Martin Vander Weyer Martin Vander Weyer

What Andrew Bailey’s eyebrows can tell us about the NatWest scandal

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Enough said about the fall of Dame Alison Rose; more than enough about the second coming of Nigel Farage. But one question remains: what happened to the Governor’s eyebrows?

In former times, the fate of errant bank chiefs was unequivocally a matter for the Bank of England. Careers were sunk or salvaged by a twitch of the governor’s supercilia. When Bob Diamond of Barclays was under fire in 2012 after the rate-fixing scandal and the Barclays board tried to save him by offering the head of chairman Marcus Agiusinstead, the then governor, Mervyn King, ordered Agius to unresign and fire Diamond – while the chancellor George Osborne denied any part, saying it wasn’t his job to decide who ran Britain’s banks.

Not so nowadays. The Bank of England was busy last week appointing former US Fed chairman Ben Bernanke to review its wonky forecasting and slapping more fines on Credit Suisse. But it refused to tell me anything about its role in the Rose affair. According to the Sunday Times, ‘sources insisted [NatWest] had sounded out the usual key players’ before it declared confidence in Dame Alison on the evening of 26 July – the oblique ‘usual key players’ suggesting, to my suspicious mind, that those sources also insisted: ‘Don’t mention the Bank of England.’

All of which frees me to surmise that NatWest chairman Sir Howard Davies (himself a former deputy governor) would not have issued his board’s pro-Rose press release with-out first running it past Governor Andrew Bailey or – if Bailey was up a mountain without a mobile – one of his three deputies. And if the Bank’s response was ‘Go for it mate, no sacking offence there, just hold your course’, it made no difference to Downing Street, which sniffed political advantage in swiftly sending word via the Treasury that Rose must go.

Off she went, at 1.30

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