Mystic Mark Carney, the Bank of England’s new seer

  • Date: 02/10/15
  • Robert Shrimsley, Financial Times

‘Britain’s SMEs will find it far harder to sell their goods once the cosmos is ruled by Martians’

Mark Carney, rock-star Bank of England governor, surprised many observers with a speech that strayed some way from his traditional beat into a discussion of climate change and the risks it poses to investors.

The scene is the governor’s office at the Bank of England. Mark Carney is talking to an aide.

Governor, about your forthcoming speech to the chambers of commerce.

Yes

It seems to be about alien life forms.

You’ve seen the news from Mars?

I have, but this speech is supposed to be about labour flexibility and the downside risks to productivity.

You don’t see the downside risks from extremophile bacteria in the briny water on Mars?

Not in the short to medium term, Governor.

The future is closer than you think. This planet could become a stranded asset once the Martian microbes of doom reach us. This is a serious matter. Britain’s small businesses will find it far harder to sell their goods and services once the cosmos is ruled by Martians reaching us from our next-door neighbour in the solar system. The insurance industry is far from prepared for that eventuality. This is a macroprudential issue if ever I saw one.

There is no reason to think that Martians are about to arrive in Britain, Mr Governor.

No, they’ll come in through Greece first, but once they are in the EU we cannot prevent them travelling here.

Governor, I do wonder if we might be wandering too far off theme. This is not our field of expertise.

Neither is climate change but you saw how well that speech went down. It went viral. Do you know how hard it is for a governor’s speech to start trending on Twitter? This one had its own hashtag. I knew it was the right way to go. People are looking to the Bank of England for forward guidance.

Yes, sir, but mostly in the field of monetary policy.

Monetary policy is boring — we haven’t moved interest rates since I got here. Janet Yellen can’t even predict what she’s going to do in three weeks’ time. Whenever I try to say something interesting, the markets take a dive and we end up saying it will be some time next year. We need to branch out — we need to bring the authority of the Bank into other areas of people’s lives.

Governor, I do feel this may damage the Bank’s credibility.

Nonsense, we need to be where people need us. Warning of risks, setting out dangers, letting them know that investments can go up as well as down, offering statistical analysis of the most likely numbers to come up in the National Lottery. Making ourselves relevant to the public.

I see Governor, what else did you have in mind?

The Great British Bake Off.

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