New faces and new policies at the Bank of England

Richard Edgar

Former Economics Editor

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, in front of the Jane Austen £10 Credit: PA Wire

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a piece about Jayne Austen will start with "that" quotation from Pride and Prejudice.

And today there was ample opportunity to revel in the great author's works as she was revealed as the next face to grace the ten pound note.

Read: Austen bank note to feature Pride and Prejudice quote

The Bank of England had brought forward the announcement by about six months in response to the outcry which greeted the news in April that it was sweeping the only other female historical figure off our notes as Sir Winston Churchill replaces (in 2016) Elizabeth Fry on the five pound note.

It was a decision based on sexism, they cried, as yet another dead, white, male took centre stage.

Caroline Criado-Perez, who drove the campaign for a woman was invited to the unveiling today which was held at Jane Austen's house in Hampshire.

She has been a thorn in the Bank's side for several months - her online petition garnered 35,000 signatures - but her inclusion today speaks volumes about the efforts the new governor, Mark Carney, is making to present a new face to the institution he has led for only three weeks.

Read: Bank of England persuaded by online petition

The Bank, he seemed to be saying, was responsive to criticism, was inclusive and, perhaps, misunderstood. A little like, oh, Mr Darcy turns out to be in Pride and Prejudice.

The Bank's senior communications official had made very clear to me that Mr Carney would only answer questions about Jane Austen.

This was something of a blow as I (and everyone else who watches the Bank's policy) was very keen to ask something about the Governor's Big Idea: "Guidance" - a commitment to low interest rates which should give companies and consumers confidence to borrow and spend.

We all want to know whether he will issue guidance and what form it will take. I think we got an answer to the first question.

Under the official's steely gaze, I read a quotation to Mr Carney from Pride and Prejudice where wise Mr Bennet says, "I have not the pleasure of understanding you."

How important was it to the governor, I asked, that he guide people so they have the pleasure of understanding him? With a wry smile he replied:

It's incredibly important that across all our responsibilities that people understand what we're trying to do and how we're going about it ... that also applies to financial stability and even monetary policy.

A clue, if ever there was one, that we should prepare for guidance on August 7th, when the Bank reveals its thinking.