Lord Turner. Academic, Businessmamn, Financier, Regulator, Chairman. A self-described ‘Technocrat’ who was head of the Financial Services Authority until it was disbanded this year and now a member of its replacement body, the Financial Policy Committee. He also recently joined George Soros’ Institute of New Economic Committee.
One the phone, Lord Turner makes a brilliant interviewee. Genuinely friendly and clearly fascinated by the great Macroeconomic questions of our time, he spoke at length on a whole host of topics that I had the chance to throw at him.
Does he regret taking the job at the FSA? No – he said that while he didn’t have any idea what it was going to be like he was really glad to be dedicate himself to the attempt to clear things up. He said he was happy in the role, and even though he worked very hard, he was glad to play his part.
Despite defending his record at the FSA, Turner believes that breaking the body down into 3 separate organisations was the right thing to do. He said he thought that the FSA simply had too big a remit, and had done since its creation in the late 90s. The new system promised more effective and comprehensive regulation of all the areas that the FSA had been focused upon.
How does someone who has made a career in business end up as regulator, on the other side of the fence? Well, he said, he was always interested in politics (Turner is a former Cambridge Union President and Cambridge Conservatives president who flirted with the SDP in his university days) and public policy as well as economics and business, and when the opportunity to share his vast economics experience, he was more than happy to dedicate himself to that.
Finally, I asked him what role he though Debating Societies like the Cambridge and Oxford Unions had in the formation of public economic policy compared to, for instance, the faculty librar
y. He said he thought that both definitely played a role and economics cannot simply be formed by analysing the spreadsheet. People with experiences of different areas of the economy have opinions that academics must engage with. Lord Turner is himself the perfect example of someone who has bridged the divide.
Lord Turner is speaking to Mehdi Hasan at the Oxford Union on Friday 3rd May as part of Al Jazeera’s Head-To-Head series.