Mark Halloween in the diary with a blood-red asterisk, because on it, ghoulish history was made. On 31 October 2016, the first migrant worker to be sent home by Brexit was identified.
His name is Mark Carney, and if news of his 2019 departure date came as a blow to Theresa May, she will not have been the only woman (or man) to feel that way. Since arriving from Canada three years ago to take over as Bank of England guv’nor, Carney has become quite the heart-throb.
The title “Sexiest Central Banker EVER” does him scant justice when you consider that drooling over Eddie George ranks somewhere between puppy play and gimp suits on the more recherché end of the fetish spectrum. Carney, I’m told by female friends, flits into their dreams now and again when Messrs Clooney, Pitt and Damon collectively take time off to work on yet another Danny Ocean retread. “He’s gorgeous and he seems a great guy. I’d do him in a flash,” says one, before anticipating a far more inflationary package than any Carney would sanction professionally.
At this point, it is worth a reminder that Carney was not imported to refresh our erotic fantasy lives. He was let in for the traditional reason foreign workers are granted work visas.
Admittedly there might be a minor salary differential (he earned almost £900,000 last year) with his brethren. But at its essence, his purpose is the same as that of the Filipina minimum wage care-home worker. He is here to clean up British messes which the British would rather not deal with themselves.
Like that Filipina who uncomplainingly endures the drudgery to make our lives more palatable, he must find us weirdly ungrateful and startlingly contemptuous. Carney has been highly competent, at the very least, in guiding an economy virtually paralysed by a global financial stroke towards some kind of recovery. Yet those who disdain free movement of workers from inside and outside the EU (until they find themselves in hospital, or the washing machine breaks down) turned on him when he warned of the dangers of Brexit in the summer.
To be fair, they had a point. The last thing you’d want to hear from the country’s second most powerful economic voice is his take on how a seismic political event might affect the economy.
A decently bred, native governor would have confined any summer predictions to Andy Murray’s chances at Wimbledon and a few tips for Glorious Goodwood. This uncouth invader from the frozen north had the gall to bang on, as if it was any of his beeswax, about the economic implications of Brexit. But isn’t that the old, old problem with people who come over here and nick our jobs? They don’t understand our ways. They make no effort to assimilate.
Never did Carney take such a diabolical liberty as in the early hours of 24 June, when sterling reacted to the shock Brexit result by walking off a cliff. At that victorious hour for resurgent British independence, it might have been nice if a British politician had tried to stop the free fall. But of the chief Remainers, David Cameron was too busy resigning while George Osborne, curled in the foetal position beneath his desk, sucked his thumb and called for mummy. Meanwhile, the Butch and Sundance of Brexit delayed until almost noon before appearing in public at a sepulchral, ineffably pointless news conference.
A pallid Boris Johnson wore his best “Cripes, I’ve really bished up good and proper this time” expression as he parroted his platitudes. His eternal brother-in-arms Michael Gove would have shed the sincerest of tears for his friend Cameron’s downfall, only he left the onion behind in all the excitement.
Once again, when back-breaking work was required, the British went walkies and left it to the hired help from overseas. Carney did it expertly, reciting a statement in that comforting baritone to calm the markets and catch the pound before it went splat. There is no way to be certain that his prompt and masterful response averted a full scale cataclysm. But all alone on the front line that morning, he was massively impressive.
Coming from a civilised, grown-up kinda land, he surely finds this country a puzzle. Having spent some years studying here as a young man, he must be perplexed by how wilfully thick we became in the intervening few decades. In Canada, when the best-informed person in a field speaks, one imagines Canadians listen. Here, as Gove crystallised it, we are sick to death of experts.
In a sensible country, Mark Carney would be made to feel so appreciated that he’d want to extend his term by 10 years. Instead, he restricted it to one – more from a selfless desire to project a long-term confidence he may not feel, you suspect, than because he wants to stay.
Had he resigned immediately, in fact, as some expected, he would have had my every sympathy. The job he was offered in 2012 – running the central bank of an outward-looking country which knew the importance of freedom of movement and trade to a services-dominated economy – must have seemed a treat. With hindsight he was tricked, and now finds himself castigated as he uses the Dettol and trusty mop on behalf of a shrill, retrograde, isolationist psychogeriatric of a nation which still has no idea of the giant mess it is in.
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