We’re not going woke, says Bank of England boss Andrew Bailey after slave art is removed
Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey denied the institution had ‘gone woke’ after it decided to remove artwork linked to the slave trade.
Speaking at a Cambridge University event last night, Bailey revealed that many of the items which had been squirrelled away earlier this year would reappear in the Bank’s museum, which is open to the public.
He claimed that this would be an ‘opportunity for us to play our part and explain the history’ of the slave trade, adding that it was ‘better’ to display problematic items ‘in the public part of the Bank where we can explain it’.
Bank of England boss Andrew Bailey (pictured) told students at Cambridge that items which had been removed would reappear in the Bank’s museum
Bailey said: ‘It’s not because we’ve gone woke, whatever that word actually means. It was: let’s put [the items] there and explain it and, because I have had a lot of discussions with people at the Bank about this, let’s not make them sit in meeting rooms and feel difficult because they’re looking at these images.’
This summer the Bank, which dates back to 1694 but has been at its Threadneedle Street location in London since 1734, stopped displaying oil paintings and busts of seven former governors and directors.
After conducting a review, the institution had found they were connected to the transatlantic slave trade – though the Bank itself was never directly involved in financing slavery.
Bailey said: ‘If you’re a member of staff in the Bank of England from an ethnic background, should you be required to sit in a room looking at a picture of a person who owned slaves?’
It comes as the Bank is trying to boost its own diversity, and has established networks for women, people from ethnic minorities, disabled staff and LGBT workers.
In the Cambridge Union event, chaired by economist Mohamed El-Erian, Bailey steered clear of giving any further guidance on when the Bank may choose to hike interest rates.
Its policy-makers are set to meet in three weeks’ time, and are widely expected to hike rates from their rock-bottom lows of 0.1 per cent to 0.25 per cent to tame rising inflation.
The Bank has so far been reluctant to hike rates, worried that a premature move could hamper the UK’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
But figures from the Confederation of British Industry revealed that shops were booming in November, as sales jumped.
Combined with strong jobs and manufacturing data over recent weeks, the figures indicate that Britain’s economy is holding steady.
But as prices are soaring, inflated by supply chain hold-ups and rising energy bills, this may give the Bank the confidence it needs to begin raising rates.