Mark Carney and the start of Britain’s economic recovery?

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Image courtesy of CTV News Canada

Today the keys to the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street passed over to Mark Carney and Sir Mervyn King will bow out after 10 long years.

Between 2003 and 2013, the Bank of England saw this country’s financial sector rise so high and then fall further than ever before.

A week on from George Osborne’s Spending Review, which cut £11.5bn from public spending, there are more rumblings of uncertainty as Croatia joins the European Union with record unemployment and the possibility of yet another bailout. Further afield, there is speculation over the gradual end to quantitative easing in the US and concerns over a potential credit crisis in BRIC powerhouse China’s economy.

By any stretch of the imagination,  the UK economy is not out of the woods yet.

At this critical time, Mark Carney is getting some mixed reviews. Dubbed “the outstanding banker of his generation” by George Osborne, Carney was fast tracked into the role back in November and secured a massive pay packet to sweeten his departure from his previous role as Governor of the Bank of Canada.

Expectations are high for the so called ‘banking messiah’ to get Britain’s sluggish recovery going properly.

Canada was one of the only OECD countries to avoid a major banking crisis or subsequent recession which is probably why he is one of the best paid central bankers in history.

But while he has avoided the taint of the financial crisis and the subsequent Libor scandal last year his record is not entirely unblemished. His years in the toxic environment of Goldman Sachs and speculation that the calm state of Canada’s finances may be due more to its natural energy resources, its fiscal surplus and a more tightly regulated financial sector than its monetary policy, knocked his halo eschew slightly.

Indeed, according to the New Statesman, one of the other rejected candidates for the post said Carney was competent but “no messiah”.

No one should expect him to be. As exciting as it is to have someone young and glamorous (for a banker anyway) in the Governor’s chair, the hero worship which has crept up in certain corners will only set him up for a fall.

Because he has a fight on his hands. Not only did his predecessor fail to persuade the MPC to instigate more quantitative easing to keep the economy liquid, but Barclays Bank is threatening to “restrict” loans to households and businesses (£) in protest at the Bank’s new capital rule to rein in lenders.

Add to that the warnings of the outgoing Governor King, who said the economy was “nowhere near” ready to return to higher interest rates and that it could lend to younger people with large mortgages being unable to pay.

King’s warning gets to the heart of the problems in the British economy. It is a country desperately in need of cheap credit but desperately afraid of it because of what happens when it is too abundant.

Whatever people may say about the financial sector and how the country should be ‘making things’ we need credit and the necessary hot air it comes with.

Excessive risk maybe be poisonous but so is excessive caution.

There is only so far the country can recover with monetary policy alone. What the British economy needs now is a bit of faith.

So maybe, while Britain isn’t out of the woods, Carney could boost the recovery without really meaning to. Additionally, regardless of whether the Coalition’s austerity measures are the correct way to fix the finances of the country, the news that more people are coming to terms with three years of government spending cuts could precipitate a new sense of grudging confidence in the new normal.

Although borrowing and spending are still high, public perception of how the Government is managing its finances has improved. Perhaps if they feel they are through the worse of it now, they may make those tentative steps towards booking that holiday or investing in that start up.

It may be small but it is this confidence, regulated properly by the Government and a stronger financial services regulator, which can get Britain going again rather than fearfully treading water as it has been doing for several years now.

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100 years of disobedience and still a long way to go

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On this day in 1913, a 41 year old governess went to the derby and, whether she intended to or not, became a martyr.

When Emily Wilding Davison stood in front of the King’s horse 100 years ago she already had a long record of militant action and she had the physical and mental scars to show it.

In school we are taught the suffragettes were the radical branch of the suffragists who fought the status quo with civil disobedience; setting fire to post boxes, hiding in the Houses of Parliament on census night and slashing paintings.

In retaliation the men in parliament willfully ignored them till they did their duty in the First World War and ‘earned’ their right to vote.

But the reality, as always, is more complex. Instead of a few women’s agitation this was a civil war between the lawmakers and their wives.

The suffragettes were far more violent than history often realises. One suffragette even tried to horsewhip Winston Churchill who was Home Secretary at the time. Wilding Davison even went to prison for 10 days for assaulting a vicar she mistook for a cabinet minister.

But they resorted to these measures because they were fighting fire with fire. As time progressed police attacks got more and more brutal. Police dispelling the Black Friday march in 1910 were even alleged to have sexually assaulted the protesters.

