Pirates don’t have to look like Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. They can fly the Union Jack rather than the skull and crossbones. They can be called the Bank of England rather than the Jolly Roger.
The ‘Old Lady of Threadneedle Street’ is a port in a stormy world for all kinds of countries in which to moor their national wealth. And it’s not even necessarily voluntary.
After the fall of the communist regime in Albania, I had a brief tenure as joint chairman of the Britain-Albania Society with the Tory MP Steve Norris. He and I had to move mountains to try and persuade the British government (which then entirely controlled the Bank of England) to give the Albanians back their gold, which had been seized by the British during Second World War.
This week’s brigandry – unnoticed by any commentator I read – took place in an era when the Bank of England is officially independent of government control. And yet it was triggered by a phone call from a foreign government official.
The bank’s decision to seize – a polite word for steal – more than a billion dollars’ worth of Venezuelan gold was reportedto have been ordered by the governor after a call from US National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – not even the president himself.
If I’m right, then this decision to damage – hopefully irreparably – the safety of deposits in the Bank of England was taken by an unelected, unaccountable Canadian citizen (who only got his British citizenship in November). He is here today but gone tomorrow as the governor of the Bank of England. The foreign policy of the state – whose bank it is – was thus at least anticipated if not usurped by Bolton, a minor official of a foreign country. Was that what the Tory champions of Brexit had in mind when they campaigned for Britain to “take back control”?
Of course the governor, Mark Carney, will have known that Bolton was pushing at an open bank vault door and that Britain is no more independent from the United States than the Bank of England is independent from the British government.
In addition, no Caribbean crocodile could shed tears more insincere than those currently being shed by British politicians for the “poor suffering people” of Venezuela. After all, what kind of monster could seize a billion dollars from “poor and suffering people”?
In around 72 hours last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was transformed from somebody hardly anyone in Britain had ever heard of, into the new “Hitler on the Nile.”