misguided) calls for the Tories to lurch a bit more to the right, the Lawson clarion call can be usefully consigned to the bin.
Yes, there goes Nigel Lawson ... on his way out.