Mervyn King (economist)

Mervyn King (economist)
Professor Sir Mervyn King GBE
Governor of the Bank of England
Assumed office
1 July 2003
Preceded by The Lord George
Member of the Monetary Policy Committee
Assumed office
June 1997
Governor The Lord George (1997-2003), Sir Mervyn King (2003 - present)
Personal details
Born 30 March 1948 (1948-03-30) (age 63), Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire
Spouse(s) Barbara Melander
Alma mater King's College and St John's College, Cambridge; Harvard University
Profession Academic and economist

Sir Mervyn Allister King, GBE, FBA (born 30 March 1948) is Governor of the Bank of England and Chairman of the Monetary Policy Committee. He was previously Deputy Governor from 1998 to 2003, Chief Economist and Executive Director from 1991, and a non-executive director of the Bank from 1990 to 1991.[1]

Sir Mervyn is a Fellow of the British Academy, an Honorary Fellow of King's and St John's Colleges, Cambridge and holds Honorary Degrees from Cambridge, Birmingham, City of London, Edinburgh, London Guildhall, London School of Economics, Wolverhampton, Worcester and Helsinki Universities. He is a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, sits on the Advisory Council of the London Symphony Orchestra, is a Patron of Worcestershire County Cricket Club and a Trustee of the National Gallery[1].


Early life and pre-Bank career

Mervyn King is the son of Eric and Kathleen (née Passingham).[2] He was born in Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire and studied at Wolverhampton Grammar School, King's College, Cambridge (gaining a first-class degree in Economics in 1969; MA), St John's College, Cambridge, and Harvard (as a Kennedy Scholar). Whilst at Cambridge, Sir Mervyn was Treasurer of the Cambridge University Liberal Club in 1968.[1][3]

After graduation he worked as a researcher on the Cambridge Growth Project with future Nobel Laureate Richard Stone and Terry Barker at University of Cambridge. He later taught at the University of Birmingham and was a Visiting Professor at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he shared an office with then Assistant Professor Ben Bernanke. From October 1984 he was Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics where he founded the Financial Markets Group.[1] In 1981, he was one of the 364 economists who signed a famous letter to The Times condemning Geoffrey Howe's 1981 Budget.[4]

Bank of England career

King joined the Bank in March 1991 as Chief Economist and Executive Director, having been a non-executive director from 1990 to 1991. He was appointed Deputy Governor in 1997, taking up his post on 1 June 1998. In the same year, King became a member of the influential Washington-based financial advisory body, the Group of Thirty.

I regard it as a compliment to be called an inflation nutter.[citation needed]

Mervyn King (2007)

An ex-officio member of the Bank's interest-rate setting Monetary Policy Committee since its inception in 1997, Sir Mervyn is the only person to have taken part in every one of its monthly meetings to date. His voting style is often seen as "hawkish", a perspective that emphasises the dangers of inflation rather than focusing on the need for growth. Before becoming Governor, he regularly voted for tighter monetary policy than his colleagues. That pattern has continued in a more muted way as Governor: most notably, he was outvoted opposing the MPC's August 2005 interest rate cut, and in June 2007 was in the minority by voting for higher rates. King's willingness on occasion to take a minority position is unusual among central bank leaders.

It is hard to envisage how boom-bust housing instabilities help the economy's growth path or how rising real prices of housing facilitate British competitiveness in global markets.

—Professor Duncan MacLennan

In 2003, King expressed his agreement with Alan Greenspan's view that, "It is hard to identify asset price 'bubbles'."[5] His agreement with Greenspan—whom King has referred to as a "great man" who had "an extraordinarily successful quarter century" as Fed Chairman[6]—had came despite a bubble in the US housing market being pointed out as early as August 2002,[7] and an IMF warning about a bubble in the UK housing market in February 2003.[8] Other warnings about the UK housing market were to follow, including from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research in 2004[9] and the OECD in 2005.[10] King himself noted the "unusually large" difference between the RPIX and CPI at the beginning of 2004 (the latter does not include house prices as part of its inflation measure, whilst the former does),[11] and, six months later, that UK house prices had risen "to levels which are well above what most people would regard as sustainable in the longer term", their having increased by more than 20% over the preceding year and more than 100% over the preceding five.[12]

No evidence for a recent bubble [in the UK housing market] is found.[13]

—Gavin Cameron, John Muellbauer and Anthony Murphy
of Oxford University getting it wrong in July 2006

In 2005, The Economist described the run-up in UK house prices as forming part of "the biggest bubble in history",[14] and, by October 2007—when the UK housing bubble was at its peak[15]—the IMF was reporting that the UK housing market was "overpriced by up to 40 per cent".[16] As noted by the OECD, house-price volatility "can raise systemic risks as the banking and mortgage sectors are vulnerable to fluctuations in house prices due to their exposure to the housing market."[17]

[M]aintaining monetary stability and maintaining financial stability... are the essence of central banking.[18]

—Mervyn King during a speech in 2004

Sir Mervyn argued that Bank of England policy in the years preceding 2004 had "been similar to that of the Federal Reserve"; Fed policy was described by Greenspan as "mitigat[ing] the fallout [from the bursting of a bubble] when it occurs".[5] The failure by Greenspan and King to tackle the bubbles in their respective countries' housing markets resulted in catastrophic "fallout" when the bubbles burst, resulting in the worst recessions in both countries since the Great Depression.

