Ann Pettifor

Central bankers, financiers and humble pie

This morning, while drinking my cappuccino, caught a glimpse of a story in the Daily Mail – which claims that Eddie George, until not long ago governor of the Bank of England – admitted yesterday to a House of Commons Select Committee that the Bank had played a key role in fuelling the credit/housing bubble….but that of course it was done in a good cause – to avoid a recession! He seems to have suggested that this credit bubble, sadly was going to be his legacy…..Have not been able to stand up this story as it does not appear in the FT or the Guardian….but if its true, it will be refreshing…if unhelpful.

Conrad Black is not eating humble pie. But, like millions of others, I am enjoying the spectacle of his court case. Recall giving a talk to the City of London School for Girls in 2004, if memory serves me correctly, in the presence of a Conservative MP, John Gummer and the deputy editor of the Economist…the talk was of course about low income countries…and very quickly turned to how corrupt they all are. I retorted that corruption was not confined to the poor, and to black people…indeed in our very own House of Lords there was a gentleman, Conrad Black who was alleged to have been guilty of thieving on a grand scale from shareholders, and the difference between him and corrupt Nigerian businessmen, say, was only a matter of scale……..Shock and horror registered on the face of the Conservative MP and on the deputy editor of the Economist, who interrupted my speech with calls of ‘Libel! Libel! Watch out for libel!’……As I expected him to know a great deal more about libel law than I did, was just a trifle unnerved…..but only a trifle…

Are his friends which, according to Peter Newman of Maclean’s magazine include members of Hollinger’s board like Margaret Thatcher, Henry Kissinger, his eminence Emmett Cardinal Carter, Chaim Herzog, a former president of Israel, James Thompson, a former governor of Illinois, Lord Carrington, the former secretary general of NATO, Richard Perle, one of the architects of George W. Bush’s Iraq policy, as well as half a dozen other British lords, plus the Italian industrialist, Giovanni Agnelli – are these and the editors of the Economist all standing by Lord Conrad Black now?

Well the Economist is trying its best. Today’s editorial (21st March 2007) tries hard:

“Lord Black’s defenders argue that the cure has been worse for Hollinger’s shareholders than the disease—though prosecutors would no doubt retort that breaking the law deserves punishment regardless. Sorting things out after his departure cost a fortune: the $200m cost of investigations far exceeds the sum taken in the alleged “corporate kleptocracy”. …….

‘Prosecutors retort’ but does the Economist? No, its still hedging its bets on whether this generous fellow could really have been that corrupt…now if he had been Nigerian…..?


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