Magazine article The Spectator

Portrait of the Week

Magazine article The Spectator

Portrait of the Week

Article excerpt

Mr Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said in a speech to the Confederation of British Industry that he sought a consensus in the nation in favour of European monetary union. He suggested companies might soon be able to pay tax in euros. The government is to seek European Union funds to publicise the change in money, in a way similar to the Decimalisation Board. But the Chancellor left unaddressed the consequences of an economy run centrally from Europe. Mr William Hague, the leader of the Conservative party, also spoke to the CBI, but had already, the day before, accused its members of rushing `like lemmings' towards EMU. At a Franco-British summit on the 38th floor of the Canary Wharf tower, hired for the day, Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, was assured by President Jacques Chirac and M. Lionel Jospin, the French Prime Minister, that Britain would get a seat on the six-member board of the European central bank `as soon as it joined the euro'. Interest rates rose by a quarter of a percentage point to 7.25 per cent. Headline inflation rose to 3.7 per cent, with an underlying rate of 2.8 per cent; it is the fifth month that the target of 2.5 per cent has been missed. Unemployment fell by 80,704 to 1,432,833, the lowest for 17 years. The Labour party gave back a donation of El million from Mr Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One promoter, after the government embraced a policy he had urged, in a meeting with Mr Blair, of lifting a ban on tobacco sponsorship of grand prix racing. Twelve members of Sinn Fein in Co. Louth withdrew support from Mr Gerry Adams, the president of the party, which is the political face of the Irish Republican Army; at the same time some IRA office-holders resigned in protest against its ceasefire, including its quartermaster-general, who controls its armaments. Labour won a byelection at Paisley with a majority reduced to 2,731, from 12,750 at the last election; it won 10,346 votes against the Scottish National Party's 7,615. …

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