Magazine article The Spectator

Zac Goldsmith: My Dad Saved the Pound

Magazine article The Spectator

Zac Goldsmith: My Dad Saved the Pound

Article excerpt

If you're grateful not to be in the euro, it's James Goldsmith and his 'rebel army' you should thank

In recent weeks Ed Balls has been offering a new reason to vote Labour: it was his party, he says, that saved Britain from joining the euro. Now, the shadow chancellor is free to say what he wants -- and in a way, I'm pleased that he feels the need to convey such an impression. But the true story of how Britain was saved from the euro is somewhat different.

It all happened nearly a generation ago, between 1995 and 1997, when I was in my very early twenties. It was my father, James Goldsmith, who set out to ensure that Britain would never join the euro without the consent of the people. He dedicated the last years of his life to the cause. My mother campaigned in his constituency for 12 hours every day. He gave it all he had: he was battling terminal pancreatic cancer and died in July 1997, just weeks after the general election.

James Goldsmith formed the Referendum party in 1995 and called for a full referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union. In doing so, he unleashed a chain of events that led inexorably and inevitably to a public veto on joining the single currency.

It started with an interview on the BBC's Breakfast with Frost. He pledged that he would fully fund a candidate in every constituency in Britain to fight the 1997 general election on a single policy: the right of the British people to decide their future in Europe. No political party was willing to offer a referendum -- he wanted to put that right.

To my father, the euro was obviously the most immediate threat from the EU, but it was not the only one. He was appalled that EU law could override our sovereign parliament, and by the bureaucratic assault on ancient English civil liberties such as habeas corpus. He was dismayed by the destruction of British agriculture and traditional fishing communities. Above all, he rejected the idea that an unelected elite in Brussels should rule Britain while being answerable to nobody.

At the end of 1995 the Referendum party announced that it would field 547 candidates in the next election -- fighting four out of five constituencies. The volunteers were men and women from all walks of life and shades of political opinion whom my father dubbed the 'rabble army'. He launched a massive political campaign that was (and remains to this day) unique in British political history. It placed double-page advertising in all national newspapers, and issued five million videos and 46 million copies of a special newspaper -- one for each household in Britain. …

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