Dear Mark Carney –
I have to say it: you’re the real deal. There are your well-moisturised tanned skin, dark eyebrows, pleading round eyes, Action Man hair with a fleck of steel grey, perfectly knotted tie, sober, tasteful suit and honed body. And that’s before you’ve opened your mouth. That voice! Those mellifluous Canadian tones are just so beguiling.
If I was a woman or gay, I would be lost. I’d forge a press card; do anything, just to get into one of your conferences. Then, I’d beetle for the front row, shoving Stephanie Flanders aside. I’d sit, gazing at you, drooling over your every word. “Unwavering” commitment to the inflation target. Yes, yes! “Escape velocity.” Oh my! “A faster withdrawal of monetary stimulus…” Please no, I mean, yes. “Forward guidance.” Your favourite and now mine. Say it again, but faster.
The thing is, Mark, is that we’re just not used to our Bank of England governors being like you. The last guy was owlish and donnish, inscrutable, inaccessible, and he barely muttered a word in public. You were on Radio 4’s Today and I swear you had Evan Davis drooling. You were brilliant. Calm and authoritative, persuasive, more Mad Men than Economics Prof like your predecessor Mervyn.
I can’t wait to hear you on Desert Island Discs. They must have invited you already. And you should have had your Who’s Who form by now. In fact, your in-tray must be piled high with requests for appearances and speeches. No one is going to be in more demand. There is one pity, however – your declared allegiance to Everton Football Club. You’ve got cousins in Liverpool, you said before leaving your native Canada to come here.
The selection of Everton brings me on, neatly, to the bit where I have to get serious. As you must know, if you’ve got relatives there, Liverpool is a city that has seen better days. The problem for anyone in your position is that it’s not alone: there are an awful lot of places in Britain like Liverpool.
By common consent, Mark, you’ve instantly breathed fresh air into the management of our economy with your doctrine of “forward guidance”. It’s terrific that you’ve laid down such clear markers: the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee will keep benchmark interest rates at 0.5 per cent until unemployment falls from its present 7.8 per cent to 7 per cent.
Your estimate is this will not occur until 2016, by which time 750,000 jobs will have been created. It’s a smart move, fixing rates to unemployment. Jobs are very real, and the jobless figure is easily understood by everyone. However, what worries me is that the impetus for the creation of genuine, new, long-term jobs lies, not with you, but with the Government.
It’s about investment, Mark, and that means skills, infrastructure and competitiveness. To reach the total you seek, in the time-frame you want, ministers have got to get a move on. Somehow they’ve got to encourage foreign investors to put their cash here, to build units that employ thousands not tens, to pick the UK over everywhere else. So, they’ve got to convince them that we will continue to enjoy the fruits of membership of the EU, that our unions are open to cooperation and flexibility, our schools and universities are producing the right employees, and our transport links are sleek and fast. Red tape and planning laws that so often hold back our business development must be swept aside.
It means employers wanting to go to Liverpool and its ilk. Our recent track record here has not been great. Governments put all their weight behind attracting financial service companies to the UK, to the City. Then, as you know, that sector imploded. We have to get back in the game of wooing mass industrial investment again.
The omens aren’t good. It was hoped that last year’s Olympics would provide an economic boost. The Government has just published a list of financial gains from London 2012 – one was a shopping centre in Croydon. Mark, you’re a bright guy – please don’t allow your political masters to indulge in such sleights of hand. Tell them you want tangible, meaningful progress, not trickery and spin.
This leads me on to the banks. Incredible as it may seem, our SMEs (don’t be fooled by glitzy corporations, the engine room of our economy is the little fellas), the sort of outfits you want to grow, still complain they’re starved of funds, that the banks just do not want to know.
You’ve got to rein them in. You can do it wearing two hats: one as a key architect of recovery; the other as chief banks regulator. They’ve got to come into our world. Not only have they lost us, as a nation, a million jobs with their casual, greedy antics, they remain impervious to entreaties to alter their attitudes, to stop chasing profits and bonuses at all costs.
Be careful. They’ve become very good at nodding and agreeing, and saying they get it and they’re truly sorry. You need to make the Bank’s market-watchers get down and dirty; to look under the management bonnet and see what is actually being said and what is being done in the bank’s name with someone else’s hard-earned cash. Find out what the new money-making scams are and attack them before it is too late. Mervyn wasn’t especially good at this – on his watch, the Bank sensed something was wrong but too late: sub-prime collapsed, wholesale credit froze and Northern Rock was paralysed.
I read that you’re expected to stay for five years before returning to Canada. The year 2018 looks an awful long way off but you’ve hit the ground running. Don’t let up. Go Mark, go!
Yours optimistically – Chris