Magazine article The Spectator

Business as Usual

Magazine article The Spectator

Business as Usual

Article excerpt

How Do We Fix This Mess?

by Robert Peston and Laurence Knight Hodder, £20, pp. 480, ISBN 9781444757091 Dear old Pesto, we all make jokes about him but we all secretly admire him. The BBC business editor's strangulated elocution and stream-of-consciousness style were never going to make him a natural broadcaster - 'He won't last six months, ' one of his household-name colleagues whispered to me in the early days. But six years on he's still there, falling out of bed to cover breaking news from home, packing in 12-hour days in his ill-ventilated BBC cubicle to chase the multiple sources and 'exclusives' of which he's boyishly proud, enduring the jibes of smoother talkers such as Eddie Mair, resisting the siren calls of corporate PRs and ministerial spin, sticking his neck out because he's so often the front-runner on complex, fast-changing stories. Robert Peston was the voice of the financial crisis, just as Terry Wogan will forever be the voice of the Eurovision Song Contest. Vocal tics and all, he's now an official national treasure.

'But can he write?' as a former editor of this paper used to ask, rather coldly, whenever someone famous was suggested as a potential contributor. This breathless gallop through the development of modern global markets and what went wrong with them does not necessarily answer the question, because it is co-written with one of his BBC juniors, Laurence Knight, who may well have been responsible for the screeds of explanatory material which make How Do We Fix This Mess? much wordier than it needed to be to nail its arguments.

It has the feel of a book written by busy people with no time for the polishing process that produces elegant concision. And we can only be sure Pesto himself is at the keyboard when the narrative is lightened by an idiosyncratic touch, such as the passage in which he asks:

Who would you expect to pay a higher rate of interest when borrowing for three years?

Me or the Italian Republic? If you said 'Peston', you are right. . . But here's the thing:

the risk premium for lending to the slightly shambolic house of Peston, as opposed to the sovereign nation of Italy, is rather less than I expected. . .

The difference, in fact, is just 0.6 per cent - but having taken a closer look at the dire state of Italy's finances, the great man wonders whether he should be offended that there is any premium at all. …

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