In an occasional series, TCWDF interviews individuals in the public eye. This week, Mark Carney.
THE appointment of Mark Carney in 2013 as Governor of the Bank of England marked a step change for that institution. The selection of the first non-British Governor in the bank’s 325-year history took the financial world by surprise, although his expertise and experience were never in doubt. A regular and admired participant at the World Economic Forum, his globalist outlook was what many felt had been hitherto sadly lacking.
Urbane, toned and with chiselled good looks, he represented a ‘fresh way of thinking’ at the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street.
Since leaving in 2020 he has been active in a variety of financial institutions all eager to benefit from his knowledge. Appointed United Nations special envoy for climate action and finance – a role for which he seems eminently suitable – he defines the climate emergency at the greatest threat facing mankind.
We meet (via Zoom) at his office in Toronto. I start by asking if he misses being at the heart of the financial world in London.
‘Good Lord, no,’ he laughs. ‘Don’t get me wrong, when George [Osborne] approached me it was a complete surprise, but the opportunity came at a good moment for me and my career and who would not jump at the chance of working for such a renowned and venerable institution?
‘I was fortunate to be surrounded by some brilliant economists and accurate forecasters who made the job much easier. I relished every moment of my time there and would not have changed a thing – especially the extremely generous renumeration package.’
He recently waded into the Brexit debate once more, attributing many of Britain’s current problems to the referendum in 2016. How does he view that decision now, and what future does he see for the UK in a global economy?
‘Let me be clear, the Brexit decision was a catastrophe for Britain. I would go so far as to say it was on a scale far worse than World War Two in terms of financial fallout and loss of power. When David Cameron announced the referendum, I was shocked that an individual with such astute political antennae could have made such a catastrophic miscalculation.
‘Relying on a largely uneducated economic illiterate electorate to make such a momentous decision was folly of the highest order. The British public – or as I refer to them, the economic pygmies – should never have been let loose near the levers of power. Fed largely on a pabulum of fake news and misinformation, they could never be relied on to make the right choice, and so it turned out.
‘As far as I am concerned Britain deserves everything it gets. By rejecting the EU, an establishment that epitomises harmony, economic stability and growth, the UK must now suffer the consequences of its own hubris and self-inflicted harm. The challenges and opportunities that face the world are huge and can only be tackled effectively by global responses. Ukraine and Trump are two existential threats that need co-ordinated action. Migration and climate change are equally concerning topics that individual nations are not capable of handling in isolation.
‘I am a firm advocate for global partnerships that can confront these troubles in a firm yet fair manner.’
Does he feel any responsibility for quantitative easing and the deleterious effects that individuals in some quarters ascribe to it?
‘Absolutely not. After the Brexit vote, confidence in the financial sector was in short supply and it was necessary to buy corporate debt. To be honest I hadn’t realised how easy it was to create currency simply by pressing a button. Millions, billions even, could be conjured up out of thin air. There were no compelling reasons not to do it. It has nothing to do with Britain’s interest rate rises currently, and anyone attempting to link the two is being disingenuous. I remain satisfied that the decisions I made and the action I took will be vindicated by historians.’
How would he like his tenure at the Bank of England to be remembered?
‘Wow, you English always pose tricky questions. Well, in 2008 Gordon Brown was widely credited with “saving the world”, and he is someone who I have the utmost respect for. He represented a cool head in a hot situation, and it was through his capabilities that we averted what could have been a seismic global financial meltdown.
‘I would like to think that in a similar way I, too, will be recognised for the instigation and implementation of economic policies that were of huge benefit to the UK. If the public bestowed on me the moniker King Carney I would be more than happy.’
We finish our talk by addressing the culture surrounding self-identification. Has he any thoughts on this?
‘I learnt long ago to stay out of topics that I have little understanding of and concentrate on what I know about. The only thing I would say is that I believe in a tolerant and inclusive society and if that means people are comfortable identifying as an animal – where’s the problem? Here at our office, we have two staff who proudly identify as caribou and they are well-liked and admired for their bravery. However, the cleaners find the hoofprints difficult to erase from the carpet.’