Sweetheart deals and. . .
BETTER luck this time? Joining the ERM was Margaret Thatcher's last, unwilling throw. She had quarrelled about it with her foreign secretary and her chancellor, she had shifted one of them and lost the other, but their successors were still of the same mind and she could not afford to shift or lose them too. So she gave way to them, but it did not save her — or her successor. He made the ERM the cornerstone of policy, it crumbled under him, and — more embar- rassing still — how much better off we were without it! Now we have a shiny new Prime Minister and the flirtation is on again. Things have gone so smoothly for his gov- ernment, so far, that he is ready to widen its scope and to fancy its chances. New minis- ters can be like that. Charm and sweet rea- son, so they tell themselves, will take them to the heart of Europe, and if relations there are frosty that must be their grumpy predecessors' fault. All that is needed Is financial diplomacy. Only later do they find out that, like Sydney Smith's old women yelling at each other from their attics, they are arguing from different premises.