Want to be the next governor of the Bank of England?

The official advert for the post is released.

As well as the usual rhetorical barbs between Messrs Balls and Osborne, today's Treasury questions featured two significant announcements from the Chancellor. Firstly, that the autumn statement will take place on the unexpectedly late date of 5 December (presumably so Osborne has enough time to prepare his excuses), and secondly, that the process of finding a replacement for Mervyn King as governor of the Bank of England will begin this week. Osborne told MPs that "For the first time in history, the post will be advertised and the advertisement will appear in the press later this week".

This week's edition of the Economist will feature the advert, and a panel chaired by Nicholas Macpherson, the Treasury permanent secretary, will interview shortlisted candidates before recommending a name, or names, to Osborne,

So, for Staggers readers with a keen interest in monetary policy, here's said advert. And before you apply, be sure to read David Blanchflower's verdict on King's time at the helm. "A tyrant looks to his own advantage rather than that of his subjects and uses extreme and cruel tactics," the NS economics editor and former MPC member wrote, "which pretty much sums up how I feel Mervyn King has run the Bank of England in his role as governor since 2003." If you think you can do better than Mervyn, you have until 8:30 am on 8 October 2012 to get your application in.

The position of Governor of the Bank of England will fall vacant when Sir Mervyn King retires in June 2013. The Governor leads the Bank of England, and plays an important role in setting monetary and regulatory policy, chairing the Monetary Policy Committee, the Financial Policy Committee and (from next year) the board of the Prudential Regulation Authority. The Governor represents the Bank in important international fora, such as the G7, G20, the European Systemic Risk Board and the Bank of International Settlements in Basel. The Governor is an executive member of the Bank’s Court of Directors.

The Governor will work closely with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and H M Treasury, which is responsible for setting the framework under which the Bank operates.

The new Governor will lead the Bank through major reforms to the regulatory system, including the transfer of new responsibilities that will see the Bank take the lead in safeguarding the stability of the UK financial system.

The successful candidate must demonstrate that they can successfully lead, influence and manage the change in the Bank’s responsibilities, inspiring confidence and credibility both within the Bank and throughout financial markets.

The successful candidate will have experience of working in, or with, a central bank or similar institution; or will have worked at the most senior level in a major bank or other financial institution. He or she will demonstrate strong leadership, management and policy skills; will have an advanced understanding of financial markets and good economic knowledge. He or she will be a strong communicator, have good interpersonal skills and will be a person of undisputed integrity and standing.

 The closing date for all applications is 8:30 am on 8 October 2012.

The Bank of England building on Threadneedle Street in London. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
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I'm far from convinced by Cameron's plans for Syria

The Prime Minister has a plan for when the bombs drop. But what about after?

In the House of Commons today, the Prime Minister set out a powerful case for Britain to join air strikes against Isil in Syria.  Isil, he argued, poses a direct threat to Britain and its people, and Britain should not be in the business of “outsourcing our security to our allies”. And while he conceded that further airstrikes alone would not be sufficient to beat Isil, he made the case for an “Isil first” strategy – attacking Isil now, while continuing to do what we can diplomatically to help secure a lasting settlement for Syria in which Assad (eventually) plays no part.

I agreed with much of David Cameron’s analysis. And no-one should doubt either the murderous barbarism of Isil in the region, or the barbarism they foment and inspire in others across the world.  But at the end of his lengthy Q&A session with MPs, I remained unconvinced that UK involvement in airstrikes in Syria was the right option. Because the case for action has to be a case for action that has a chance of succeeding.  And David Cameron’s case contained neither a plan for winning the war, nor a plan for winning the peace.

The Prime Minister, along with military experts and analysts across the world, concedes that air strikes alone will not defeat Isil, and that (as in Iraq) ground forces are essential if we want to rid Syria of Isil. But what is the plan to assemble these ground forces so necessary for a successful mission?  David Cameron’s answer today was more a hope than a plan. He referred to “70,000 Syrian opposition fighters - principally the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – with whom we can co-ordinate attacks on Isil”.

But it is an illusion to think that these fighters can provide the ground forces needed to complement aerial bombardment of Isil.  Many commentators have begun to doubt whether the FSA continues to exist as a coherent operational entity over the past few months. Coralling the myriad rebel groups into a disciplined force capable of fighting and occupying Isil territory is a heroic ambition, not a plan. And previous efforts to mobilize the rebels against Isil have been utter failures. Last month the Americans abandoned a $500m programme to train and turn 5,400 rebel fighters into a disciplined force to fight Isil. They succeeded in training just 60 fighters. And there have been incidents of American-trained fighters giving some of their US-provided equipment to the Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda.

Why has it proven so hard to co-opt rebel forces in the fight against Isil? Because most of the various rebel groups are fighting a war against Assad, not against Isil.  Syria’s civil war is gruesome and complex, but it is fundamentally a Civil War between Assad’s forces and a variety of opponents of Assad’s regime. It would be a mistake for Britain to base a case for military action against Isil on the hope that thousands of disparate rebel forces can be persuaded to change their enemy – especially when the evidence so far is that they won’t.

This is a plan for military action that, at present, looks highly unlikely to succeed.  But what of the plan for peace? David Cameron today argued for the separation of the immediate task at hand - to strike against Isil in Syria – from the longer-term ambition of achieving a settlement in Syria and removing Assad.  But for Isil to be beaten, the two cannot be separated. Because it is only by making progress in developing a credible and internationally-backed plan for a post-Assad Syria that we will persuade Syrian Sunnis that fighting Isil will not end up helping Assad win the Civil War.  If we want not only to rely on rebel Sunnis to provide ground troops against Isil, but also provide stable governance in Isil-occupied areas when the bombing stops, progress on a settlement to Syria’s Civil War is more not less urgent.  Without it, the reluctance of Syrian Sunnis to think that our fight is their fight will undermine the chances of military efforts to beat Isil and bring basic order to the regions they control. 

This points us towards doubling down on the progress that has already been made in Vienna: working with the USA, France, Syria’s neighbours and the Gulf states, as well as Russia and Iran. We need not just a combined approach to ending the conflict, but the prospect of a post-war Syria that offers a place for those whose cooperation we seek to defeat Isil. No doubt this will strike some as insufficient in the face of the horrors perpetrated by Isil. But I fear that if we want not just to take action against Isil but to defeat them and prevent their return, it offers a better chance of succeeding than David Cameron’s proposal today. 

Stewart Wood is a former Shadow Cabinet minister and adviser to Ed Miliband. He tweets as @StewartWood.