The BBC’s former business editor Robert Peston has revealed that MPs and the British Bankers’ Association attempted to stop him forecasting the economic downturn.
“There was this bizarre time in 2007 and 2008 when a lot of establishment figures got very uncomfortable about the kind of stories that I was breaking,” Peston told an audience at Cheltenham Literature Festival. “[Stories] about the extent to which banks that we depended on had taken unbelievably reckless stupid risks and were now in serious trouble.”
Peston – who is now economics editor – continued: “Various MPs and the head of the British Bankers’ Association said to select committees that I should be made to be quiet because they thought I was damaging confidence in some way. It was all a bit weird.” He says a number of MPs and former ministers even contacted the now defunct Financial Services Authority and Financial Ombudsman Service “to see if they could shut me up.”
Peston found out because his adversaries also wrote to the BBC, which supported him throughout. “A lot of people have moaned the BBC isn’t robust; the BBC was completely robust, although there were these quite powerful people trying to shut me up. I have occasionally wondered if it’s because the BBC didn’t have the faintest idea what I was doing!”
Asked about the future of the economy, he said: “I think it is very, very, very unlikely that we will in the next 10 or 20 years get back to the kind of growth rates that we enjoyed in the boom years – the 20 or so years before the crash.”