Mervyn King giving up on the inflation target? Not quite

Governor of Bank of England Sir Mervyn King during a visit to Soho House, Birmingham. Photo: David Jones/PA Wire

In a stuffy lecture hall right now the Governor of the Bank of England is trying to answer a question that many have asked of him.

Should the Bank have ignored the inflation target of 2 per cent to stop the credit bubble blowing up so much it burst?

Keeping inflation down is the Bank's main job, so to suggest abandoning the target or criticising it would be controversial indeed.

If you were hoping the Governor would do so, and confess it was hopelessly the wrong approach, you'll be disappointed. He does not go anything like as far.

But he does concede there might be occasions were the Bank should 'aim off' the target for the sake of the wider economy.

Yet Sir Mervyn King maintains pre the 'Great Recession', ignoring the target would have meant higher unemployment and slower growth in the run up to 2007. It might have taken some of the heat out of the economy before the crash, but would have been a 'massive gamble'.

What King is doing is admitting the system to safeguard the economy was not comprehensive enough, suggesting that a sole focus on inflation is insufficient. Given his position and influence that is a significant step. But ditching the inflation target altogether? He warns, proceed at potential peril.

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