Guido reports that various opposition unworthies were at Lord’s today, watching England v India, “while Rome burns”, as he put it. Ed Balls, Charlie Whelan, and someone equally important called Kevin whom I do recognise from the picture and whose name I do know but have forgotten. MacGuire, is it?
But it was far worse than that in the fiddling while Rome burns department. As soon as it started raining, they had no less a personage than Sir Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, talking on the radio, with BBC cricket commentating supremo Jonathan Agnew. I know this, because I was listening. Is this not, I thought, rather an odd day for Governor King not to be at his desk?
Sir Mervyn talked a lot about the Chance to Shine initiative which encourages school kids to play cricket. He has an interest in cricket and its organisation that goes way back, it would seem. It all sounded very encouraging for England cricket fans like me, provided we were able to set aside details like the world’s financial system going into melt-down.
Sure enough, towards the end of their chat Aggers asked King about “events in Europe today”. Had he not done this it would have been even more surreal. King blocked all these queries with straight-batted cliches about how he and his various banking opposite numbers were in constant touch with each other, getting on top of the crisis, blah blah. If only.
Geoff Boycott (scroll down here (17:23) for a report) had a go at King for bailing out failed banks. Boycott didn’t talk to King face to face, which I am sure they took very good care to prevent. But he did send a note, which Aggers read out:
Free enterprise doesn’t work when private companies take the profits yet we the public pay for their loses. How is that right? I say put them all in jail. Geoff Boycott
King didn’t lose his cool, but he definitely sounded rather ambushed. Basically, his answer was: “When you are the BBC’s economic correspondent, I’ll answer your questions. I’m here to talk about cricket.”
Was King doing that central banker thing of deliberately not cancelling irrelevant engagements, to give the impression of business as usual, no panic, steady as she goes and all that? If so, does he seriously think anyone will be fooled?
Come to think of it, do you suppose that this is what the Emperor Nero himself thought he was doing, when he played on his instrument all those years ago? Fire? What fire? No no, just a little local difficulty. Soon blow over. Relax. Everything under control.
Maybe Nero was just doing music so he could ignore awkward incoming phone calls.
England are 127-2, this having been the somewhat disappointing (because cut short by rain) first day of a potentially very absorbing four match series. I’m watching the highlights now on the telly. India and England are, in that order, now to two top ranked test playing international cricket teams. If England can win this four match series by a margin of two matches or more, they will go top. England have a definite chance of doing that.
As for the chance that Mervyn King and his various opposite numbers will manage to stop that financial crisis from getting any worse, well, that I wouldn’t rate quite so highly.