When Gordon Brown announced the independence of the Bank of England in 1997, in the wake of the biggest Conservative electoral rout since 1832, Tory opinion was divided (insofar as there was any left).

Some traumatised Conservatives believed that anything from New Labour must be shunned, since Tony Blair was Demon Eyes, and everything his new government did must be dementedly opposed.

Others believed it must be copied, since Blair was The Master – their take on him even if the term had not yet been formed – and everything that New Labour did should be slavishly copied.

The best part of a quarter of a century on, it’s possible to believe that both were mistaken.  For as none could have known until seeing the leglisation setting out the change, the Bank isn’t really independent at all.

So at least say voices on both the Left and Right, including Richard Murphy (from the former) and our columnist John Redwood (from the latter).

The core of their case is that the Bank is owned by the Government, and that an institution owned by others cannot be truly independent; and that the Government has a right of veto on what it does, which proves the point.

And that in particular, this ownership and control applies to the main policy associated with the Bank since the financial crash that ended Labour and Brown’s own dominance: quantitative easing.

Some monetarists and others believe that QE, rather in the manner of that first group of Conservatives in 1997, is itself the work of the devil – a driver of the evil from which Margaret Thatcher helped to deliver us: inflation.

My own rough take is that QE is like a drug.  You may need one to help recover from an illness.  But you will later need more to get the same effect, which can cause of sickness in itself.

This take suggests QE was an important means of recovering from the crash, but its continued application after the economy was back on its feet ensured that its side effect, asset inflation, leaked into wider inflation.

To this view the Lords’ Economic Affairs committee (of which a former governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, is a member) recently added an important twist.

It pointed out that QE “hastens the increase in the cost of government debt because interest on government bonds purchased under quantitative easing is paid at Bank Rate”.

And that this “could be much higher than it is now (0.1 per cent) if the Bank of England had to increase Bank Rate to control inflation”.

“As a result, we are concerned that if inflation continues to rise, the Bank may come under political pressure not to take the necessary action to maintain price stability”.

In other words, the Government now has a vested interest in keeping interest rates lower and inflation higher than both should be – and thus so too does the Bank.

To which Benjamin Barnard of Policy Exchange has added a compelling footnote.  He has drawn attention to a Deed of Indemnity” agreed between the Treasury and the Bank in 2009.

It supplies part of the legal basis of the QE programme (worth around £875 billion, or 40 per cent of GDP, he pointed out in January.

“The Deed sets out the terms of operations of the UK’s Asset Purchase Facility and commits the taxpayer to paying any financial losses suffered by the Bank of England that might result from its QE programme,” he wrote.

“Despite the fact that this document commits the UK’s taxpayers to a potentially unquantifiable liability, the Deed of Indemnity is not a public document.  This secrecy is remarkable.”

I now return to the image of the Bank’s QE use as a form of dependency – one original neither to me nor indeed to another deployer of it: the Lords committee.  Its report provoked a furious response from the Bank.

Andrew Bailey, the Bank’s Governor, replied that “every borrower, not just the Government, benefits from low interest rates” (which opens up the age-old argument about the balance of policy between borrowers and savers).

One policy response to this to-and-fro might be to deliver the substance rather than the appearance of what Brown announced – and make the Bank truly independent of government.

This would protect us from the tendency of politicians to debase the currency, it would be said.  But a question follows that is sometimes asked of the judiciary, the new class of independent regulators, and the civil service.

Namely, how to hold these accountable if they take decisions that are in essence political.  This is an important aspect of debate about rule of law, which David Gauke raised on Monday and to which Daniel Hannan replies today.

Furthermore, the Government meets its spending requirements by printing, taxing or borrowing.  So if a different body controls one of the trio it will help to determine what Parliament does with the other two.

That a body not accountable to voters helps to shape how much tax you pay is already part of our system: true independence for the Bank would entrench this status quo.

But if real independence for the Bank would be fraught with perils, so would be less room for manoeuvre than it has currently.

The irony is that the arrangement that pertained before Brown’s change under Ken Clarke (known popularly as the Ken and Eddie show) was working well.

The Chancellor would change interest rates; the Governor might disagree with his decision, and could say so in a published note.

Whether this was a better system, or only worked so well because of the personalities involved, or did so also because the times were relatively benign, who can say?

But at any rate, any move to return interest rate decisions to politicians would surely spook the markets, especially under current conditions of tax, spend and the threat of stagflation.

Our columnist Gerard Lyons has argued that the Bank needs more diversity of thought.  Like others, including Sajid Javid during his period as backbencher, he has called for a change in its mandate.

Both believe that nominal GDP targeting should replace inflation targeting.  My concern would be not so much the change itself as the possibility of the mandate then changing rapidly again, thus damaging the Bank’s credibility.

At any rate, the return of inflation should bring with it the return of debate about monetary policy.  During the 1970s and 1980s, it was all the rage.

Should the Government target broad money?  Narrow money?  Does targeting a measure change how it behaves, as observing particles does in laboratory experiments?

The obscurity of the answers helped to persuade Nigel Lawson that inflation would be better controlled by targeting the exchange rate.

Which in turn prepared the way for Britain’s ERM entry and then, after the ERM failed, for the regime of inflation targeting that worked durably until recent years.

Rishi Sunak won’t want to make even more enemies than those who currently stalk him.  But if the Brown settlement isn’t working, then it’s time to revisit it.