The Prime Minister likes the idea of making poverty history. It gives him the chance to forget about Europe and think about Africa. Bob Geldof and his band can know that the lead singer of Ugly Rumours will be with them in the spirit, and so will any number of marginal voters who never warmed to Europe’s new currency and constitution in quite the same way. History itself may not be his strongest subject — only the other day he told us that the United States was the only country to have stood by us in 1940, a remarkable concatenation of errors of fact — and this would explain why he uses it in a dismissive sense: that’s history. So let poverty be history. The office of Lord Chancellor was history — as it proved to be, all 1,400 years of it, and could not be abolished for the asking. The pound sterling, too, was heading for the oubliette of history, and six years ago he launched the grand campaign that was to push it on its way. Britain’s destiny was to find its distinctive place in Europe’s ever-closer union, and he himself would be the man of destiny. This week, as he puts his promised referendum on the shelf and the new currency and constitution with it, he must suppose that history has taken a wrong turning. So indeed it does. If he were more deeply grounded in it, he might be less ready to take it for granted, and more aware of the dangers of making history poverty.
Told you so
Now it suddenly seems possible that the pound sterling will outlast the euro. All over Europe, pundits and politicians have been waking up to the idea and registering horror or excitement. Central bankers and eurocrats gravely assert that it cannot possibly happen.