Bank of England Governor Mark Carney inadvertently put himself in the running to become UKIP’s new leader this week while delivering the quarterly Inflation Report. Nevermind that Carney comes from a country built on the backs of immigrants, somehow the Bank’s forecast of economic conditions in the UK was translated into an anti-immigration rant by some newspapers.
The Daily Mail headline that followed Carney’s press conference read, “Foreign workers drag down UK wages, says bank chief: Carney’s explosive intervention as number of EU migrants working here hits 2 million.” The Express ran the following emphatic headline: “Foreign workers ARE dragging down UK wages: Bank of England’s shock warning to Britain.”
But it wasn’t just the predictable Daily Mail and Express that ran the immigrant scare story: The Times headline stated, “Migrants ‘threaten economic recovery’.”
So how did the apolitical Central Bank suddenly make headlines usually attributed to Nigel Farage?
It seems the Canadian banker fell victim to the UK media’s drive for sensational headlines. What he actually said was: “In recent years, labour supply has expanded significantly owing to higher participation rates among older workers, a greater willingness to work longer hours and strong population growth, partly driven by higher net migration. These positive labour supply shocks have contained wage growth in the face of robust employment growth.”
Yes, Carney mentions net migration. But his first two points focus on British workers, which the Daily Mail and others conveniently chose to ignore. However, Carney clarified his comments on BBC Radio 4 the next morning by pointing out that the increase in labour supply is down to British workers taking more hours, and older workers staying in employment, and that over the last two years, increases in those two factors have been 10 times more important than migrants. In other words, you can blame your colleagues that stay late every day and refuse to retire for your stagnating wage.
Shortly after that clarification, the headlines began to look much more sensible: The Independent ran a story titled, “Bank of England governor Mark Carney says UK productivity not harmed by migrant workers.” Business Insider bluntly headlined its story, “No, Mark Carney is not anti-immigration.”
Of course it’s almost absurd that Carney, a foreigner who came to work in the UK, even has to defend himself against anti-immigration allegations. Still, what happened to him can happen to any business or prominent individual. The media can, and will, twist the truth. So that’s why it’s important to note that the Bank of England responded almost perfectly by having Carney quickly dispel any misunderstandings. In short, Carney and the Bank of England won this battle against bad press because they fought back in a timely fashion with the best weapon possible: The Truth.