The Powerful and the Damned

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership.

S2: Hello and welcome to the powerful and the damned episode of Slate Money, your guide to the Business and Finance News of the Week. I’m Felix Salmon of Axios. I’m here with Emily Peck of Huff Post. Hello. I’m here with Anna Shamansky of Breakingviews. Hello. And we are here with Lionel Barber, the former editor of the Financial Times. Lionel, welcome. You have a new book out. What is it? Tell us all about it.

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S3: Hello, Felix. Good to be with this distinguished group. The book is Private Diaries of My Time as editor, 25 to 20. And it’s up close and personal with people of power in politics, business and finance from Silicon Valley through to Beijing via Moscow, with Putin and some British politicians like David Cameron, one of the biggest failures of the 21st century.

S2: This is one thing we can definitely agree on here. It’s like money is that David Cameron was terrible. We are going to talk a little bit about him and other powerful men and the occasional powerful woman. We’re going to talk about the media and whether it’s important for news organizations to make a profit. We are going to have a whole Slate plus segment about Nick Clegg, who is a UK politician turned Facebook spin doctor. We are going to drop some news about Anna Shamansky. This is coming up at the end of the episode. So stay tuned for a jam packed episode coming up on Slate Money.

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S4: This book was really interesting to read as the fun notes of a journalist up close to the seat of power in so many different ways over such a long period. And you got to meet with so many powerful people. Most of them seemed like they were men. And you had these like really close relationships, it seemed like, with some of them. And I was kind of curious how you thought about navigating those relationships as a journalist. Like, on the one hand, you want to be close to these very powerful men out of central banks, David Cameron and the other hand, you want to hold them to account in the pages of the FT every day. So I wondered if you could talk a little bit about how you tried to navigate that tightrope.

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S5: There’s always a bit of a devil’s bargain in dealing with sources, especially when their sources in power. And you’re right that there are a lot of them were men, but there were some very significant women, not least Angela Merkel of Germany, who I interviewed three times in my time as editor. But this unholy bargain, this devil’s bargain I’m referring to really is the trade off between access and capture. And I think my view was always put the reader first. You’re not friends with these people, but having a chance to go up and personal without often any handlers involved gives you a unique insight. So then what you do is zoom in.

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S3: I did use that word zoom sorry, that used to zoom in and then you zoom out and then when you write about it, you don’t insist that every word stays. You show it to at least two other people. And I think that then that then begins to work. It’s very important, though, to to see this as a journalist exercise. And I was the editor reporter. It was a self-conscious role.

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S2: So I want to ask you about that line, because I think a lot of Americans don’t really understand how closely intertwined these two worlds of media and politics are in the UK. In the US, they really are very separate. You have a large number of journalists and a large number of politicians, and you very rarely find people going back and forth between the two. And while there are certainly some friendships in Washington you don’t have, like there’s this scene in your book where you’re hanging out with Jonathan Ford, who’s your Chief Lee, the writer who used to be my boss and who is talking about whether he’s going to support David Cameron. And there’s this photograph of him and David Cameron and Boris Johnson, you know, college together, will being best friends and that kind of thing. So when you say you’re not friends with these people, like there’s an asterisk there, right?

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S5: I’m not sure. There is probably the only person that I felt a real affinity to and I say this in the book as Mario Draghi, who is the president of the European Central Bank, you know, it’s just become Italian PM. And I did respect him enormously. I thought he was doing a really a historical role. And he felt not quite single handedly saved the euro. But if you look at all the other people I interviewed, and I think it’s very important, this is a global book. I mean, Britain plays. I don’t know, 35 percent, maybe 40 percent content in the whole book, but otherwise, you know, I’m in China, I’m in America, I’m in Latin America and Africa with Kagame, I mean, Russia with Putin. And I can assure you, if you talk to them all up or indeed you ask any of my colleagues, you know what, I’m not friends with these people. I’m really not. And I’m understanding that there is a certain tension in the role that you have if you’re spending time or your close proximity. But in the end, you’re a journalist and the readers comes first. And I abided by that principle in 14 years of editorship.

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S1: One question I have is how having all of these sources that are obviously very, very, very well positioned could also maybe potentially influence how not just you, but anyone at the party kind of sees sees the world. And I think about this a little bit in terms of the lead up to the financial crisis, because it’s something you definitely cover in the book. And I’m just kind of curious if you think that because of who everyone at the FTC is, kind of who they’re around, did that affect how they saw that period in the lead up?

