A new £20 note featuring a portrait of economist Adam Smith is to be issued, the Bank of England has said.
The new note will signal the start of a new series of notes which will come into circulation next spring.
I fear this heralds the beginning of the end for our Darwin tenner.
The choice of Adam Smith is particularly irksome. Not just because, as a Scot, it could reasonably be argued that Smith has no place on a Bank of England banknote (the Scots, after all, have several banks and banknotes of their own). Not just because, as Smith does indeed already appear on a Bank of Scotland £50 note, it could reasonably be argued that there are far more deserving candidates. Not just because, irrespective of Smith's appearance on the Bank of Scotland note, there still are far more deserving candidates. No, what I find particularly irksome is the fact that, when The Friends of Charles Darwin campaigned to have Darwin celebrated on a Bank of England banknote, we were told by the then Chief Cashier herself:
When considering the choice of figure to replace Michael Faraday on the reverse of the new £20 note, we decided that the character should not be drawn from the same field as another already celebrated on existing notes.
No matter that Michael Faraday was a chemist and physicist, whereas Darwin was a biologist (and geologist)—as far as the Bank of England was concerned, they were both scientists, so they couldn't both appear on banknotes.
But hang on a second. Adam Smith was an economist, and the incumbent on the reverse of the Bank of England's current £50 note was another economist, the first Chief Cashier of the Bank of England, Sir John Houblon. How's that for inconsistency? Yet more jobs for the boys.
Of course, the fact that Adam Smith was was born in Kirkcaldy, Fife, which is part of Chancellor of the Exchequer (and Prime-Minister-in-waiting) Gordon Brown's constituency will not have figured anywhere in the decision.