The suffragettes had to fight dirty because they were backed into a corner. Their assault on the society around them was such a shock to the people around them because they weren’t behaving the way they were supposed to.

Women weren’t granted the vote in 1918 because of their contribution to the First World War like conventional wisdom says. The idea that women were rewarded for putting down the placards and behaving themselves is laughable. The war was a catalyst which sped up women’s suffrage but it didn’t cause it.

Women got the vote because the establishment now knew after four years of war and suffering women weren’t going to wait any longer. Rebellion and concession was sweeping Europe and Britain was no exception. Between January and August 1919 there were a series of bloody riots in towns and cities across Britain were former soldiers were said to have played a large part.

In fact, the artificial reinflation of the economy in 1918 to prevent recession temporarily is considered by some historians to be the only reason Britain didn’t see more rebellion.

The actions of women before the war like Emily Wilding Davison should women were not the weak willed pushovers they had been expected to be for generations. True there were women who did not support suffrage, (including famous suffragist Virginia Woolf’s own mother) and some them even campaigned against it, lead by Mrs Humphry Ward.

These women won because they knew their enemy and knew how to fight it.

Unfortunately this is where modern feminism falls down.

For all the suffragettes, suffragists and their feminist’s successors’ successes, we still have a long way to go.

Approximately two women a week are killed by their current or former partners, a figure that hasn’t come down in 15 years. Rape reporting rates are still ridiculously low and when a case does come to light there always seems to be a celebrity or Twitter hate mob on hand to dismiss it as the victim’s fault. Women are still told it is more important to be skinny then happy.

And how do some (though I concede probably not most) deal with this? Bitch at each other about ‘privilege’ and campaigning to change the gender of a beloved children’s TV character for no real reason.

The suffragette movement was successful because it sent a message that they wanted the power to control their own lives. For the modern feminist movement it needs to send the message to young women that they are in charge of their own destiny.

Emily Wilding Davison has been portrayed as a mad women because she refused to play by anyone’s rules, not even the WPSU. Whether she was accidentally or intentionally stepping into the path of that horse she was defying what society thought was becoming of a lady.

Feminism should not be about conditioning every microscopic detail of society around the common needs of ‘women’ and arguing over a set of preconditions women need to feel ’empowered’.

It should be the simple message for each and every individual; do what you want, say what you want, think what you want and make sure people know to get out of your way.

Because there is nothing more empowering than that.

Emmeline Pankhurst Judges You

Note: This a rather more tongue in cheek, ‘Catlin Moran capitalise RANDOM words style’ of blog post than this blog is used to I’m afraid. It was going to be published on my personal blog but this blog has more of a following and the message is important. Additionally, I’m writing this on the fly in the midst of exam revision and such the blog will not be updating in its professional, journalistic fashion- or perhaps at all- for another couple of weeks.

WWEPD? What Would Emmeline Pankhurst Do?

If you have two X chromosomes and live in Britain you should really go vote today.

People who don’t tend to annoy me. Its all ‘they’re all the same’, ‘they never live up to their promises’, blah blah blah. Women who don’t vote annoy me even more.

There is something about the combination of politics and women that modern society is so keen to portray as unsexy. It may be that each female cabinet ministers are given marks out of ten for their wardrobe when entering Number 10 (and never very high ones at that) where in contrast editors wouldn’t dream of grading male members on such trivial matters when they are busy running the country and so forth (making the assumption that women MPs’ sole function in cabinet meetings is to sit in the corner and make tea). It could also be that such trivialities as taking part in the democratic process takes too much time away from
women’s busy schedule scrutinising the ways to be better in bed and make their hair shiner in women’s magazines so one day they can trick a man into marrying them, paying for that lobotomy and granting them eternal, mindless bliss.

However, as I’m sure you vaguely heard in the back of that History lesson when you were 14 and passing notes about whether the boy in your French class fancies you, Emily Wilding Davison threw herself under a horse she was so annoyed about not being allowed to vote. Emmeline Pankhurst, who was ALREADY A MARRIED LADY, campaigned for most of her life along with her daughters to get the vote. Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem argue, journalised and campaign to get women equal pay. Germaine Greer is still breaking taboos to get women equally respect in the bedroom.

Its important. By not voting you are giving the patriarchy an excuse to ignore you. We have fought for over a hundred of years for the right to smack any man that pats us on the head and says ‘Don’t Worry Your Pretty Little Head About It’, lets not give up the advantage now.

