Now, what would those in the Equalities industry say to an industry so diverse that it has — in proportion — seven times as many Hindus, five times as many Indians, three times as many atheists and three times as many gays or lesbians as the rest of the country? And that this was achieved not by a positive discrimination employment strategy, but by sheer hard-headed hunt for the best talent? It would likely be hailed as an exemplar of diversity, an example of how Britain is the most tolerant country in the world. But if they happen to be bankers? Well, that’s another issue altogether.
This, to me, is what the City is about. It is a thing of beauty and wonder: Canary Wharf is a modern-day Babel where the most talented from all over the planet convene in the language of commerce. And the term ‘banker’ is used to cover a multitude of disciplines: the City is home to insurers, researchers, corporate lawyers, bond analysts, all of them the word’s best. The City is more diverse than Wall St, where Americans take the top jobs. The City has a Wimbledon model: we provide the turf on which the world’s best foreigners, and applaud as they walk off with the silverware. Our only concern is that the best people win. This, as a national trait, is rarer than you might expect.
And hiring Mark Carney, a foreigner, to be head of the Bank of England may surprise foreigners. But not Brits: I genuinely believe that we are the most tolerant and globalised nation on earth. We can have two Premier League football teams play each other without a single British-born player on the starting line-up and the English crowd will care only about the quality of the football.
It was odd, hearing on the radio this morning the idea that it is somehow a failure that we failed to hire a Brit to succeed Sir Mervyn King. Quite the reverse. It is a reminder that Britain’s horizons are global and have been since the days of empire. And this is best exemplified, I think, in our much-maligned City of London — one of the very best things about our country. And has been for years. I’ll give the last word to Voltaire, who made the same observation a couple of centuries ago:
‘Go into the Exchange in London, that place more venerable than many a court, and you will see representatives of all the nations assembled there for the profit of mankind. There the Jew, the Mahometan, and the Christian deal with one another as if they were of the same religion and reserve the name of infidel for those who go bankrupt… On leaving these peaceable and free assemblies, some go to the synagogue, others in search of a drink… all are satisfied.’