Philip Johnston–Black Wednesday (20 years ago this week): The day that Britain went over the edge

A funny thing sticks in my mind about Black Wednesday. As dusk arrived, I was standing in the media scrum outside the Treasury, waiting for Norman Lamont to read the last rites over sterling’s membership of the European exchange rate mechanism (ERM). The photographers wanted the chancellor to deliver his statement standing next to a drain; but when a government official saw what they were up to, he taped a piece of paper over it. “They are not going to get their ‘pound goes down the drain’ picture now,” he said proudly. They didn’t need to, of course: the defeated look on the chancellor’s face said it all.

September 16, 1992 ”“ 20 years ago next Sunday ”“ had been a convulsive day. It dawned bright and sunny and ended with a dark cloud hanging over John Major’s government, which had been unexpectedly re-elected just five months earlier. The economy was in recession, the House of Commons was in recess and the Liberal Democrat conference, under way in Harrogate, was about to become even more irrelevant than usual.

We had known for days, if not weeks, that a reckoning was coming….

Read it all.


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