Bank of England deputy governor Ben Broadbent made an important point on the state of the UK economy this week, but the message was drowned out by howls of outrage after he used the menopause as a reference point for an economy that has “passed its productive peak”.
Trade union heavyweight Frances O’Grady said the language was “totally inappropriate...lazy and sexist”. But was it? Broadbent had described our productivity slump as “climacteric” – which is a term used to describe a period in life when fertility and virility are in decline, and can be applied to men and women.
Realising the word was probably not well known, he sought to define it in terms that would be understood, and mentioned the menopause. It may have been an odd choice, clumsy even, but to brand it sexist or offensive is a huge overreaction.
German resistance to Macron's grand plans
President Macron has enjoyed positioning himself as the new leader of Europe, seizing the crown from Angela Merkel. Unfortunately for the French President, German opposition to his plans remains a major stumbling block.
Macron’s proposal for an EU-wide finance minister and an integrated EU budget were this week roundly dismissed by German economists.
A survey of 130 German economic professors by the Leibniz Institute found 60 per cent opposed to the idea of an EU finance minister and the same amount against an EU-wide budget.
Leading academic Ulrich Blum notes that “Europe has an inglorious tradition of breaking laws and bending constitutions in the field of monetary and fiscal policy, which is why we should be extremely cautious about giving away any more essentially sovereign rights”.
Let’s hope Germany continues to keep Macron’s ambition in check.
Venezuela goes to the polls
Elections take place this weekend in the country hailed by Jeremy Corbyn as proof of an alternative to neoliberal dogma. Yes, Venezuelans go to the polls – or at least, some of them will. A large boycott is expected, and the most popular opposition leaders are barred from standing.
There were protests in Caracas earlier this week by those brave enough to criticise the election. “I’m not going to vote,” said 54-year-old Nancy Forrero, “this is a dictatorship.” Forrero’s son is one of tens of thousands to have fled the country in recent months after the crippling economic crisis left the oil-rich state with barely any food or medicine.
Incumbent President Maduro, hand-picked by his predecessor Chavez, blames the catastrophe unfolding in his country on US imperialists and private foreign companies. In reality, his socialist price-fixing and economic mismanagement has destroyed the country and left millions destitute.
He will win on Sunday. Venezuela will lose.
Mental Health Awareness week
This week we’ve been supporting Mental Health Awareness week, and in particular the City’s efforts to (in the words of the lord mayor’s campaign) “end the stigma”.
One way to do that would be to stop referring to a stigma. It isn’t going to go away if we keep pointing at it. A much more effective way to change attitudes is to talk openly about the subject, and I commend the City workers who have been sharing their own stories on our pages throughout the week.
They are at the vanguard of an important change, and they should be congratulated.
Is Zuckerberg trolling Damian Collins?
Mark Zuckerberg appears to be trolling Damian Collins, the tedious chair of parliament’s Digital and Culture Committee who is desperate to get the Facebook founder in for a grilling.
Zuckerberg has declined, prompting Collins to throw his toys out of the pram. In a snub to the UK committee, the Facebook chief has agreed to appear in front of members of the EU parliament. Collins won’t even be able to watch it on TV, as the session will be held in private.