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Abolishing the pound

June 4th, 2001

A letter to the Editor of the Daily Telegraph which was published on 4th June 2001 about the question for a referendum on the euro.

The Gallup poll on attitudes to abolishing the pound, reported Thursday and MORI’s (reported today), illustrate the importance of the wording of the question in any referendum on the issue.

Like the question proposed by Labour’s Foreign Secretary (reported May 27) Gallup and MORI seek a yes or no to “joining” or “membership of” or “being part of” the euro.  This question is doubly loaded.

First, these phrases will always tend to elicit a yes from the British because of their association with the word “club”, a concept invented by the British and widely used in other languages.  Manifestly a currency is not a club.

Secondly, to seek yes or no to a single proposition without stating the alternative is about as unbiased as asking the electors in the forthcoming election to say yes or no to the Labour candidate with no other name on the ballot paper.

The only unbiased way to decide the issue is to put the two propositions: (a) “keep the pound as our currency” and (b) “replace the pound with the euro”, on the ballot paper together and ask the voter to mark their preference with a cross, just as in the general election.

Judging by my own observation of posing the question to people either in the Gallup/MORI way or in the normal ballot paper way, the proportion in favour of keeping the pound rises from about 67% with the former way to about 80% with the latter.  If in a follow-up question you tell people that article 30 of the relevant Maastricht protocol on adopting the euro involves an irreversible transfer of about a third of our gold and dollar reserves to the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, with foreign control over the rest, the proportion rises to 90%.  Perhaps the Conservatives should re-read the Maastricht Treaty and tell the public about this now.