Energy and the E.R.M - will Boris go the same way as John Major? By Charles Moore for the Telegraph

Updated: Jan 10

Wednesday 16th September 1992 is a day that remains etched in the minds of those who remember it.


It was the day sterling fell out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism and with it Prime Minister John Major’s entire political capital. For five long years he limped on like a wounded animal to the political abattoir where he and his party were unceremoniously slaughtered at the 1997 General Election.


Thirty years on and comparisons with 1992 are starting to look uncomfortably familiar: Is Johnson as addicted to Net Zero as Major was to the ERM? Will he pay heed to the sceptics or, like his predecessor, continue to drive the policy through regardless of its effect on his party and the country? And will he too end up paying the same political price?


As we head into 2022 Charles Moore assesses the current situation facing the Prime Minister. Comparisons with the past, he says, are instructive:


"As with the ERM, which sterling entered with fanfare in October 1990, the Government is proud of its policy. In late June 2019, the dying days of Theresa May’s premiership, Britain became, in its words, “the first major economy in the world to end its contribution to global warming by 2050”.


Under the new law, greenhouse gas emissions would have to reduce to net zero by 2050, compared with the previous target of at least an 80 per cent reduction from 1990 levels. Boris Johnson, who succeeded Mrs May, has boasted, notably at Cop26, of this legislation and is acting on it, seeking applause from elites otherwise hostile because of Brexit."


The similarities don't end there. As with the ERM, so too public support for Net Zero has fallen rapidly as the reality of the policy on the ground begins to bite :


In the course of 2021, the measures required to fulfil this edict have grown unpopular. Policies such as banning pure new internal combustion engines by 2030, the imposition of low emission zones in big cities or talk of new mortgages only for energy-efficient homes have caused alarm. Energy costs seem the worst – the impracticality and expense of green technology like heat pumps to replace gas boilers, and the dizzying rise in gas prices.


There is also resentment that our Government is not protecting us from global bad faith. Although net zero pledges have risen in two years from covering 16 per cent of the global economy to 68 per cent, these look highly dubious. Countries such as China, India and Russia are most unlikely to comply with the 2050 timetable. This saddles Western countries with policies that cannot achieve the sole purpose of net zero – a universal reduction of carbon emission levels. So they will hit our consumers and businesses even worse. We are the victims of the attitude satirised in the Beyond the Fringe Battle of Britain sketch: “We need a futile gesture at this stage!”


And if the lights go out the Prime Minister may not even be spared the day of humiliation which John Major endured:


"During 2022, these problems can only increase. Probably the Government can avoid one spectacular day of disaster like Black Wednesday 1992 – although even that might not be true if, for example, there are suddenly drastic power cuts."


Black-out Boris wouldn't be able to recover from that.


Finally of course, and depressingly, the gap between policy devised in Cabinet and its effect on the ground in reality is as wide today as it was in 1992. Have we learned nothing in the intervening thirty years?


"Again, the ERM comparison is instructive. It is a great feature of the modern world that bureaucracies want to build institutions that increase their power by transcending national borders. It is a founding principle of the European Union that it should be forged not through referendums or elections, but through systems above democracy. The ERM was part of this. Although usually presented in Britain as a technical question of monetary management, it was always intended as the transitional method of creating a single currency and a European central bank, thus stripping each nation state of the right to its own currency.


As the ERM developed in the 1980s, a parallel process (though not a specifically European one) was developing over global warming. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the Conferences of the Parties (Cop), sought to build a new global order. This has involved great deference to “experts”, not unlike that paid to Sage over Covid, and misrepresentations of what the conferences have actually agreed. The tax-paying, energy-using public have been ill-informed about how it will affect them.


As with the ERM, so with net zero, a weird unanimity took over the process, backed by a largely compliant media. John Major repeatedly lamented after Black Wednesday that “everyone” had supported ERM. It was not so, unless by “everyone” he meant most people holding senior official positions. Such people are most likely to be wrong when they are nearest to unanimity. They need watching."


The full article can be read here with a link to the original beneath it:



Article for the Telegraph by Charles Moore - Boris faces the same fate as John Major if he
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