Beleaguered Lamont reveals strain of job

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THE beleaguered Chancellor, Norman Lamont, last night said he was seen as the man responsible for the sinking of the Titanic, writes Colin Brown.

Mr Lamont revealed some of the strain caused by the speculation about his sacking in the Cabinet reshuffle by referring to Pierre Beregovoy, the French Prime Minister who committed suicide.

Defending his own position in an interview for the Guardian, the Chancellor said he was acting as a lightning conductor for the unpopularity of the Conservative Party. 'That is how I feel, and I am very pleased to fulfill that function.

'I meet finance ministers from all over the world and they are very unpopular people . . . the tragic Mr Beregovoy suffered the most terrible opprobrium in France . . . I can't flinch from doing what is necessary, even if it does me personal damage.'

Mr Lamont made it clear that he believes John Major, his predecessor at the Treasury, should share the opprobrium. The Chancellor said he inherited inflation in double figures and the recession.

'On the basis that you only influence things 15 months after you have been in office, about 15 months later, output had flattened, there were encouraging signs of industrial production. And during this period inflation was coming down as well.'

He said he felt disappointed that 'somehow I personally caused the recession . . . I am sure I seem responsible for the sinking of the Titanic.'