S5: Now, I think I’ll come to this financial crisis. It’s important. But just to make clear, I think that a bigger mistake or a kind of what you’re talking about, if you like, slightly peripheral vision or you’re not getting the big picture is if you’re so close to the central bankers you look at the world is saving the financial system and you’re on their side, but then you’re not paying sufficient attention to the unintended consequences like asset inflation. And I would say that was an area where your argument, I think, to a degree, holds up. And if you have people like Martin Wolf who are brilliant, mercurial, but also have a kind of central bankers view of the world and I’m close to Draghi, then you could say that that kind of influence was was important. But in the run up to the financial crisis, I don’t think it was like that. I just think that we none of us, including the regulators, got the full picture. We got bits of the puzzle. And we also we did cover the financial risk and leverage. I mentioned Gillian Tett, great work. My self-criticism there would be we did a very good job, but I could have done it more prominently given the market side of that story more prominent.

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S2: What about people like Steve Schwarzman, who comes up quite a few times in your book, and you say that you have a very important relationship with him and presumably you talk to him off the record quite frequently. The two big sort of seismic events of the postcrisis tenure in your time as the editor were obviously Brexit and Trump. And what I got from reading the book is a lot of talk, which was relatively chummy with Steve Schwarzman, who was a huge Trump supporter, a lot of talk which was relatively chummy with Dave Cameron, who caused Brexit. And I was wondering to what degree does the sort of F.T. sauce graph of these powerful men who gravitate to the right? To what degree did it give the left a blind spot when it came to these populist tendencies?

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S5: Well, I’m not chummy with Cameron, and in fact, I’m highly critical of Cameron. And I didn’t go to Eton and I supported him in the election. No, he supported the party. We didn’t support Cameron. And I have a very low opinion of Cameron. And if you look at the powerful in the Damned as a book, he’s definitely damned thing. He did more damage with the decision to call a referendum than anybody. But we supported his party because, number one, we didn’t want Jeremy Corbyn and his hard left extremism. And number two, we were in favour of the coalition, a Lib Dem conservative coalition. Now, you mentioned Steve Schwarzman. Yes, I used him as a source. I talked to him, but I also told him to fuck off in Davos so I couldn’t have been that chummy. And that’s in the book.

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S2: I love that bit of you. You like sitting at one of those? You didn’t mention it? Well, no, but that’s like you. When you tell someone to fuck off, you can only feel that you can really tell them to fuck off. You’re reasonably close.

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S5: No way. You don’t know how many times I tell people to fuck off on the phone when I was editor. Anyway, I think you make a mistake. If you think I was too close to these people, I think it’s important. It’s never down to you. As the editor. When I was receiving information, I always shared it with colleagues to see what they thought. And I never instructed people to put stuff on the front page based on what I knew, because there was an iron rule.

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S2: Two sources for every story one of the other guys were very critical of in the book is Mark Zuckerberg. There are a lot of CEOs in this book and so moving like maybe a little bit away from the politicians and onto the CEO’s. Obviously, this week we saw Jeff Bezos kick himself upstairs to this kind of unaccountable executive chairman role. There’s a lot of power now embedded in especially tech CEOs, people like a pitch. And I wrote a piece that I feel was talking about how CEOs are increasingly becoming the fourth branch of government. What’s your opinion of the degree to which CEOs are setting the agenda? Is this a good thing? And like, you know, these guys well, would you trust them with, you know, being able to increasingly be in charge of how the world works?

S5: I don’t think that the CEOs have set the agenda in quite the same way that you think in the last four years in America. I think that the president was very influential. He could influence their stock. A lot of them were running scared of him. I think there is a concentration of power in certain sectors and certain sectors of the economy, particularly tech, which is not healthy. And I would worry about that as opposed to setting some kind of corporate agenda. I also think that the consequences of the extraordinary monetary policy over the last 10 years and the asset inflation has benefited the corporate sector a great deal. So I take issue as well with your description of Jeff Bezos. I don’t think he’s kicked himself upstairs at all. I think he swapped seats. I think he’s going to be running the strategy of Amazon as ever before. So to sum up, it’s about concentration of corporate power rather than a concentration of power into the political arena.

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S1: I noticed as I was reading that you didn’t seem to have a particularly high opinion of most tech CEOs. And I’m just curious, because you’ve obviously had a long relationship with CEOs in more traditional industries. Do you think that there is a significant difference in this kind of new breed of CEOs and what you think that might also mean for the future of capitalism, which is also something you speak about frequently?

S5: Well, I didn’t write about Jeff Bezos. I mean, as it happens, I have a very high opinion of him as a CEO. I think it’s quite extraordinary what he created at Amazon. I think Mark Zuckerberg is tone deaf. I think that Sundar is still relatively relatively untested. I think what I was describing a bit in the book is how certain people running the tech companies, because where they’ve come from and the Silicon Valley mindset, they’re curiously they’re libertarian. There’s a mixture of their libertarian instincts and tone deafness. They don’t quite understand the consequences or the potential negative consequences of what some of the technological innovations have it sort of innovation to say is good. That’s it. They’re beginning to understand as we see the reregulation or the threat of regulation now to attack partly the concentration of power that they’re having to be a lot more kind of of this world rather than their virtual world.

