A central-bank spending spree

The Bank of England has blown €1.7bn of foreign-exchange profits on a “spending spree”.


Mark Carney: overstepping his role as head of the Bank of England

Mark Carney's recent intervention in the referendum debate, warning that Brexit could hurt the UK economy, has been controversial. Indeed, some have complained that he is overstepping his role as head of the Bank of England. However, his behaviour is nothing compared to that of the Hungarian central bank. As Andrew Byrne in the Financial Times points out, it has blown €1.7bn of foreign-exchange profits on a "spending spree".

While some of this was used to buy back government bonds, it has also "acquired fine art, premium real estate and opened offices in exotic destinations like Buenos Aires, Beirut and Hamburg". Some of the spending is simply bizarre. Nearly $1bn has been spent on mysterious "charities", one of which seriously considered building a "wellness bunker". This would have consisted of a "three-floor-deep subterranean basement and swimming pool".

As well as being incredibly wasteful, some of the spending looks downright sinister. Simon Zoltan of Bloomberg notes that the bank also "bought 200,000 rounds of live ammunition and 112 handguns for its security company". However, the spending that is raising the most eyebrows involves funds provided for a news website that surprise, surprise turns out to support the ruling party. After reading this, even the most ardent eurosceptic will have to agree that Mark Carney doesn't seem so bad.

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Canada's stellar PM falls to earth

Speaking of Canadians, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been having an extended honeymoon since his election victory last November. With America facing a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, it's not hard to see why a young and charismatic leader, who once went toe-to-toe with a political opponent in a charity boxing bout, might seem appealing.

However, he could be about to fall to earth. His wife, Sophie Grgoire Trudeau, who used to be a TV presenter, has complained that she needs additional staff to help her carry out all her public and charitable work as Canada's first lady. According to The Independent, she complained that "it's hard to choose, because it's touching when people ask for your help". This has caused a minor scandal in Canada, but in Britain some commentators have been sympathetic. The Guardian's Suzanne Moore points out that successful women need childcare, cleaners and PAs and notes that "men are rarely asked about their domestic arrangements".

Compared to Justin Trudeau's mother, who was "first lady" during the premiership of his father, Pierre, Sophie is quite low key. Margaret Trudeau notoriously smuggled drugs into Canada, damaged public property and danced in celebrity nightclubs, before separating from her husband while he was still in office. But to my mind the most revealing (and Canadian) thing about the whole "scandal" is the fact that the extra help amounts to just another assistant, to go with the one she already has. British and American politicians as well as Hungarian central bankers could learn from that.

Tabloid money "Just pay us less. It's not rocket science"

The government is back-pedalling furiously over reports it would publish the names and salaries of the BBC's top stars earning more than £150,000. Now, only those paid more than £450,000 will be named in the long-awaited White Paper.

That the bar has been set so high shows "how inflated Auntie's wage bill has become", says Camilla Tominey in the Sunday Express. So bravo to Chris Evans for admitting that the Beeb's top stars are, as he put it, paid "too much" for "part-time" jobs. "Just pay us less," said Evans. "It's not rocket science."But the government insists on a fudge by refusing to publish exact salaries just the broad salary bands. "Curious how all those Leftie luvvies who defended the BBC at the Baftas haven't been quite so vocal on this particular issue."

Those who dare question immigration numbers are decried as racists and "little Englanders". But they're not racist at all, says Carole Malone in the Sunday Mirror. They are desperate and frightened. They're ordinary people from places such as Boston in Lincolnshire where 17% of the population was born in another EU country. They know public services can't cope. And due to Office for National Statistics data, we know they're right 2.4 million eastern Europeans arrived between 2011 and 2015, almost three times as many as the government said. But the prime minister and other Remain politicians, who live in "nice leafy middle-class bubbles", will never struggle to see a GP or take two quid less at work, because if they don't, "the job goes to Radu the Romanian". Iain Duncan Smith is right to say EU membership hits the poorest hardest. And as the Living Wage will be £9 an hour, the migrants will keep coming.

Not everybody is a fan of the sugar tax, championed by Jamie Oliver. The celebrity chef's "success has left a bitter aftertaste with his TV rival, Marcus Wareing", says Sebastian Shakespeare in the Daily Mail. "I'm not getting behind the government's sugar tax eventually you'll just forget about it and there will be another expense for the public. Where does the money go? We're hoping it will go to the NHS, but we won't know," Wareing says. "If I see someone walking down an aisle in a supermarket and they fill their trolley full of crap, that's not David Cameron's problem that's their problem."