King had faced accusations[who?] of refusing funding to the Northern Rock Bank, precipitating a run on that bank, a situation not seen in the UK since 1914.[19] King later revealed that it had been the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, not he, who had the final word on refusing the necessary help to Northern Rock.[20]

Martin Wolf wrote in the Financial Times in September 2008 that the monetary authorities of the United States and Britain had turned their populations into 'highly leveraged speculators in a fixed asset'.[21]

—Robert Skidelsky

In his memoirs, Alistair Darling was critical of King for emphasising "moral hazard"—the doctrine of not saving the banks from the consequences of their own mistakes—instead of rescuing the banks by pumping money into them as the banking-system meltdown occurred in autumn 2008.[22] Despite his refusal to give funding to the retail banks, he retained his job, and submitted in defence to a Treasury Select Committee, (The New York Times, The Financial Times Thursday September 20th 2007) that his actions were on the basis that The Bank of England was the 'lender of last resort' but then subsequently supported all moves to provide funding to those banks which had been nationalised at a cost of hundreds of billions of pounds to the UK treasury and British taxpayer. The apparent U-Turn is underlined by his earlier criticisms of The European Central Bank and The US Federal Reserve for their interventionist policies.

There followed an erosion in the value of sterling against major world currencies, such as the Euro and the US dollar, by as much as 30%.

King took an unusual decision on 24 March 2009, by saying any plan for a second fiscal stimulus by the UK Government had to be done with caution.[23] He is also the first incumbent Governor of the Bank of England to be received in audience by Queen Elizabeth II.[24]

In his Mansion House speech on 17 June, 2009, and contrary to his previous position regarding the Bank's remit as regulator, King criticised Chancellor Alistair Darling for resisting significant changes to the allocation of regulatory responsibilities between the FSA, the Treasury and the Bank, which would have given the Bank greater power to fulfil its role of ensuring economic stability.[25][26][27]

I offer my congratulations to the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, for his... successful pursuit of economic stability—not even Gladstone achieved such stability.[28]

—Mervyn King during a speech in 2004

King has consistently supported drastic cuts in public spending, and has been criticised for publicly airing such support.[29][30] In November 2009, he told MPs that the then Labour government's intention of halving the deficit over the next five years was insufficient;[31] in April 2010, just before that year's general election, he predicted that the cuts he viewed as necessary would be so severe, and thus so unpopular, that party which won the election—and which would therefore be responsible for instituting the cuts—would "be out of power for a generation";[32] and in May 2010, just days after the Coalition government was formed,[33] King said he had spoken to Chancellor George Osborne and supported his plans to cut spending by a further £6bn within the 2010–11 fiscal year.[31] The Liberal Democrats did not need to be talked around to agreeing to the severity of the cuts.[34]

The regulators around the world have said, and they still maintain this today, and I think they're right, that for the major banks in the world, they have the ability to cope with this crisis—not without losing money, not without losing bonuses and in the case of some individuals not without losing their jobs—but nevertheless, it isn't a threat to the banking system as a whole.[20]

—Mervyn King, interview in 2007 before the
banking system as a whole demonstrated
its inability to cope less than a year later

In November 2010, it was revealed that some senior staff at the Bank of England were uncomfortable with King's endorsement of the government's public spending cuts, accusing him of overstepping the boundary between monetary and fiscal policy. King's support for the government's cuts are in spite of concerns within the Bank that cutting spending so rapidly could derail the UK's nascent economic-recovery.[31] These revelations led to accusations of King being a "coalition courtier"[35] and of making "excessively political"[36] interventions with regard to UK economic policy.[34]

The accusations were given greater weight after the December 2010 WikiLeaks Cablegate.[37][38] As a result of the WikiLeaks disclosures and David Laws' account of the Tory-Lib-Dem coalition-talks, King was asked by the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee to explain why he was seemingly cited in the talks as backing Tory plans to introduce spending cuts this year.[39] King insisted to the Committee that he had committed no breach of his obligations to remain silent during the actual period of the negotiated formation of the coalition;[40] the Committee implicitly accepted King's explanation of events as he is not criticised, nor even mentioned, in their final report.[41]

