Obituary - Lord George of St Tudy
The private Eddie, or Edward as his wife Vanessa preferred to call him, was shy, warm hearted and witty, treating everyone the same no matter what their station in life, and unfailingly generous minded to friends and neighbours alike. At leisure he was keen on tennis and sailing. On the way to work commuters could for many years spot him smoking assiduously at North Dulwich station, that is until the ultimate promotion earned him a chauffeur driven car.
Once he had retired and moved from Gilkes Crescent to St. Tudy in Cornwall, it was typical of him that he took up the cause of an often overlooked county. His energy and commitment, among other things to Tim Smit's Dome Project, soon had the locals regarding him as an adopted son. He also managed to find time to advise the Central Bank of China and was a non-executive director of Nestlé.
In Dulwich, however, he will be remembered in addition for presiding over Dulwich College for six years as the latest in a line of distinguished Chairmen. This period, under the aptly named Graham Able as Master, with whom he formed a powerful partnership, saw a number of successes including the extension of the ground-breaking overseas franchise in China, and culminated in the construction of a fine new building which bears his name. In Board meetings he was a consummate leader and wise voice, always striving for consensus after first ensuring all views were heard.
He was fond of recalling his modest upbringing as the son of a postman and the benefit he gained from a free place at Dulwich College awarded under the post-war Dulwich Experiment to those boys in London, Surrey or Kent who passed the Common Entrance examination. It was this advantage that he had obtained which gave him the authority, when, newly installed as Governor of the Bank of England in 1993, to launch the Collage’s bursary appeal which he hosted at the Bank. He claimed that without his Dulwich education he would not have achieved that position and was able to give the appeal a powerful impetus.
His schooldays in Dulwich were marked by a skill in hockey and he played in the First 11 for 4 years. He was a founder member of the debating society; successfully arguing against the motion “There is no Great Britain and never will be”, using the ammunition of patriotism, standard of living and national character to support his team’s argument. After National Service in the RAF where he learnt to speak Russian he took up an Exhibition to read Economics at Emmanuel College, Cambridge where he was recruited by the Bank of England.
In 1964 he was seconded to Moscow State University to study central planning. He gradually ascended the bank’s hierarchy, and was seconded to the IMF where as assistant to the chairman he was involved in devising international monetary reform. He became Deputy Chief Cashier of the Bank in 1977 by which time his method of backroom operation became discernible. He successfully defended the Bank during the Thatcher years when it came under attack for jeopardising her economic strategy and represented it in discussions with Margaret Thatcher’s economic advisor Alan Walters and the Treasury’s Peter Middleton. His appointment to Governor for a five year term saw the Bank’s entry into policy areas hitherto in Treasury hands. This led to the Bank monitoring counter-inflation performance and the publication of the minutes of the monthly meetings between the Chancellor and the Governor, and developing into greater operational independence by the Bank’s fixing of interest rates. Under the new Labour government, George was appointed to a second five year term as Governor despite him considering resignation when the FSA was created thereby removing from the Bank its banking supervision arm. He was able to claim when retired in 2003 that there had been 40 quarters of positive growth. Latterly, with the advent of the banking crisis in 2007, this successful record has come under close inspection. The Monetary Policy Committee is blamed for cutting interest rates too assiduously and ‘Steady Eddie’ seemed to acknowledge that in this regard the Bank had been at fault and to the extent had been concerned about the policy implications of low interest rates.