WWEWDD? What Would Emily Wilding Davison Do?

A lot of the apathy surrounding elections is based on the assumption that elections are for electing new leaders. As the last General Election and its hung parliament proved, this is a silly assumption. Whilst we still have hierarchy, barriers to social mobility and inequality the goals of an election have to be different. The purpose of an election now is not to make a new political establishment out of the mob, its to make the political establishment fear the mob.

For instance if there is a large number of females voting, politicians are going to want to act like they speak for us and thus we get stuff. If we start getting vocal about the stuff we actually want, politicians will stop pandering and give us more than just ‘making it cheaper to get married and have babies’ the way the current coalition are.

During the heady days of the Third Wave Feminist movement, the sight of angry young women pounding the pavements of Britain to demand equal rights lead to the Abortion Act, the Equal Pay Act and a hold host more legal safeguards against discrimination. Had we not had the power, or exercised that power, to get rid of them in a public vote every few years they would never had bothered.

The only power patriarchy holds in a modern, democratic system is the power we give them. Apathy is not a protest vote. Its a signal that you don’t believe your opinion matters. Why would a politician work to provide for someone who would never vote for them? It would be politically counter-intuitive.

What do you do if an authority won’t listen to you? Shout louder, stamp your feet, take away their power over you but don’t just storm off in a sulk.

If you are genuinely undecided then spoil your vote. Give the weary, sameness of the main political parties and the naivety, occasional stupidity and some malevolence of the fringes it is easily to be lost for an cross in a box. I would strongly advocate the adoption of ‘None of the Above’ option on the ballot paper as I believe is custom in Australia. However in the meantime, writing it on yourself is the best option.

Its time the women of Britain, and all over the world, stop complaining about patriarchal tools of suppression and started taking them away from them. So when you go to the ballot box today, proudly declare by any means of your choosing; on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, randomly shouting it in the street. You don’t have to say how you voted just that you did and shame those who didn’t with the hastag denouncement: #emmelinepankhurstjudgesyou.

I think she would be proud if you do.

A Review of the Year: Europe in 2011


Unlike Africa, which often seems to be forgotten about, Europe and its many, many crises never seem to be far from the headlines. 2011 was no exception with the trials and tribulations never far from the headlines. From electoral crises in Russia to media crises in Britain to financial crises everywhere, European affairs never seemed to slow down. Here is a rundown of the most important in case you miss anything:

Eurozone: If you were to explain the European debt crisis to an idoit you’re best bet would probably be along the lines of ‘Euro go BOOM’. Truth is there are probably few people who really understand the ins and outs of it. Regardless, the EU is up shit creek with its only paddle being an extremely reluctant Angela Merkel. First Greece realised that it was unable to pay the interest on its domestic debts and was about to default and take every economy in the Eurozone with it. Then Ireland and Portugal jumped in on the action with Spain and Italy teetering on the edge eventually cost the heads of the Socialist Party of Spain, which lost an election in November and the Carry On Prime Minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi who was forced to resign in December. This lead to frantic discussions between Merkozy- or Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, Europe’s second weirdest power couple after Cameron and Clegg- over ‘what to do about the debt’ that Cameron dipped in and out of before causing another crisis by dropping out of the treaty they eventually drew up. The soap opera continues.

Greece: Poor Greece. You make the tiniest alteration to your fiscal health reports to get you into an exclusive fiscal club and then find yourself dealing with dire consequences eight years later and all the doctors helping you can say is ‘its your own fault’ and ‘you should have known better’. A series of economic reforms in Greece in the early part of last decade that meant they were able to borrow more easily and as a result they were forced to go to the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to borrow a ‘international rescue package’ to the tune of £111bn. In order to ensure there would be no further bailouts the Greek parliament introduced a number of austerity measures that led to rioting on the streets and the resignation of the Greek Prime Minister over giving the people a referendum on the measures.

Italy: Next up to have their own meltdown was Italy who were suffering from the onset of ‘a liquidty’ crisis as there were no bankers to buy the fancy cars and other luxury items the Italian economy rests on. Furthermore the ongoing structural problems such as corruption continued to rackle. Italy is a country were approximately 0.17 per cent of the population pay tax and most young people go abroad to find work as there are few jobs avaliable to those without connections in any particualr industry. Silvio Berlusconi provided light relief for the most of the year before the sex scandals, the gaffes and the cronyism got too much and Berlusconi was booted out to stand trial for sex with an underage prostitute.

