It is easy to like the current Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney. The urbane Canadian was a voice of Transatlantic calm when he was appointed in 2013, after the storm of the credit crunch.
It is even easier to like the man if you are a unionist. After all, it was Carney who delivered the death knell to Alex Salmond’s back-of-a-fag-packet calculations on Scotland’s currency post-independence.
The then-First Minister’s plan – when he could think of no other – to use sterling in the event of a Yes vote was never very credible.
But Carney destroyed Salmond’s scheme when, in the final days of the referendum campaign, he pointed out that it would be “incompatible with sovereignty” for a separate Scotland to keep the pound.
Scotland would be like Panama, we were warned, and that was enough to scare off any half-hearted secessionists.
Thank you, Mr Carney.
Two years on, the Governor warned about the consequences of leaving Europe but this time the public – or just over half of it – took no notice and voted to quit the EU anyway.
As a result, the pound is now the world’s worst performing currency, having fallen 6.2% so far this month, and is on track for its sixth month of consecutive losses against the dollar.
It is Carney who must try to sort out the mess and who can blame him if he has looked to his future and decided not to take up the option to stay in Britain for another six years, as his contract would allow.
He announced on Monday night that he would go in June 2019, following days of speculation that he had had enough of us all.
What a shame that we will lose him earlier than we needed to, when the UK will still be thrashing out the details of its EU departure.
However, it is unlikely that the Brexit vote in itself influenced his timing; more probably it was the sniping of the hard Brexiteers, calling into question his neutrality as well as his competence. One even said he should be silenced.
Carney was accused of being too gloomy before the Brexit vote, but with the benefit of hindsight his gloom was justified.
Now he is being hounded out of office by Leavers, with some saying he is using “Project Fear” tactics to try to reverse the referendum decision.
Project Fear, Scots will remember, was the label given to the No camp whenever it warned of the pitfalls of independence – such as basing an entire economy on the price of oil.
Someone has to talk financial sense into politicians and it may as well be the Governor of the Bank of England, which is an institution independent of government, whatever Carney’s detractors are saying.
Chief among his critics is the Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who called the Governor a “sore loser” and suggested he was not up to the job. Rees-Mogg’s name has been mentioned as a possible successor to the Canadian, a prospect almost as alarming as the nationalists running Scotland’s economy without the security net of the UK.
In fact, the idea of any politician, let alone one of the least moderate of the present bunch, presiding over the BOE should send chills running down spines.
Brexit apologists like Rees-Mogg have made much noise since the referendum in June about how well Britain is doing. Perhaps shocked by what they have unleashed, they are now claiming the pound needed to be devalued.
Did it? I don’t recall them saying that before the country went to the polls.
Those who challenge such nonsense are shouted down as pessimists. If this trading of blows was confined to the political arena it would be entertaining – if you like that sort of thing – but the concerted effort on the Right to cast doubt over Carney’s impartiality is affecting the market.
Undermining the bank chief might be a ploy by Leavers to detract attention from the chaos they have caused but it is clearly not in the country’s interests.
Carney has appeared a cool customer throughout the recent turmoil and only now, thanks to the discourteous Rees-Mogg et al, has he seemed a little rattled.
Described as “the only adult in the room” by one business commentator, the Governor has become a target for those he has constantly upstaged.
His foes have in a way got what they wanted, with Carney’s leaving date now confirmed.
But Britain is poorer.
Just as Scotland needed his reasoned interjection to avert disaster in 2014, so the whole country needs him in the post-Brexit shambles.
For the rest of his tenure in London, we should let him get on with his task and treat him as he has treated us – with due respect.