Conflicts of Interest

Have you heard of Gertjan Vlieghe? He wants to join the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee to set interest rates. So he could be the guy that triggers one of your biggest stress tests if his hand goes up for a hike in rates.

But he faces his own problems. MPs want to quiz Gertjan on his finances. And no wonder. He gets paid by a hedge fund that makes its money by doing guess what. Yep. Its job is to predict what will happen next to monetary policy. MPs are asking if this is a conflict of interest. Now what would I say to them if I was Gertjan?

I’d tell them to take the log out of their own eyes. Most of these MPs are big time homeowners. Yet they think nothing of setting policies that boost the value of their assets. Now that is a conflict of interest if ever I saw one.

You can look far and wide for the reasons we don’t build homes. Is it a shortage of land? Do we place too much red tape on councils? Should we set associations free? But you are wasting your time. These are the wrong questions.

We don’t build homes because everyone who matters has got a good house or two. They have a lovely fire in a magnificent hearth, but no fire in their belly. So nothing ever happens.

Gertjan may or may not be the right guy to set rates. How would I know? There could be a big old Chinese Wall between him and the hedge fund. Some home-owner MPs will of course be better than others at sorting out housing policy. They can see past their own interests. But you have to say that progress is glacial.

Would we move faster and harder if MPs faced the same problems as Generation Rent? I think so. For one thing, they would stop associations moving up market when Generation Rent can’t get to the market at all.