In George’s fifth year as governor, days after Labour came
to power in 1997, Chancellor Gordon Brown removed the banking regulator role
from the Bank but granted it independence from the government in setting
interest rates, acting as a bone-fide central bank. Though proud of obtaining
that independence, Lord George did not approve of Brown’s decision to hand the
Bank’s regulatory powers to the Securities and Investments Board (SIB)
re-named as the Financial Services Authority and briefly considered resigning.
The move did not lessen his impact on the economy. By the time he resigned
from governorship in 2003, Lord George had presided over 40 consecutive quarters
of GDP growth, earning the nickname “Steady Eddie”. He was deputy governor when
the government pulled sterling from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992
he had disapproved of joining in the first place while the spectacular
collapse of Barings Bank in 1995 came two years into his governorship.
Aside from a brief spell in the Royal Air Force, Lord George spent his entire
professional career with the Bank, joining from university in 1962, rising to
deputy governor in 1990 and becoming governor three years later.
He undertook three secondments, studying central planning at Moscow State
University, joining the Bank for International Settlements for four years in
1966, and in 1972, and acting as secretary to the International Monetary Fund’s
chairman for the Committee of Twenty for two years.
He retired in 2003 and was made a life peer in 2004 as Lord George of St
Tudy, the Cornish village where he retired.