Bank of England deputy Governor Charles Bean played with such a straight bat during a visit to Birmingham yesterday he could give the Australian lower order a lesson or two.
Not that there were ever going to be any dramatic announcements: it’s never the way with these sorties out to the regions by the panjandrums of the City of London.
No, what Mr Bean was in the Second City for, on the final leg of a swing through the country, was to give businesses a bit of a pi-jaw about the progress of the Bank’s quantitative easing programme.
That’s the mechanism by which £125 billion of conjured-up money is being spent on buying up financial assets such as gilts and high quality corporate bonds with a view to putting lots of money into the economy thereby heating up activity and thawing out credit markets that have taken on the characteristics of permafrost.
So, how’s it going? Too soon to say, said the deputy Governor. And that, essentially, was it.
And if there were any struggling automotive component suppliers in the audience at the Hyatt Hotel yesterday they would have had few crumbs of comfort to take away from the encounter.
Not that Mr Bean was ever going to be able to give them. The means of saving the country’s most significant manufacturing industry is wholly within the grasp of the Government and the Bank of England can’t be held to account for the fact that, so far, not a penny piece has dripped through the system.
It was left to Birmingham Chamber of Commerce policy adviser Will Rogers to point out that after nearly six months of quantitative easing, at least his members seem to be raising their investment sights while the weaker pound is aiding exporters.
Mr Bean was at least able, maybe, to call the bottom of the recession but was unable to say when recovery would take hold.