Bank of England Governor Mervyn King is straying perilously close to political territory these days. It is one thing to make statements aimed at helping the Bank fulfil its remit of meeting an inflation target – something it is currently failing to do. It is quite another to chime in behind the Tory government’s ‘no alternative’ defence of cuts, wage restraint and general misery.
The status of the Bank is crucial to economic stability and reputation. The status of the Governor is crucial to the status of the Bank. One of the bits from my latest volume of diaries picked out by The Guardian was Mrs Thatcher giving TB a lecture on how she felt Gordon Brown as Chancellor was not showing enough respect to then Governor Eddie George. That respect has to cross parties and it has to cover as wide a business and public canvas as it can.
Governors always have to tread very careful lines. Mervyn King could do with retracing a few steps. He should also be very wary about sending such stern messages to the public about their fall in living standards being a neccessary evil, when one of the principal causes of it, the bankers he knows so well, appear to be carrying on as if nothing has happened.
Yesterday’s growth figures, George Osborne’s hopeless response – snow indeed … he must have it on the brain after his Christmas holiday – the collapse in Vince Cable’s credibility, and Ed Balls’ arrival as shadow chancellor are all combining to allow us to revisit the economic arguments of the last election and everything that has happened since.
The economy is always a political issue. But Bank independence took some of the politics out of economics. Mervyn King should endeavour to keep it that way.