History as Eddie homes in for show with Ken

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The Independent Online
History will be made tomorrow afternoon. The United Kingdom's monetary policy will be set outside central London for the first time - in Ken Clarke's Rushcliffe constituency in Nottingham, to be precise.

An anodyne diary note put out by the Treasury on the Internet yesterday alerted the world to the time the monthly monetary meeting between the Chancellor and the Governor of the Bank of England would start (3.15pm). It forgot to mention the fact that Eddie George and his retinue of Bank officials would be travelling to the Midlands to fit in with Kenneth Clarke's busy schedule.

Tomorrow's meeting will be the 48th between Mr Clarke and Mr George, and could be the last if the Conservatives lose the general election. It will be the first to take place outside the shabby splendour of the Treasury's Whitehall offices since the new monetary arrangements were introduced in 1992.

It is for no reason of protocol that this month's session has quit Whitehall. Although ministers revert to being prospective parliamentary candidates during the election campaign and lose their automatic right of access to their departments, they continue to be ministers. A Treasury room could easily have been made available.

However, the Chancellor's diary is uncommonly busy. Rather than disrupt the continuity of the process by which interest rates are set, the entire show from the Bank and Treasury will decamp from London to Mr Clarke's home turf.

A Treasury spokeswoman stressed that the meeting would take place in a suitable venue, a publicly owned, secure building just outside the boundaries of Mr Clarke's constituency. "It will not be in a party building. I don't know how big the Chancellor's constituency office is, and it's certainly not going to take place in his house."

At least holding the meeting in Nottingham will permit Mr Clarke the rhetorical flourish of being able to point to some actual manufacturers when he talks about the damage the strong pound is doing to exports. For the rise in sterling back above its floor of DM2.78 in the European exchange rate mechanism - though it edged back down below it yesterday - will be his excuse for turning down Mr George's advice to raise interest rates. As far as the City is concerned, this is the foregone conclusion of the meeting.