tue 04/08/2020

Inside the Bank of England, BBC Two review - economical with the actualité | reviews, news & interviews

Inside the Bank of England, BBC Two review - economical with the actualité

Inside the Bank of England, BBC Two review - economical with the actualité

The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street keeps her secrets closely guarded

A cross section of Bank of England employees (but not Governor Mark Carney)

The BBC is pleased with itself for having insinuated a documentary team inside the Bank of England, but was this august custodian of the nation’s finances really going to let slip any juicy revelations? The Bank’s role is too powerful and too political for its employees to be anything other than extremely tight-lipped. In fact a major theme of this film (the first of two parts) was the lengths the Bank goes to to protect its secrets, with a strict “purdah” regime in place to prevent leaks and electronic sweeps for listening devices a routine occurrence. It was safe to assume that director Rob McCabe and his crew only saw what the Bank’s inscrutable and slightly sinister Governor Mark Carney wanted them to.

The film’s main focus was the run-up to an interest rate decision in May 2018, and if news of this were to escape prematurely it could provoke anarchy on the financial markets. However, although Lesley Sharp delivered the commentary in an extremely serious voice against a background of ominous music, it was difficult to get too excited by assorted experts mulling over whether interest rates should rise or fall. Or, in this case, stay put at (spoiler alert) 0.5%.

Of course the various top-level analysts take themselves very seriously indeed, and Ian McCafferty, a veteran economic adviser who sits on the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee, insisted sternly that his decisions were independent and would not be influenced by the Governor or anyone else. He showed the unseen interviewer his favourite cartoon, which concerned two men on a desert island discussing the money supply. Comedy catnip to economists apparently, though what was really hilarious was the way you could tell from McCafferty’s face that it was going down like a blazing zeppelin with the people behind the camera.

Despite McCafferty’s deliberations, worries about Brexit chaos or Costs and Prices expert Becky Maule’s concerns about a sudden rise in energy charges, it did seem as if – as they say in Hollywood – nobody knows anything. As monetary analyst James Bell put it, “there’s no crystal ball – not one that works.” The Bank’s armies of experts and analysts try to agree on what’s most likely to happen to the economy, but then some freak event like the notorious “Beast from the East” Arctic storm blows in and spoils everything.

The boring bean-counter stuff was lightened by Chief Cashier Victoria Cleland (pictured above) showing us the Bank’s collection of £100m notes or peeking inside the gold vaults, or the staff in the antique backrooms explaining the quaint Downton-style dining etiquette – “serve from the left, clear from the left, never carry more than two plates at one time” – though at such moments the film seemed to yearn to become a “constructed reality” potboiler rather than a chunk of heavyweight reportage.

It did emerge that the Bank doesn’t have much time for financial journalists (the press is “just a conduit to the public”, sniffed one of Carney’s apparatchiks). We saw the hacks being locked in the basement, insulated from phones or internet, while they read the interest rate report, after which they had precisely 30 minutes to write their stories. Even Mr Putin might be able to learn something from the Bank’s draconian news management.

Even Mr Putin might be able to learn something from the Bank’s draconian news management


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters