Column inches

Tony Blair announced preparations for membership of the single currency. Here is how some press commentators responded.

Tony Blair mocked the "Thatcher-Portillo-Benn axis" of those who don't believe Britain should join the single currency. Ideologically, I have as little in common with those three as he has; and so do the other members of the [new anti-euro] group ... We are all pro-European; none of us is on the far right and, apart from the odd "wet" Tory, the rest of us are apolitical, centrist or centre-left. We are modern and internationalist, forward-looking and constructive about the EU. We don't care whose face is on our banknotes. But we are all intellectually very dubious about the case for Emu membership.

Mary Ann Sieghart, Times

[Many Eurosceptics] imagine we can remain semi-detached from the rest of Europe, enjoying the benefits that trading with it brings but holding aloof from membership of its common currency. That is a pipe-dream. The real choice is between committing Britain wholeheartedly as a full member of the EU and leaving it altogether.

This is accepted by hard-core Tory Eurosceptics, whose real agenda has always been withdrawal. These ultras cherish the idea that Britain could enter into some new trading relationship with the United States. There are many things wrong with this batty idea but one little difficulty stands out. It goes flatly against the consistent, declared policy of the United States - it wants Britain anchored in the EU. If we were ever to withdraw, the US would not be waiting with open arms. We would be on our own.

John Gray, Express

Blair may be committed in theory to the euro only if it is "a success", but he is in so deep that changing course would involve choking on a massive slice of humble pie. The party of Vichy - Blair, Brown, Heseltine, Clarke, Heath - is eager to sign away the country's nationhood. If they succeed, the railway carriage at Compiegne would be a suitable place to sign up for abolishing the pound and joining the Fourth Reich.

The political landscape has been transformed. Whether Blair wants it or not, the next general election will be dominated by the euro. Even if he were to call off his plan, it would involve confessing to an error of judgement that would still be a key election issue.

Andrew Alexander,

Daily Mail

Blair spoke a lot yesterday. But he actually said very little ... His National Changeover Plan is nothing more than an expensive propaganda weapon to kid the people they cannot say no to the euro. The Sun warned Blair when we backed him at the last election that one giant issue would remain between us - the euro. Of course, the Government is more powerful than Britain's top-selling newspaper. But this issue is bigger than both of us. It is about the future of Britain, about the kind of land generations yet unborn will grow up in ... If Blair kids voters into voting to become a puny little region of a giant United States of Europe, he will go down in history. But not as a hero ... [He] could easily end up the most hated prime minister ever.

Leading article, The Sun

Like the early Fabians, [Tony Blair] is a revolutionary with a horror of conflict. They wanted to achieve socialism without civil disorder; he wants to join the euro without electoral disorder. The Fabians tried to persuade everyone that socialism was inevitable, [he] would like to persuade us all that a single European currency is inevitable. He has even revived the Fabians' favourite slogan, "The inevitability of gradualism".

Bruce Anderson, Spectator

Until now you could barely see Tony Blair move with the naked eye. You had to ask the snail trainers whether he was moving at all. But yesterday, at last, we saw him go with our own eyes and at a cracking pace. When he delivered that great tome of impenetrable technical detail, the National Changeover Plan, it thumped on to the floor of the House with the unmistakable thud of a historic foundation stone ... For the first time he proclaims the euro inevitable and right, his tone and his manner of such authority you might think the argument was all over bar the shouting. But it is not.

Polly Toynbee, Guardian