Howard Davies: Everyone is mystified by Mark Carney

The MT Diary: Howard Davies on the decision to appoint a foreigner to run the Bank of England - and why you won't find a City bar in Paris.

by Howard Davies
Last Updated: 18 Mar 2013

Both the French and the Americans are mystified by our lack of concern at the appointment of a foreigner to run the Bank of England.

No serious country should think of doing so, a senior US official in Davos told anyone who would listen. Can you imagine such a thing at the Bank of France, or the Federal Reserve? To ask the question is to answer it. The Canadians are carrying out a global search for a replacement to Mark Carney, but the starter for 10 for all applicants is 'are you a Canadian citizen?'.

Get the answer to that one right and you may stand a chance. So none of our own disappointed bidders for the Old Lady's skirts will find a consolation prize in Ottawa, with its cute little parliament, frozen canals and cheap, large family houses.

It is interesting to reflect on why we don't care, as I think we genuinely don't. Is it a sign of a lack of self-confidence? In other words, do we privately think we have made such a Horlicks of running and regulating our financial system in the past few years that anyone involved in any way is regarded as prima facie incompetent? So we need someone from outside to put us out of our misery.

Or does it, by contrast, reflect self-confidence and maturity? We are so sure of London's position at the heart of the financial world, so sure that we own the best stadium in which to play financial games, that we are happy to allow outsiders to join in on any terms, as owners, players or even as the ref, with our own putative governors left to carry out supporting roles like holding up the sign saying there are four minutes of added time.

Since it's a done deal - Osborne got his man - we might as well settle on Option B above. If a thing is inevitable, it is wise to welcome it.

And at least he's not French, or Australian. That might have swung opinion round to Option A.

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In the Dark Ages, when Manchester City fans were struggling to find Port Vale's ground on a dog-eared road atlas of the West Midlands and United fans were planning their next trip to Madrid or Milan, we Blues were contemptuous of their diaspora of supporters in Hong Kong, Singapore and other points east and west.

I once called my eldest son to gloat about a United loss, noting that their fans must be quite depressed. 'They don't know yet, Dad,' he said sharply, 'it's still only 5am in China.'

So I have mixed feelings about the growth of City's own network of remote supporters' clubs. But I reassure myself with the thought that ours are full of Mancunian exiles, sadly obliged to seek employment elsewhere, and not of rootless, alien 'glory supporters', who could no more navigate their way around the Greater Manchester motorway box than fly to the moon.

With this consoling notion in mind, I sought out the New York branch in Manhattan the other day, when I found myself with a Saturday to fill, after an unsocial Friday business dinner, and the City game was on the box. (NB. There are no free slots available at Heathrow for flights to lunar destinations - try Southend.)

The Mad Hatter is in one of those anonymous parts of town, which may have some kind of identity to the locals but seem undifferentiated to the casual visitor: Third Avenue and 26th Street, to be precise. (In fact, it is not very far from Gramercy Park, but lacks the cachet of that fashionable address.)

Once you get in the vicinity you can't easily miss it. The front is painted black and red, the colours of City's away strip. Inside it is a blue shrine, complete with photographs of Colin Bell and Malcolm Allison, and several signed shirts in smart frames. They also do an English breakfast whose cholesterol count would not shame a greasy spoon in Ashton or Ardwick.

There is something immensely reassuring about meeting a group of people who are not remotely interested in what you are doing in New York, or how you happened to have fetched up in their local, but who are immensely keen to know your views on Edin Dzeko's ball control, and whether he should be in the starting lineup ahead of Carlos Tevez.

Luckily, my views on those important issues were acceptably well informed and broadly in line with the branch consensus, so I qualified for unlimited free coffee and was allowed to buy a shirt with the club's lamented old crest and 'MCFC-NYC' on the front.

The Mad Hatter is now right up there on my personal list of the planet's most magical places, alongside Angkor Wat, Victoria Falls, Venice and north Manchester's world-famous Heaton Park.

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I haven't yet found a City bar in Paris. David Beckham will soon discover that most Parisians don't care much about football, or about Paris St-Germain.

The French are less accepting of overseas investment at the best of times and the papers are full of articles about the Qataris buying up France's remaining industrial and cultural heritage. Sheikh Rattle 'n' Roll is not as much appreciated on the Grands Boulevards as he is in East Manchester. But Posh is skinny enough to be welcome to play with a petit pois in fancy restaurants the length and breadth of the 16th arrondissement.

France's Mali adventure has cheered the voters up no end. Even the lugubrious M Hollande has been seen with a knowing smile on his face as the polls reflect the Foreign Legion's rapid and glorious progress to Timbuktu and beyond. Whatever the French for 'pick on someone your own size' may be, it hasn't been shouted much in Paris recently.


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