Jim Armitage: Tucker should not count on top job
Outlook: The Bank Guv the City Will Love. Perhaps that's the slogan Paul Tucker should adopt in the run-up to the big showdown for the top job at the Bank of England.
Yesterday's speech standing behind the big City insurers over Europe's potty Solvency II rules is a decent warm-up for Mr Tucker's campaign to succeed Sir Mervyn King next year. Brussels-bashing will certainly have won him friends among the top Tories he needs to get him the job.
But while he is the clear front-runner among the internal candidates, he shouldn't start measuring Merv's curtains yet. The Prime Minister and Chancellor, who make the appointment, should consider a few flaws before making up their minds.
First and foremost, do we really want to hire the bloke who failed to spot the last financial crisis to be atop the lighthouse seeking the next one? As the man in charge of financial stability, he has hardly overseen a period where our finances have seemed particularly stable.
Second: his track record on interest rates is questionable. If we're going to have a Bank of England insider, I'd want one who was firmly in the doves camp as the economy began to tank. But I'm told that, even in that emergency meeting in 2008 when the Bank of England cut rates by 1.5 per cent in the jaws of financial meltdown, Mr Tucker was the last to agree. Back in the summer of 2007 – shortly before Northern Rock's collapse – he was among those who actually voted for rates to rise -twice. Doh! In fairness, he wasn't alone – Mervyn did the same three times (warranted or not, Mr Tucker does suffer from the perception in some quarters that he's a bit of a yesman to the Governor).
The name of one person who always did stand up to the boss in those meetings hasn't come up in the succession talk so far.
"A real firecracker," "super bright", "a total killer" as I heard her described by a former colleague last night. Step forward ... Rachel Lomax. A serious career economist, she's done ultra-high-level Whitehall jobs, been a deputy governor of the Bank, and now holds a couple of sinecures in industry at the BAA and HSBC.She wouldn't be pushed around by the politicos or the bankers. And she's good at the media – unlike the sometimes cantankerous King. A rank outsider, I'll admit, and possibly not in the slightest bit interested in the job. But go on, Rachel – throw your hat in the ring.
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