Lord Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England during the 2008 crisis, has a great anecdote about the “most bizarre” thing that happened to him during the crash.
Speaking in London in March, King described the time he had to travel to a top secret meeting convened by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
It happened in February 2009, when Gordon Brown was prime minister and head of the G20. Merkel “decided she wanted a pre-meeting with the European G20 countries before the London summit.”
King said: “The Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer [Alistair Darling] and Governor of the central bank of country were asked to fly to Berlin for the meeting, flying to a military airport.
“We were told to go to Northolt Airport so I turn up there early on Sunday morning and there’s a slightly embarrassed Treasury official telling us that the plane that was supposed to fly us there has been commandeered for another purpose. I said: ‘But what do you mean, what could be more important than the Prime Minister, the Chancellor, forget the Governor, but what could be more important?”
King said he wasn’t sure what explanation was given but the Treasury official said: “Don’t worry, we’ve got another plane.”
“The plane picks up Gordon Brown in Edinburgh, and flies down and picks up Alistair Darling and myself. And I thought it looked a bit small, but it was fine. When it drew up I could see on the side of plane it said ‘Tyrolean Airways.’ I could see instantly that a good Treasury civil servant had gone on the internet on a Saturday afternoon, faced with this challenge, and looked up ‘what’s the cheapest plane I can hire for a Sunday?'”
“So we got in, and it was very small but fine. And we had a very nice hostess that was dressed in Tyrolean national costume. And we could see, as we were landing, these two massive jumbo jets. One had the French tricolor and the other, the Spanish flag.”
“And as the rickety steps were lowered down from this Tyrolean Airways plane, you could see Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France at the time, and his Spanish counterpart, standing with his people on the tarmac, waiting for us to get off the plane and proceed in convoy to the Chancellery.”
“And he looked on as the British delegation climbed down these steps, and as we turned to wave goodbye to our air hostess, dressed in Tyrolean national costume. You could see on Sarkozy’s face what he was thinking, which was: ‘I knew the British were eccentric but this is too far.'”
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