Interview with a Governor


Mervyn King: "We did that (QE) because the news from the rest of the world in the past few months has been very poor"

Surprise, surprise, Mervyn King doesn't think this batch of quantitative easing (QE) is simply about keeping up appearances.

When I interviewed him this afternoon, he said quantitative easing had worked before, and it will work again.

But the message running through his answers was that the job of rescuing the recovery couldn't be left to central banks alone - that's true of the UK, and for the broader global economy.

He also admitted that "throwing money" at the problem could not be the whole answer. Though of course, that is exactly what he, or at least a majority of the MPC, have today decided to do.

Piece in the puzzle

As we know, the Governor thinks international leaders need to step up to the plate, to resolve global imbalances - and make progress at next month's summit in Cannes.

Though he said we shouldn't expect too much to be achieved in a few short weeks.

On the home front, he admitted - explicitly - that QE had given a lot more help to the City than to small businesses, out in the real economy (you can watch for yourself if you don't believe me).

But small business lending, he said, was only a tiny piece of the macro puzzle - albeit a very important one.

Even in good times, total lending to small businesses in the UK is a fraction - maybe a tenth - of the amount the Bank today said it would inject into the economy.

Feeling savers' pain

Two and a half years since the policy was launched, there are many in the City who say the Bank should have tried to do things differently - use the money created with quantitative easing to help private businesses more directly, rather than simply buying government bonds.

But the way the Governor tells it, that's not the Bank of England's job. It's the job of the banks - if only the Chancellor could find a good way to encourage them to do it.

Some will see that as a statement of reality. Others, like the FT's Chris Giles, will say it is the mark of a "belligerent" Bank of England governor who puts "purity before pragmatism".

But there's no doubt that savers will be the biggest short-term losers from today's decision. Some of them went to the Bank today to make their point.

The Governor said, again, that he feels savers' pain - but he can't do anything about it, short of creating a recession which would hurt everyone.

He did predict that inflation will rise again this month - October - but that will be the peak. It will be interesting to see whether that's another Bank forecast that gets quietly revised.

Stephanie Flanders, Economics editor Article written by Stephanie Flanders Stephanie Flanders Former economics editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    " ... he said quantitative easing had worked before, and it will work again."

    Worked for who? Sir.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    so it worked last time did it Merv? 1)We're deeper in debt than we were before. 2) Inflation has ran well above your own raison d'etre target ever since.3) The nation is un or under-employed.4) House prices are rediculously over-priced. First time buyers are rarerer than hens teeth. etcc.. Doesn't sound like a huge success to me. Sack him he is completely clueless and a danger to any decent future

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Actually I think everything Mr King said was absolutely correct.

    The bad news is that correcting global imbalances isn't going to happen in the near future as a result of political and economic changes. World leaders are too disorganised for that.

    The good news is that completely new technologies are on the way that will change things so much that politics+ economics will just follow

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    " ... he said that the money (75B) would gradually seep into the economy, making people richer".

    Wouldn't cutting VAT or TAX or NI a better and quicker way of making people richer?

    QE would make things expensive (inflation) and make people poorer

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Think of the Bank of England as the taxpayers joint piggy bank. We have just emptied it to but a load of crap assets from commercial banks and given then fresh notes in return to re-lend at interset... and so the show goes on.

    We will all pay for this. Wheat went up 3% on the news - our daily bread.

    We hid storing up a whole load of problems on the balance sheet of the B of E.


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