Canada’s Genghis Khan, newspaper regulation and Ukip’s “bastard” vote

Has George Osborne appointed a closet lefty to run the Bank of England? According to the Mailand Telegraph, Mark Carney’s British wife, Diana, has expressed support for the Occupy movement, described inequality as “the defining issue of our time” and called global financial institutions “rotten or inadequate”.

In reality, in the article from which these charges are derived, she is a bit sniffy about Occupy and its highlighting of the 1 per cent (“The grass is always greener on the other side”); quotes Barack Obama on inequality as a defining issue and says that, to her, climate change is bigger; and merely states that she “perceives a fear” about the global financial system. So not terribly left-wing – New Labour-ish at most, I’d say. Besides, she met her husband on the hockey field. They probably talk sports at breakfast, not politics.

As for Carney himself, he’s looking forward to “ensuring that the rebalancing of the UK economy . . . is seen through over the next five years”. In other words (unless he means “seen through” in another sense), he’s right behind public-sector cuts. On another occasion, he stated: “Globalised product, capital and labour markets lie at the heart of the new world order to which we should aspire.” Which suggests he not only wants money to continue sloshing around the world – leaving large deposits in bankers’ pockets – but would like it to slosh a bit more.

It’s true that, as Chrystia Freeland vividly describes in her book Plutocrats, Carney once clashed publicly with Jamie Dimon, head of JPMorgan Chase, putting him in what Freeland calls a “radical” position. Yet only in the sense, I think, that Genghis Khan may have been more radical than Vlad the Impaler.

Small wonder

Carney’s appointment presumably puts him into any list of top ten well-known Canadians, probably alongside Lord Beaverbrook, Roy Thomson, Conrad Black, Margaret Atwood, J K Galbraith, Marshall McLuhan, Michael Ignatieff, Céline Dion and Leonard Cohen. That doesn’t seem a bad list for a country that had a population of less than ten million in the 1920s (34 million now) but, in the leagues of dullest countries, Canada is usually up there with Belgium. I once discovered a “free school” in Toronto, long before Michael Gove had thought of such things. It held classes in museums, parks and other public spaces and its pupils spent many hours on the subway. I filed the story to my then editor. “What a very interesting story,” he gasped. “In Canada of all places!”

Pineapple express

A competitive market, we are told, is our best guarantee of a press that is both free and responsible. If we don’t like a newspaper’s behaviour or opinions, we can buy another. Suppose, then, that you’d like to read a newspaper that favours either independent regulation with statutory underpinning or direct statutory regulation (which are different things, though you wouldn’t believe it from most of what you read). Sorry: though polls show that the overwhelming majority of Britons don’t trust the press to regulate itself, all national newspapers oppose any form of statutory involvement. As greengrocers used to say when asked for a pineapple or something similarly exotic, “No demand for it, guv.”

Ukip if you want to

Is the removal of three children from Ukipsupporting foster parents by the Labour-controlled Rotherham Council part of a clever plot?

Labour must be tempted to do everything it can to strengthen the party, albeit in a very discreet, roundabout way. Ukip routinely takes votes from natural Tory supporters who don’t consider David Cameron right-wing or anti- Europe enough but, in 2015, it will also get the “bastard” vote, which is the term I use for those who want to protest against “all those bastards” in power. That vote usually goes to the Lib Dems but, to many voters, they are now the biggest bastards of all.

The bastard vote is particularly large when a government seems unable to control events but the failings of its predecessor are still fresh in the public mind: the Liberals (as they then were) got the biggest leap in their vote (from 7.5 to 19.3 per cent) in February 1974, when Edward Heath called an election during miners’ industrial action less than four years after ousting Labour from office.

Labour has long suffered from splits on the left. A split on the right is rare – you’d have to go back to 1918 for a precedent – and, I should think, very welcome to Ed Miliband.

No fair cop

I rarely meet police officers socially but, when I do, I am usually alarmed. It was no surprise when one told me the other night that she favoured capital punishment. However, when I put counterarguments that I thought would appeal to her – juries would be more reluctant to convict, for example – she interrupted: “I don’t just mean for murder.” Gulp. Who else would she hang? “Shoplifters.”

As I understood her, she would extend mercy to first- and even second-time offenders. So I don’t think she was joking.

Peter Wilby was editor of the Independent on Sunday from 1995 to 1996 and of the New Statesman from 1998 to 2005. He writes the weekly First Thoughts column for the NS.

This article first appeared in the 03 December 2012 issue of the New Statesman, The family in peril