Greg Clark is Financial Secretary to the Treasury and MP for Tunbridge Wells. Most Tuesdays he will be writing this new 'Letter from a Treasury Minister' for ConservativeHome readers. He starts with this celebration of the recruitment of Mark Carney as Governor of the Bank of England. Follow Greg on Twitter.
The ‘Great Man’ theory of history is the idea that
world-changing events are shaped by exceptionally heroic (or villainous)
individuals. It was very popular
in the Victorian era, but came under challenge from the opposing view that
history is shaped by impersonal forces, especially those of technological and
But whatever the academics might think, the more that I see
of the process of decision-making, whether in Whitehall, the City or elsewhere,
the more that I’m convinced that which people we have in which positions can
have an important influence.
As with so much else, when it comes to decision-making,
people really do matter.
That’s why it’s important that for a position as important
as Governor of the Bank of England, the very best person for the job is found.
Right now, and even with the depth of talent within this country and within the
Bank of England, that person is Mark Carney. To get “the best for Britain”, to
use George Osborne’s phrase, we got the best in the world.
Looking at the reaction to the appointment, which has been
enthusiastic, I was struck by those who asked whether any overseas country
would have chosen a British citizen for so important a role. Well, I can’t
answer that directly, but I can say that I’m proud that this country is big
enough to welcome the very best that the world has to offer. I believe that
this open-mindedness has made us great as a nation and as an economic force and
can make us greater still.
At a time of global crisis, the Canadian economy has successfully
weathered the storm, despite the influence of the more turbulent US economy
next door. Mark Carney experienced and contributed to this success as Governor
of the Bank of Canada.
For a man of such international high standing to now take
the helm at the Bank of England can only enhance confidence in the British
economy. When no nation, no matter how powerful, can take its economic
credibility for granted, Mark Carney’s appointment adds further strength to
Long-term reform of the financial system depends, above all,
on the vision of the elected government of the day. Past experience reminds us
what happens when such vision fails. However, government alone is not enough.
The institutions of the financial sector must also play their part – and there
is no more important an institution than the Bank of England.
That is why we have restored the Bank to a position of
unambiguous oversight and leadership – to be exercised not just through a
reformed system of formal regulation, but also through the institutional
culture of the financial sector.
In doing so, I believe we have created the best possible
framework for this leadership role and in appointing Mark Carney we have chosen
the best possible candidate to lead the Bank of England.