Book Review: The Chancellors, Steering the British Economy in Crisis Times by Howard Davies

Howard Davies cuts through the political spin to takes us on a journey through the British Economy over the last 25 years. He is Chairman of the NatWest Group and a professor at Sciences Po, Paris. He has worked in a number of financial institutions through the years and presents us with an account that is clear, and well researched and referenced. I found this book refreshing as I didn’t think there was any particular political slant. He has met nearly all of the people he writes about whilst exploring our economy which adds to the credibility of this read.

It helped me cut through some of the current political rhetoric which seems to blame everything on the pandemic. The author manages to separate the effects of brexit and Covid successfully. Covid had a massive effect on public expenditure and Davies explores what has happened since and what this means for financial institutions. Issues such as the London-centric base to our economy are tackled and compared with other European countries.We have massive regional differences compared with other countries. Our underperformance compared with our neighbours over the years are explored especially with Italy. His quotes from George Osborne about Boris Johnson were brutal and add clarity to the current debates.

He does not shy away from fiscal matters and how our current tax system is not fit for purpose and looks at how successive chancellors have failed to address the issue. They all agree there are long-term issues but tax reform takes a back seat. Davies suggests the system is not “logical”. As a reader this is not an issue I have great understanding of, I don’t have an economic background but still found the book readable. It’s always good to add to your knowledge base.

This book will be of use to anyone wanting a greater understanding of the British economy, be it students of economics or just people wanting to increase their knowledge of something which is a complex issue and often avoided. However, it’s something that we all interact with every day and has an impact on our lives so we should want to know more especially in current times.

The Chancellors, Steering the British Economy in Crisis Times will be published in May by Polity Books – order here

Review by Carolyn Batcheler

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