Sir Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, is nothing if not stubborn. He was never going to admit any more than tangential responsibility for the financial crisis. Yet when it came, his first mea culpa of any significance for the worst peacetime recession since the 1930s was so de minimis as to be barely perceptible.
Yes, he should have shouted louder about the build-up of leverage, he admitted in his Today programme lecture – in the circumstances, the least possible he could have coughed to – but on the question of blame, there was only the familiar list of culprits and old excuses to be had.
In any case, Sir Mervyn didn’t want to dwell on responsibility. Rather, he wanted to move on, and focus on the need for root-and-branch banking reform so that such crises can never happen again. Now coasting down to his retirement in just over a year’s time, this is indeed how Sir Mervyn would like to be remembered – as the great reformer. I doubt posterity will be so kind.
Whatever result is announced tonight, Boris Johnson has already emerged as the champion of a new strain of British Conservatism. London is now a Labour city, and yesterday’s election ought to have been a walkover for its candidate, Ken Livingstone. Yet Boris will either win, or come very close to doing so, because he has established an appeal far broader than that of David Cameron’s party. He has done so not by apologising for Conservatism, but by embodying its virtues – and his success has been astonishing. Even his detractors are beginning to wonder if the clown prince might just be on to something.
Regardless of the result, this election will leave Boris more influential than ever. If he wins, he will be seen as an undefeated champion of Conservatism – his secret being to keep a safe distance from the Prime Minister. If he is robbed of victory (and the potential for fraud among London’s postal votes makes anything possible) then the Cameron Omnishambles will be blamed. While the Mayor has proved that he is far more popular than his party, the Tory vote is the base on which he stands. Since the Budget, and the tragicomedy of errors that ensued, that vote has collapsed.
The Culture Secretary’s office initially denied that Mr Hunt had attended a series of networking events paid for by firms in the creative industries, including the advertising agency, M&C Saatchi.
But last night the minister’s spokesman confirmed that he had been present at three meetings, worth a total of £7,471.31, prompting immediate calls for an official “sleaze” inquiry.
Mr Hunt’s spokesman said he would be updating the House of Commons register of members’ interests to provide an accurate record.
Asked why the details had been denied when questioned by The Daily Telegraph last weekend, the spokesman said: “We looked at this before but didn’t think he had gone to the events.
On Sunday we couldn’t check fully because we did not have his diaries available.
The list, dated August 7 2002, carries a total of 170 names with bin Laden himself registered at number 1. Notes have been added beside many of the names, recording a variety of fates, notably that of Abu Ubaydeh al-Banshiri, who “died in Lake Victoria” in East Africa in 1996.
Another al-Qaeda member – named as Hamad al-Kuwaiti – is recorded as being “detained in England” in 1998, perhaps after the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August of that year.
Another, registered only as Khaleefah, apparently “cooperated with the Omani government” – suggesting that he defected from al-Qaeda to aid an Arab regime considered one of its foremost enemies.
Other al-Qaeda fighters seem to have given up the struggle and chosen simply to return home.
Abu al-Hussein al-Libi is down as having “resigned” from the terrorist network in 1995, while Omar al-Uswani apparently “returned home”.