Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Brown to push euro"

Just when I thought that the Sunday papers had lost their touch for inventive stories, up pops the normally reliable Joe Murphy at the Sunday Telegraph with a gem. Even by Sunday-paper standards, "Brown signals support for Blair over push for euro" was an extraordinary splash.

The story claimed that the Chancellor had authorised ministerial allies to back a campaign for the abolition of the pound. This was on the basis of something positive Nigel Griffiths said about the euro a month ago, though we weren't even told what exactly.

It was inevitable that the Sunday papers would be looking for a euro story to follow up the week's events, but most were looking for a negative reaction from the Treasury. Indeed, the most revealing thing was the total silence from the Treasury as first Tony Blair and then Stephen Byers got their knickers in a twist over early entry into the euro. Everyone in Westminster knew that privately, Gordon Brown was incandescent with rage at the Prime Minister's latest attempt to bounce him into agreeing a timetable for entry. Blair and his mate Peter Mandelson, who has suddenly been converted to supporting higher taxes, after spinning for years about how they should be cut, can't bear all the praise Brown has been getting for his Budget.

The right-wing press is so desperate to take on the Labour government over a referendum that some are prepared to ignore the fact that Brown is just as sceptical as them. Mandelson is at it, too: he went on telly to say that the Chancellor and PM are much closer on the issue than anyone believes. There is only one test left for when we join the euro, and that is if Gordon Brown wants to.

This article first appeared in the 27 May 2002 issue of the New Statesman, The laptop fascists