The bank of England isn’t known for its glittering cast of characters, and there’s only so much excitement to be found in monetary policy. Nevertheless, one individual down at Threadneedle St manages to keep things interesting – so let’s hear it for chief economist Andy Haldane.
In 2014, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world and though that was a few years ago, he still has his fans. He’s one of the Bank’s free-thinkers, and has pontificated on a cashless society and the potential benefits to central banking of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.
He was also accused of being “divorced from reality” by the former pensions minister, Ros Altman, after suggesting that property was a better bet than a traditional pension. So, not afraid to speak his mind. Indeed, in a recent speech he suggested that economists’ failure to predict the financial crash was the profession’s “Michael Fish moment” – referring to the veteran forecaster who shall forever be remembered for failing to see a hurricane coming. (Fish took exception to this and I understand the two have since had lunch).
Haldane predates Mark Carney at the Bank by some years, having joined in 1989 and worked his way up. It’s no secret that he isn’t exactly best friends with the governor, and this week’s pivot to a more hawkish position on interest rates was described by The Spectator as a slap in the face for his Canadian boss. Whatever the internal politics of the Bank may be, it’s clear that Haldane’s willingness to countenance a rate rise (in opposition to Carney’s own position) is having an effect. Nomura released a note last night, citing Haldane’s comments and changing their view on when a rate rise could be expected. They believe we could see the first tightening in a decade when the Monetary Policy Committee next meets at the start of August. This is far from certain, but it’s good to see Haldane flexing his muscles.
Are you heading to Glastonbury this weekend? Plenty of City types pitch up in the glamping quarter. Some even arrive by helicopter. If you’re not able to make it and wondered what, aside from the music, you’re missing out on – here’s a taste from the festival’s event guide: Friday, 3pm, House of Lords Reform followed by Climate Change – The Fallout at 4pm. Saturday, 11am, Theatre versus Big Oil and a talk by shadow chancellor and renowned Marxist John McDonnell at 3pm. Jeremy Corbyn is also speaking on the main stage.
To the Mall Galleries for a summer bash hosted by comms agency Westbourne, who had assembled the great and the good of Westminster for lashings of champagne in a mercifully air conditioned venue. Among the crowd were plenty of Tory campaign staffers, drowning their sorrows – or toasting the fact they still had a job. One told me that just before 10pm on election night he had a colleague set up a camera to film the cheers at campaign HQ as the exit poll came through. I’d love to get my hands on the footage...
You won’t have failed to notice that it’s been a hot week, both politically and in terms of the weather. On the day that David Davis kicked off Brexit negotiations in Brussels, EU officials issued advice to staff on how to cope with rising temperatures. “We advise against drinking alcohol” read the memo, much to the disappointment of EU top dog Jean-Claude Juncker, no doubt. It also proposed turning off the lights and sitting in a dark room - which probably didn’t help the Brexit talks. “If it gets too hot, go home” was the official advice. Don’t tell the British negotiators.
It’s the nature of politics that one day you’re up and the next you’re consigned to the back benches, but chancellor Philip Hammond seems to have been spared this harsh reality thanks to the weakened position of his boss, Theresa May. The PM had planned to sack him just as soon as she secured her mega majority, but since the election Hammond has grown in both stature and influence – safe in his role and freely able to advocate for a softer approach to Brexit. Don’t underestimate the authority the chancellor now has.