Britain: The British economy did not default in 2011 but judging by the behaviour of its citizens you would not be surprised. There were protests about public sector pensions, tuition fee rises, cuts to public services, closing libraries. It would seem anything and everything made people take to the streets in protest. In August, they even took to the streets to loot their local Adidas. Then from October onwards they took up residence in St Paul’s Cathedral to protest against the entire financial and social system of Britain. The government’s plans to counter this was to stick their fingers in their ears, lock them up and wave a shiny, expensive distraction in their face. An outside observer commenting on Britain would say the country seemed to be in chaos and there was little organised or harmonious political process to be had this year as the British public no longer trusted their government, their media or even each other. Oooh, but wasn’t the wedding lovely?

Russia: Another country, another protest. The Economist review of the year confidently predicted that Vladmir Putin would win the Presidental election planned for 2012. However, recent protests across Russia have made the previously rock solid Putin regime seem rocky for the first time. Russia has never had a long and illustrious track record when it comes to democracy but the continued efforts of thousands of people in Moscow, St Petersburg and other cities in Russia show signs that Putin made not be able to make these allegations of election fraud ‘disappear’.

Norway: The world was reminded that terroism doesn’t just come in Muslim shaped packages this summer as Anders Behring Breivik went on a shooting spree killing 37 teenagers at a political camp on the island of Uteya this July, hours after detonating a bomb that killed seven in the national capital, Oslo. Breivik has subsequently been declared criminally insane and will probably spend the rest of his life in a mental institution. The shocking nature of his crime however, exposed the hitherto unremarked but sizable presence of a Neo-Nazi movement in Scandinavina and the national- and international- tragedy has reminded people not to become to complacent and there are evil people do unimaginably evil deeds all the time and they do not fit into easily recognisable boxes.

The Problem with Politics

Is this sort of violence an exception or will our frustrations always boil over?

It’s human nature to never be satisfied. In a way that’s why I almost feel sorry for politicians because even when they do what is actually in the best interests of the majority (which does happen very occasionally) the hysterical minorities come out in force.

We always want what we can’t have, take the figures released by Research Globe Scan, a polling firm and published in the Economist last week. In 2002, 80% of Americans, the land of the ‘American Dream’, believed that free market economics was the best financial system for their country but eight years and one massive recession later only 59% still agreed in 2010. Amongst Americans earning less than $20,000 it fell from 76% to 44%. You can say this is the impact of the financial crisis and the blame heaped on unregulated banking system for the loss of faith but Germany’s approval of capitalism has remained steady at 69% even if admittedly they’re still the strongest performing economy in the Euro zone. Only Spain managed to buck the trend with its approval growing from 37% to 51% and it is widely tipped to be the next country to receive a bailout from the European Union and the IMF.

In contrast, Communist China’s rating of capitalism keeps going up and up, at 68% it is higher than the USA for the first time ever.

There is a pretty clear correlation between the relative opinions of capitalism and the growth figures of each individual countries but does this play into a wider trend?

People have documented the increasing desire in the nominally communist states for prosperity and individuality with barely suppressed glee over the past few decades as evidence for the Western way being best but do these latest figures show that the grass will always be greener  no matter what side of the wall you’re on?

I’m withholding judgement on the merits or otherwise of free market capitalism (for now) but simply making the point that nothing will ever be perfect. There are always winners and losers and people will always see themselves as the loser because its human nature to have a bit of a chip on your shoulder.

If you don’t give people what they want they grumble (and in North Africa at the moment they rebel), if you do, they demand more or poke holes in what you’ve done. It’s a fun thing; there will never be a right way of doing things, only a few things the uninformed and slightly hysterical masses presume won’t damage them too much.

That’s why government’s normally veer from left to right depending on how dissatisfied the population are. If the recession hadn’t happen, Gordon Brown had been more charismatic and we hadn’t been dragged into two overseas conflicts, Labour probably would have still lost the next election because Cameron’s happy, shiny unrealistic plans looked so much more exciting.

You can promise anything when you’re not in power (ask the Lib Dems) if you make it seem different enough from what the government is doing.

(This post really has no point, it’s just late and it’s been a really long day. It’s mainly just my musings over the past week rather than any really cohesive polemic that’ll happen again when I’ve had more than five hours sleep).