The fight over the European single currency is likely to last for
years, waged by opposing packs of hardened political animals.
Somehow, Neil Mendoza, the marketing director of New Europe, a group
established to fight the introduction of the single currency, doesn’t
seem embittered enough to get involved. But, as he explains, New Europe
isn’t the bunch of ’crazy, swivel-eyed frothing-at-the-mouth Tories’
Mendoza, who made his fortune as co-owner of contract publisher Forward,
became involved with the group at the suggestion of Mary Ann Sieghart,
deputy editor of The Times and New Europe council member.
Mendoza, 39, is a close friend of Sieghart, who is the sister of his
business partner William Sieghart. He says he he has never been involved
in politics but accepted the role in New Europe because he feels a
’powerful, emotional, visceral response against the single currency’.
Blair’s government angers him: ’In their hearts they are against the
single currency but they have to present a united front with their new
friends in Europe.’
He describes New Europe as left of centre and is himself a floating
At the last election he voted Conservative, but is keen to present the
single currency as a national, rather than a party-political, issue. New
Europe isn’t opposed to the European Union as such, but opposes the
single currency on economic and cultural grounds.
With its broadly pro-European stance, New Europe differs from groups
such as the Democracy Movement - the renamed Referendum Party - which
campaigns bitterly against Europe from a hard right-wing
New Europe claims to be cross-party and was formed by three grandees
from across the main parties - Lord Owen, Lord Healey and Lord
It is supported by powerful figures such as Lord Sainsbury and former
Barclays chief Martin Taylor, and is funded by individual subscriptions
It’s a powerful bringing together of the great and the good, but is it
capable of countering New Labour’s slick PR and spin machine, which has
yet to be put into gear to sell the euro to the British public? Last
year’s euro ads for UK businesses, through TBWA, represented part of the
COI’s record adspend, up 79% to pounds 105.4m.
Mendoza concedes that it will be difficult to get a complex message
across to the public ahead of any referendum on single currency, partly
due to general voter apathy.
’We’ve decided that it’s going to be a long game. It’s unclear when the
referendum will be called. Right now, public opinion is against the
single currency but, if Labour is elected again, who knows what might
Mendoza says he is looking at various agencies for ideas to target
different audiences. Ahead of a referendum, this may mean lobbying the
100 or so decision- makers who will advise Blair on when to call a
referendum. Once this is called, a full-scale ad campaign may be waged.
However, spending on an anti-euro campaign in the year ahead of a
referendum will be capped at pounds 5m.
While Mendoza is not a classically trained marketer - he is a banker
turned entrepreneur - he possesses the right instincts to lead the New
Europe marketing effort. He freely admits that he ’knew nothing about
marketing’ when joining Forward in 1987 but his business moves since,
including the launch last year of Brilliant Books, which now supplies
over one million books to Tesco, have displayed his ability to spot a
Forward is 50% owned by the Saatchi brothers, Maurice and Charles.
Mendoza is also involved in another venture with Charles, who has put up
the money to revive the Hammer film brand, with plans to update the
genre, which produced such blood-curdling classics as the Curse of
Frankenstein and the Bride of Dracula.
In his early career, Mendoza worked as a Hollywood wheeler dealer,
raising cash to fund films such as Nightmare on Elm Street and the Bond
film Never Say Never Again. His own cultural tastes are higher-brow - he
was once a director of the European Chamber Opera.
Business partner Sieghart describes him as ’a renaissance man in his
love of art, theatre and opera, but he also has a good natural
This focus is usually on money. He is so obsessed with investments and
speculation that at one point he tells me he wishes he could buy shares
in people: ’It’s easy to spot when you’re young who will make money.
It’s a shame you can’t buy shares in them and sell if they start to
But Mendoza is not completely obsessed. He is described as ’well
balanced’ by his friends and business associates. This balance has been
achieved, he says, because he is settled into a happy marriage with two
young children with whom he can now afford to spend a large amount of
But New Europe looks set to take up more of Mendoza’s time. He and
fellow New Europe marketer, Steve Hilton - who worked on Tory campaigns
at M&C Saatchi for the past two elections - are busy trying to address
how best to put people off the single currency. Don’t be surprised if
some of Hammer’s horrors are wheeled out to symbolise that monetary
monster, the euro.
1981-1983: Financier, Morgan Guaranty Trust Co of New York
1983-1986: Director, Albion Films
1987-1999: Director (now chief executive), Forward Publishing
1999: Marketing director, New Europe.