OPINION: New Year's Day was ideal timing for euro launch

In the Treasury we used to spend weeks arguing over the best day to

make a good news announcement.

But how do you decide on the date to launch a whole new concept?

Companies spend months agonising over a product launch date only to find

out when it's too late that Gordon Brown has decided to have his Budget

statement that day or that Tony Blair has chosen that day for the State

opening of Parliament.

The last people on earth that you would expect to hit the jackpot on

getting the timing right for a new concept would be European Union


I once spent two days in Brussels with the European finance ministers

arguing over just two words in a communique. So the idea that they could

decide on a good day to launch the euro seemed as likely as The Sun

giving the new currency a warm welcome.

I thought they were bonkers to chose New Year's Day as the date to

change the currency in virtually the whole of Europe. For a start this

is the one day of the year when the whole world is suffering a

collective hangover and the only reason newspapers are printed and the

TV news put on air is to report on the festivities. They probably even

write the news bulletins days in advance: 'Edinburgh had the biggest

fireworks party, thousands flocked to Trafalgar Square even though there

were no fireworks, and half an inch of snow bought traffic to a


News is so thin over the Christmas and New Year shutdown that I don't

even bother to read the papers except for the football, much of which

has been cancelled anyway because none of the under pitch heating

systems worked!

But as far as the euro's launch was concerned, I couldn't have been more

wrong. The EU couldn't have chosen a better time to launch their new


The broadcasters, like the Tories, are totally obsessed with the euro -

and so are the papers. It's got a massive amount of coverage.

Actually the euro was launched successfully three years ago but, as all

good PR people will say, you need more than one launch to really get the

public to recognise a new product.

News organisations are more than willing to do the same story twice so

long as there is a decent break between the two events and they have a

new angle. This time they had real notes and coins to talk about - and

boy did they talk about them. On the main BBC TV news one night they

actually had six different items on the euro.

The BBC must have spent months planning all the different stunts that

their correspondents got involved in. The most pleasing one for the

'pro'-euro campaigners was the one where the reporter went to Reading

and bought a whole pile of items in euros. The hack could have gone to

Oxford Street but that would have been far too easy.

The fact euro notes can be used successfully in the heart of Middle

England sent the Tories and The Sun into a lather.

In retaliation The Sun went out to buy a shopping basket of goods paid

for by pounds and another by euros. Surprise surprise, the one paid for

in the foreign currency was more expensive.

Such was the clamour for euro news that banks actually vied with each

other to be the first to send out a press release announcing that they

had been robbed of their new money.

However the biggest load of bollocks was the story of the Belgium euro

coin coming down tails 60 per cent more than heads. Now that's what I

call real Euro spin!

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