IT is rich for Sir Mervyn King to claim with hindsight that the Bank of England should have "shouted from the rooftops" about failings in the system of financial regulation.
Richer still for him now to claim that the current Government's "balanced" austerity programme is a "textbook" response to rebalancing the economy in the context of the trade deficit.
That's hard to stomach, coming as it does alongside figures from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply yesterday, which show a significant slowdown in the UK's service sector this month. Alarmingly, the decline was greater than the City had forecast. Worse still was yesterday's prediction from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) that unemployment will hit 9% this year, and could do permanent damage to the economy. NIESR is predicting a Eurozone recession and labels the UK economy's situation as one of "unprecedented" weakness.
News that the downturn has also affected the availability of project finance for vital infrastructure schemes, in the process placing limits on another source of possible recovery, points in a similar direction.
There are precious few signs that George Osborne's hard-line austerity plan is working. Meanwhile voters in a number of European nations may be about to deliver a harsh verdict on the wider austerity orthodoxy.
In his BBC Today programme lecture, Sir Mervyn conceded that he should have done more to warn about a system in which banks had become too big to fail, and were ultimately borrowing up to £50 for every £1 contributed by their shareholders.
Such platitudes made uncomfortable reading in the context of a double-dip recession – while the reference to a textbook will not do anything to address perceptions that King's approach is overly academic. His views were countered by former Monetary Policy Committee member David Blanchflower who says the Bank of England chief is culpable for the aftermath of the crisis. Sir Mervyn talks now of Labour having ignored warnings – but admits it wasn't Labour that took us into recession.
If he didn't shout from the rooftops six years ago at the peak of bank excess and recklessness, one begins to wonder was that because Labour were in power? If he says now that he approves of the Coalition's approach, will he say something different with hindsight, once George Osborne and his colleagues are out of office? The Bank of England Governor gave the impression that he was anxious not to be too critical of bankers, while reassuring the public that he understood their anger. He wasn't overly hard on the previous government, but backed the role of the Coalition – in defiance of much of the evidence.
Sir Mervyn's regrets, ring-fenced with hindsight and other qualifications, amount to little more than a self- serving pseudo apology – working hard to exonerate himself, while not offending anyone else.
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