Tuesday 28 June 2011

The Greeks have done nothing wrong

Who is the most influential Briton in the important field of global financial regulation? Chancellor George Osborne, perhaps? Bank of England Governor Mervyn King? No, I’m afraid not.

Ed Balls, then? Robert Peston? That bloke from the FSA, or whatever it’s called this week?

No. Do you give up? It’s Sharon Bowles.

Our top financial expert. Apparently.

“Who?” do I hear you ask? Let me enlighten you. She is a Liberal Democrat MEP for South East England. (Hmm, not sure about that “England”, bit – more work clearly required on constituency names in the interests of integration. How about “Very North West France”?) She also chairs the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee.

Ms Bowles “has fast made her name as a financial expert” according to the BBC, or at any rate according to the BBC as quoted on her own website. And last week she shared some of that expertise with listeners to Radio 4’s The World at One when she pronounced that “the demise of the euro is far too expensive for all member states to contemplate.”

So far, so predictable. The sacred goal of “ever closer union” requires the euro to be preserved at all costs. Because, while the Eurofanatics and their useful idiot allies banged on about the huge economic advantages it offered, and why Britain was mad to pass up the opportunity to join, the reality has always been that it is a strictly political project designed to drag the countries of Europe into a single state.

While anyone with the vaguest understanding of economics (and I did not even get as far as ‘O’ level) correctly predicted that the attempt to bind wildly disparate economies within a single currency would end in tears.

The Irish, treated to the low interest rates appropriate for Germany, would inevitably go on a lunatic property spending spree, and even my two-year-old knows what happens to bubbles.

While certain southern Europeans would continue their proud national traditions of lying in the sun, drinking retsina, dodging taxes and moaning about certain national treasures currently residing in the British Museum, while the Stakhanovites of the north got on with some work.

A Greek tradition: no wonder they need help from China

But here’s the insight from Sharon Bowles that I had not expected. None of this is the fault of the Greeks, who were just doing what Greeks do. No, the root cause is the “macro-economic imbalances” caused by those pesky Germans working too hard and making their economy grow too fast. They were the ones who lent money to the Greeks so that they could all buy BMW cars. Even worse, the scheming “Germans save a lot of money and those savings also went hunting around Europe for higher returns, which is all part and parcel of the banking crisis”.

Thanks for that, Sharon. I like it when it’s all the Germans’ fault, as we used to say during those little misunderstandings in 1914 and 1939. It makes life simpler. I suppose we could try to resolve the problem in the traditional way, but Bomber Harris is long dead and the RAF is down to a couple of squadrons, patched up with gaffer tape, which seem to be currently fully engaged in Libya and Afghanistan.

At least, thanks to that towering genius Gordon Brown, we can stand on the sidelines watching the unfolding fate of the euro rather than being trapped in the burning building ourselves. But I imagine that it is probably going to be like being a spectator at one of the legendary Fred Dibnah’s chimney demolitions. Listen out for the siren and be prepared to run like hell.

In the meantime, reassured by our leading financial expert that our Greek friends have done nothing wrong, I’m going to chuck all future correspondence from HM Revenue & Customs on the fire and uncork another bottle. Glass of retsina, anyone?

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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