Ditherer Blair pays the price

By GRAHAM DINESPolitical EditorDITHERERS – that's the charge that can be levelled at the doors of 10 and 11 Downing Street as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown feud and snarl over whether Britain should join the single currency.

By GRAHAM DINES

Political Editor

DITHERERS – that's the charge that can be levelled at the doors of 10 and 11 Downing Street as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown feud and snarl over whether Britain should join the single currency.

Next week, the Chancellor will tell MPs the outcome of the economic tests he set two years' ago on membership of the euro.


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Note the word economic – Gordon Brown won't be browbeaten by the Prime Minister who would trample over the Treasury and, for political expediency, recommend Britain sign up to the eurozone.

Everyone knows the Chancellor will say "not yet" and the Prime Minister will sit by his side in the Commons and pretend that he is at one with Mr Brown.

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The Prime Minister is desperate to prove what a good European he is – but can't risk an enraged Chancellor walking out of the Government and endangering its electoral future.

Although Mr Brown insists he does want Britain to sign up to the currency, as an astute politicians he is nervous of largely hostile public opinion. So he is dithering.

Blair and Brown have cobbled a "we're really united on this, we're great mates" public stance that fools absolutely nobody.

Mr Blair has got himself into this mess because he dithered just after his great General Electoral victory of 1997. He could have recommended the British people to vote yes in the aftermath of his stunning success and the pound would not be history.

Dithering for six years has allowed the opposition to the single currency – by no means confined to the Conservative Party, as Mr Blair would have us believe – to make all the running.

Not once has there been any attempt to explain to the public the advantages of the euro and the consequences of not joining.

Not surprisingly, the British people are confused and largely ignorant – a terrible indictment of a dithering Government.

Gordon Brown, when he makes his announcement in the Commons next Monday, is expected to hold out the prospect of a "we're ready" announcement later in this parliament.

The Prime Minister is even said to be prepared to delay the General Election to 2006 to accommodate this.

But if the Chancellor does suddenly see the light in the next 18 months, do he and the Prime Minister really expect the voters to enthusiastically endorse the euro during a short, sharp, but massive propaganda campaign when there's been such a lack of enthusiasm for the past six years?

And a "no" vote in an early referendum would be such a personal snub for the Prime Minister that the consequences at the following General Election would be incalculable.

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