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph on March 5th 2011, King said that Banks had "put profits before people", that failure to reform the sector could result in another financial crisis, and that traditional manufacturing industries have a more "moral" way of operating.[42]

In a speech to the European Parliament in Brussels on the 2nd of May 2011, King implicitly admitted that the Bank of England had abandoned its remit on inflation and was more concerned with the broader stability of the economy and banking sector: "The economic consequences of high-level indebtedness now would become more severe if rates were to rise," Mr King said. "It is the main reason why interest rates are so low." [43]

Private life

Sir Mervyn's wife, Barbara Melander, is a Finnish interior designer and comes from the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland.[44] They were married in a private ceremony in a central Helsinki church in 2007.[2]

Sir Mervyn is a fan of Aston Villa F.C., and arranged a game between Bank of England employees and ex-Villa players.[45] He also briefly found himself commentating on an Ashes Test Match for BBC Radio Five Live in 2005, while being interviewed by Simon Mayo. He is the President of the cricket foundation Chance to Shine programme, which fosters competitive cricket in State schools. He is also a member of the AELTC and MCC.

Cambridge University honoured him as an Honorary Doctor of Laws (Hon LLD) in 2006. Sir Mervyn is also a Visiting Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford.[46]

Sir Mervyn is listed as the eleventh most influential person in the Financial Centres International top 500 most influential people in financial centres.[47]

He was appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) in the 2011 Birthday Honours.[48][49], and his banner is to be displayed with those of other GBEs in St Paul's Cathedral.


