British media swooning over ‘Clooney-esque’ rock-star banker
The new Bank of England governor is even celebrated as a style icon
Mark Carney is six weeks into his job at Threadneedle Street, and the British media’s love affair with him shows no signs of waning. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
He has been hailed a “rock star” and dubbed the “outstanding central banker of his generation”. Now he is being celebrated as a style icon. Yes, it’s Mark Carney, the Canadian-born governor of the Bank of England.
Carney is six weeks into his job at Threadneedle Street, and the British media’s love affair with him shows no signs of waning; if anything, it’s growing stronger. Not only is Mervyn King’s successor in charge of monetary policy, it seems he’s also a role model for those lesser mortals struggling with their summer wardrobes.
“Get the Carney look,” screamed the headline on the front page of the London Evening Standard earlier this week.
“The Bank of England governor teaches British men how to dress down in style,” the blurb continued, urging readers to turn to pages 22 and 23.
The reason for the Standard’s excitement was Carney’s weekend appearance at the Wilderness music festival in Oxfordshire – known as “Poshstock” – with his economist wife, Diana. The “Clooney-esque Canadian”, as the Standard described him, was pictured looking coolly casual in purple polo shirt, grey shorts and fawn suede loafers.
Perhaps it’s just the 48-year-old Carney’s contrast with King, who didn’t really do dress-down and was always pictured looking uncomfortably formal at Wimbledon or Lords.
Finally, a public figure who knows how to do casual – and another tick for the new governor, who can’t have imagined when he took on the job that he’d be judged on his weekend attire. But this is Britain and it is August. Not for nothing is it known in Fleet Street as the silly season.
So far, the outstanding central banker of his generation has tackled the controversial subject of women on banknotes, last month unveiling Jane Austen as the historical face on the next £10 note. He has also noted the “striking” lack of top female economists at the Bank of England, particularly on its nine-strong monetary policy committee. Promising to nurture female talent through the ranks, Carney says he looks forward to the time a woman will become governor.
He has taken a swipe at the banks – always a popular move – warning they risk becoming socially useless and disconnected from society unless they focus on the real economy.
As for the small matter of managing the economy, Carney has been blessed in recent weeks with a slew of encouraging news, from real signs of life in the housing market and rising consumer confidence to much stronger-than-expected performances from the manufacturing, construction and services sectors. All this was already under way when Carney arrived at the bank and, last week, in his first big move, the new governor presented his historic “forward guidance” policy, which ties interest rates to the unemployment rate, currently at 7.8 per cent.
There are get-out clauses, such as a spike in inflation, which remains stubbornly high at 2.8 per cent, but the guidance is that interest rates will remain at their all-time low of 0.5 per cent until the unemployment rate comes down to 7 per cent. That means at least another 750,000 jobs must be added to the economy before rates move, something that could take until 2016 on the bank’s current forecasts.
The scale of the task will be underlined today with the release of the latest labour market data. Many economists expect the unemployment rate to remain stuck at 7.8 per cent, although some are forecasting a fall to 7.7 per cent, still a long way from Carney’s new 7 per cent target.
There will also be numbers on average annual earnings growth, which is forecast for a slight rise from 1 per cent to 1.1 per cent. With consumer price inflation at 2.8 per cent, this does little to relieve the squeeze on real earnings.
The City will also be poring over the minutes of the bank’s monetary policy committee meeting held earlier this month, at which there was a unanimous vote to keep quantitative easing on hold at £375 billion (€437 billion) and rates at 0.5 per cent, where they have been for more than four years.
What economists will be looking for is whether the committee was fully behind the new governor in introducing the forward guidance policy. Carney has so far refused to say whether he had the full backing of the committee, some of whom are known to have concerns over linking interest rates with unemployment.
If the minutes show his committee colleagues wholly behind him in the policy shift, it will be another big tick for Britain’s rock-star banker.
Fiona Walsh is business editor of guardian.com