Latest Issue
Special Reports
Latest Special Report

© Russell Hart / Alamy Stock Photo

The Treasury today: a devalued currency?

It has been the most powerful department on Whitehall for a century, coming back stronger from every crisis. But, argues the former editor of the Financial Times, in the age of populism and Covid-19, the writ of 1 Horse Guards Road isn’t running like it used to

In his autobiography The Time of My Life, Denis Healey describes his first impressions of the Treasury upon his appointment as chancellor in 1974. Unaware that he would soon be forced to go cap-in-hand to the IMF, Healey reflected that “the Treasury commands the best brains in a civil service which has no intellectual superior in the world.”

Yet the new chancellor already had doubts about his all-powerful department. “Perhaps it illustrates the familiar problem of the Rolls-Royce in a market dominated by the Volkswagen and the Honda,” he wondered. “Whitehall’s obsession with procedure rather than policy has left it poorly equipped to handle change.”

Nearly half a century on, and several economic crises later, Her Majesty’s Treasury finds itself once again under scrutiny. Covid-19 has traumatised the economy,…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with our newsletter, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

More From Prospect