The events of Black Wednesday described in this fascinating book happened twenty-five years ago. They had serious repercussions for the political path of Europe and the UK, as well as for the careers of the people involved. Certainly for Norman Lamont, who had taken over as Chancellor of the Exchequer from John Major two years earlier, inheriting the task of managing the UK’s troubled membership of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), which he was reportedly never in favour of anyway, was unfortunate. Amid worsening market conditions during the six days in September 1992 chronicled by William Keegan, David Marsh and Richard Roberts – the first two veteran journalists, the latter an academic – and after a doomed attempt to shore up sterling by selling reserves, Lamont, on Wednesday 16 September, was first forced at 2.30pm to announce an interest rate increase to a record 15 per cent and then at 7.30pm to reverse it, before it could be implemented. At the same time, standing in the courtyard of the Treasury, Lamont announced sterling’s withdrawal from the ERM.
The whole unedifying episode, as the authors put it, ‘broke the back’ of John Major’s government and destroyed Lamont’s reputation. He remained Chancellor of the Exchequer until May 1993, but his Cabinet career was effectively over. On the positive side, the competitiveness of the UK, with the government now