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Wednesday, 20 February, 2002, 15:37 GMT
Frank Field on 'Fall Guy' Peter Hain
Frank Field
Mr Field has frequently spoken out against the euro
When Frank Field labelled fervent euro enthusiast Peter Hain 'Number 10's fall guy' observers could be forgiven for thinking he was speaking from experience.

Like Mr Hain, Mr Field was hand-picked by Tony Blair to spearhead a difficult and potentially controversial policy.

In the specially created role of Welfare Minister, he was charged with thinking and speaking the unthinkable on benefits and social security, challenging Labour orthodoxy.

His "blue sky" thinking on these subjects was billed as the big idea of Mr Blair's first term.

'Special licence'

But Mr Field's ideas proved a little too radical in some quarters and - when he failed to gain promotion to Social Security Secretary - he felt he was being sidelined and handed in his resignation.

Given Mr Blair's unwavering commitment to the single currency, it is unlikely Mr Hain will meet a similar fate.

Evidently given special licence by the prime minister to stray far beyond the accepted government line - consciously trading on his former reputation as a radical - the former europhobe has been transformed into the euro's biggest cheerleader.

'Walking the plank'

However, Mr Hain's former allies in the anti-euro camp, such as Mr Field, believe he is being cynically manipulated by a Downing Street afraid to declare its own hand on the single currency.

"I think he is being used by Number 10, as they do use people," Mr Field told BBC News Online.

"They make people walk the plank to see how far they can get before the barrage of criticism is such that they have to go back again.

"But they will get their comeuppance when the referendum is called."

Mr Field added: "This is how Number 10 operates. They use fall guys."

'Cock-a-hoop'

But he said such tactics were not a proper way to conduct a debate and did not go down well with the general public.

They also masked a fundamental lack of confidence in the strength of the pro-euro case.

"I don't see why they (the government) don't hold a referendum this year," Mr Field said.

"If they are so cock-a-hoop, if they are so confident about the case for the euro.

"We must have had 17 occasions now when the media have been briefed that they are ready to go, this is the beginning of the campaign but it has always come to nothing."

Labour voters

Mr Field chairs a cross-party group which promotes Britain's place in the EU but opposes the single currency.

He argues that the vast majority of Labour voters remain sceptical about the euro.

And they certainly don't share Mr Hain's language that being against the euro meant you had to be the "enemy" of Europe.

Mr Field points to a recent poll, which, he claims, showed the under-25s were the most anti-euro voters of all, flying in the face of previous assumptions that it is the older generation which will take the most convincing.

He said the pro-euro lobby in the UK were "still students of the politics of failure, which is why we entered the European Union in the first place - the belief that we cannot expect to survive by ourselves".

But he said the under 25s had not grown up with this baggage.

They had experienced a more succesful Britain than their parents and were more confident about the country's abilitly to stand alone on issues such as the euro, he said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Norman Smith
"Mr Hain has significantly upped the politcal rhetoric"
'It's offensive nonsense'
Labour MP Ian Davidson
See also:

20 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Straw backs 'euro bully' Hain
09 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Euro peer pressure mounts on Blair
10 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Hain - the establishment radical
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