Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

The rule is whatever you say, say nothing

They seek him here, they seek him there, but Bank of England Governor Mervyn Allister King proved just a little elusive as far as the media was concerned.

First word that the chairman of the Bank’s powerful Monetary Policy Committee was set to be in town came on the NI Chamber of Commerce website.

Time, date and blurb all loomed large but also a health warning that the event at the Culloden Hotel would be held “in camera”.

Which meant, as it turned out, precisely the opposite. Cameras were excluded and reporters only admitted provided they agreed to follow “Chatham House rules”.

In other words, whatever you say, say nothing. And the great and the good were appropriately restrained as they emerged, replete with Ulster fries.

All comments to waiting journalists were suitably general, and no hard news emerged as to the fate of sterling or the next move on interest rates.

Unusually for a visiting member of the MPC, there were no Press briefings, no one-to-one interviews and little advance information about the itinerary.

A sign of the times no doubt, but a little disappointing, given that the economy is top of everyone’s agenda these days — even the Stormont Executive.

There was a bit of gladhanding, however, when King paid whistlestop visits to three local companies.

He chatted to bosses at Thales Air Defence in Belfast, Munster Simms Engineering in Bangor and John Hogg Group in Holywood.

A beaming King even posed for photographs with the company hierarchy at each of the businesses he visited.

Talking Shop hopes that the business people did not hold back when telling King how difficult life is for industry at present.

And no doubt their views will be factored in when the MPC meets next on May 20 to review the interest rate.

The only pity is that King does not have a blog, or even a Facebook site, or else we could find out what he really thought of his visit to Northern Ireland.

But perhaps he’ll be back before too long. And next time he might get more time to indulge his passions for cricket, music and the arts. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll have an opportunity to hold a Press conference. We can but hope.

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