  1. ^ a b c d Bank of England profile. Retrieved 2 March, 2011.
  2. ^ a b O'Grady, Sean (28 March 2009). "Mervyn King: At the top of his game". The Independent (London). Retrieved 5 April 2010. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b Mervyn King (2004). "Comments on 'Risk and Uncertainty in Monetary Policy' by Alan Greenspan, AEA Annual Conference, 2004". 
  6. ^ Mervyn King (27 August, 2005). "Remarks to the Central Bank Governors' Panel at the Jackson Hole Conference 2005". 
  7. ^ Baker, Dean (2002). "The Run-Up in Home Prices: Is it Real or Is it Another Bubble?" (pdf). CEPR. Retrieved 18 February, 2011. 
  8. ^ IMF (2003). "United Kingdom: Selected Issues" (pdf). IMF Country Report No. 03/47. p. 11. Retrieved February 2011. 
  9. ^ Barrell, Ray; Kirby, Simon; Riley, Rebecca (2004). "The Current Position of UK House Prices". National Institute Economic Review (NIESR) 189 (1): 57–60. doi:10.1177/002795010418900105. 
  10. ^ OECD (2005). "III. Recent House Price Developments: The Role of Fundamentals" (pdf). OECD Economic Outlook 78. Retrieved 19 February, 2011. 
  11. ^ Mervyn King (20 January, 2004). "Speech to the Annual Birmingham Forward/CBI Business Luncheon". Retrieved 8 March, 2011. 
  12. ^ Mervyn King (14 June, 2004). "Speech to the CBI Scotland Dinner at the Glasgow Hilton Hotel". Retrieved 8 March, 2011. 
  13. ^ Cameron, Gavin; Muellbauer, John; Murphy, Anthony (3 July, 2006). "Was There a British House Price Bubble? Evidence from a Regional Panel". Retrieved 14 March, 2011. 
  14. ^ "The global housing boom: In come the waves". The Economist. 16 June, 2005. Retrieved 8 March, 2011. "According to estimates by The Economist, the total value of residential property in developed economies rose by more than $30 trillion over the past five years, to over $70 trillion, an increase equivalent to 100% of those countries' combined GDPs. Not only does this dwarf any previous house-price boom, it is larger than the global stockmarket bubble in the late 1990s (an increase over five years of 80% of GDP) or America's stockmarket bubble in the late 1920s (55% of GDP). In other words, it looks like the biggest bubble in history" 
  15. ^ Reinhart, Carmen M; Rogoff, Kenneth S (2009). This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. p. 160 (see table 10.8). ISBN 978-0-691-14216-6. 
  16. ^ Gary Duncan (18 October, 2007). "UK house market is 'heading for crash'". The Times. Retrieved 18 February, 2011. 
  17. ^ OECD (2011). "Chapter 4. Housing and the Economy: Policies for Renovation". Economic Policy Reforms 2011: Going for Growth. Part II.. Retrieved 8 March, 2011. 
  18. ^ Mervyn King (16 June, 2004). "Speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet for Bankers and Merchants of the City of London at the Mansion House". p. 4. Retrieved 10, March 2011. 
  19. ^ Robert Skidelsky (3 October 2011). "Back from the Brink by Alistair Darling". New Statesman. Retrieved 17 October 2011. "[T]here were runs on the retail banks in 1914" .
  20. ^ a b "Mervyn King interview with the BBC's Robert Peston: full transcript". The Guardian. 6 November, 2007. Retrieved 17 February, 2010. 
  21. ^ Skidelsky, Robert (2010). Keynes: The Return of the Master (Revised and updated ed.). London: Penguin Books. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-141-04360-9.  Wolf's article is here.
  22. ^ Isabel Oakeshott (4 September 2011). "Brown said world's worst financial crisis would last only six months". The Sunday Times. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ Low, Valentine (25 March 2008). "Queen invites Mervyn King, Bank of England Governor, to palace". London: The Times. Retrieved 2009-03-25. 
  25. ^ For King's previous position see Mervyn King (16 June, 2004). "Speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet for Bankers and Merchants of the City of London at the Mansion House". p. 4. Retrieved 10, March 2011. "[T]he Bank of England Act 1998 and the associated Memorandum of Understanding between the Bank, Treasury and FSA on financial stability... [f]reed [the Bank] from the responsibilities of day-to-day regulation, [meaning] the Bank has been able to focus on two principal objectives: maintaining monetary stability and maintaining financial stability. Those objectives are the essence of central banking." 
  26. ^ "King and Darling clash on banks". BBC News. 18 June, 2009. Retrieved 14 February, 2011. "[T]he governor had, at one point, been opposed to the idea of the Bank becoming a super-regulator." 
  27. ^ "Governor seeks more bank powers". BBC News. 18 June 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2010. 
  28. ^ Mervyn King (16 June, 2004). "Speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet for Bankers and Merchants of the City of London at the Mansion House". Retrieved 10, March 2011. 
  29. ^ Landon Thomas Jr; Julia Werdigier (6 February, 2011). "A Crisis of Faith in Britain's Central Banker". IHT. Retrieved 20 February, 2011. 
  30. ^ George Parker; Jim Pickard; Norma Cohen (17 February, 2011). "Balls warns King on Bank credibility". The Financial Times. Retrieved 20 February, 2011. 
  31. ^ a b c Norma Cohen; Chris Giles; Daniel Pimlott (9 November, 2010). "Concern that King 'blurs line' on policy". The Financial Times. Retrieved 13 February, 2011. 
  32. ^ Larry Elliott (29 April, 2010). "Mervyn King warned that election victor will be out of power for a generation, claims economist". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 February, 2011. 
  33. ^ Chris Giles (13 May, 2010). "King backs plans to cut deficit". The Financial Times. Retrieved 14 February, 2011. 
  34. ^ a b Alex Barker (25 November, 2010). "Mervyn King's "excessively political" interventions". Westminster Blog. The Financial Times. Retrieved 8 December, 2010. 
  35. ^ Editorial (10 November, 2010). "King cannot be the coalition's courtier". The Financial Times. Retrieved 8 December, 2010. 
  36. ^ Norma Cohen; Daniel Pimlott; Chris Giles; George Parker (25 November, 2010). "Bank of England divisions are laid bare". The Financial Times. Retrieved 14 February, 2011. 
  37. ^ Patrick Wintour (30 November, 2010). "WikiLeaks cables: Mervyn King had doubts over Cameron and Osborne". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 December, 2010. 
  38. ^ Polly Toynbee (1 December, 2010). "WikiLeaks: Mervyn King is consistently wrong: now his hawkish dogma has been exposed". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 December, 2010. 
  39. ^ Patrick Wintour (7 December, 2010). "Mervyn King asked to face Commons committee over role in coalition talks". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 December, 2010. 
  40. ^ Political and Consitutional Reform Committee (20 January, 2011). "Written evidence submitted by Mervyn King, Governor, of the Bank of England.". Fourth Report: Lessons from the process of Government formation after the 2010 General Election. Retrieved 13 February, 2011. 
  41. ^ Political and Consitutional Reform Committee (20 January, 2011). Fourth Report: Lessons from the process of Government formation after the 2010 General Election. Retrieved 13 February, 2011. 
  42. ^ Charles Moore (5 March 2011). "We prevented a Great Depression... but people have the right to be angry". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 
  43. ^ Amanda Andrews (3 May 2011). "Bank of England Governor Mervyn King warns on interest rate rise". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 May 2011. 
  44. ^ "The blonde Finn who melted the heart of Bank of England boss". Daily Mail (London). 22 July 2007. 
  45. ^ "Friday's gossip column". BBC News. 14 July 2006. Retrieved 5 April 2010. 
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 59808. p. 7. 11 June 2011.
  49. ^ "Queen's birthday honours list: Knights". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 June 2011. 

External links

Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Edward George
Governor of the Bank of England

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