S1: And can you argue, though, that it’s also fairly similar to a number of the banking CEOs before the crash, like thinking that, OK, we’re in this new age where we’ve solved the business cycle, nothing will ever go wrong. We have all of these new advancements in financial products. So I guess I’m just wondering, is this really a difference in mindset or is it just a different industry now?

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S5: I think it’s slightly different. I genuinely think that the banking CEOs, with the exception probably of Jamie Dimon and maybe Lloyd Blankfein, were so extraordinarily arrogant and hubristic and their attitudes were reinforced by the sort of benign credit conditions and crucially, the way that regulation was skewed in their favor. And it sort of encouraged leveraged leverage. I mean, it’s a bit like if you think of a soccer match with all the five year olds crowded around the goal, I mean, that’s what it was like.

S3: And I think they were just blithely ignorant. I think the tech CEOs and the leadership are slightly different.

S5: This is sort of naivete about some of their behavior. They just think they really are doing good. So if you think about Facebook and social media, I mean, I think it’s genuinely shocking that they didn’t wake up earlier to the some of the consequences of what was going on and think of the way Facebook’s been used, extremist groups, Myanmar, etc. And that’s one of the reasons they hired Nick Clegg, was to give them a little bit of well, to give them a little bit of real world politics. Seriously.

S2: Nick Clegg? I mean, I think I’m going to jump in here and say that Jamie Dimon especially but Lloyd Blankfein, too, were probably among. The most arrogant of the banking CEOs who just happened to have slightly better positioning, they were smart. Maybe the arrogance is more justified and they didn’t lose lots of money and so their banks survived. But they are arrogant. They do, especially Jamie does feel with some justification that he’s competing at the highest level and winning, whereas the tech CEOs aren’t really competing. They all have monopolies. And that, I think, is the big difference that, you know, Zuckerberg has this monopoly on social media. Google has this monopoly on search. And with that, you can feel like you are some sort of virtuous, benign dictator because it’s almost too easy to make money.

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S5: Well, again, I disagree with you, Felix, because on the banking side, the crucial point here is what differentiated Lloyd and particularly Jamie Dimon is they managed risk better. And that’s important. I mean, maybe they had a little bit to be arrogant about now that we we’re agreeing or anything with this. Well, no, but managing risk is pretty damned important in the financial services sector, and some did badly. Dick Fuld was still betting into sort of well into 2007. Now, where I agree with you and I talked about the concentration of powers, these de facto monopolies. I mean, they disagree with this in techland is a serious problem. I think the way Facebook gobbled up WhatsApp and Instagram, I mean, it was not challenged by the regulators at all. So I agree with you there that that sort of encouraged slightly their mindset. I’d like to think that Cynda picture, again, is a slightly different leader. He’s not arrogant. I think that the humility is a bit it’s more than skin deep. And he’s trying to grapple with these enormous problems.

S2: And I would I would agree with that. And I think also, like Satya Nadella at Microsoft is slightly more humble and is competing well and making insane amounts of money by by doing a good job rather than just collecting monopoly rents, although there’s no shortage of monopoly rents that he has. So let’s talk about digital journalism. You reckon that you turn the PhD into a digital newspaper, give yourself good marks for that one.

S5: Well, I don’t want to sound too modest or humble here, Felix. It was a team effort and I had some very good people. And I work with the commercial side. They came up with the business model. What I did was figure out the journalism to make that digital transformation that took some very difficult management decisions to you know, we went the newsroom went through three iterations. It was evolutionary. Some might say we didn’t move fast enough. Could be right on that. We were a bit slow to develop our data journalism. But we’re also at the same time, remember, I said I’m not going to be editor of the loss making effort. And we didn’t lose money when I was editor. She’s not bad. So we walked and chew gum at the same time. We preserve the newspaper, which was still an important source of revenue, but we increasingly became a global subscription business. And look, we doubled the paying readership to more than a million while I was editor. And, you know, I talk a bit about in the book about some of the the management techniques that I used, the recruitment, the retention to achieve that.

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S4: One thing I was thinking about, the F.T. I mean, your paywall is relentless. It’s very strong. If Donald Trump wanted to build a wall, I mean, it should have come to you guys to figure out as while it’s impossible. Was it Steve Schwarzman, who you had the whole fight with over there, not paying for all their their other ethics, they said, after one of their former employees was sharing passwords.

S5: So, yes. Which was so there was a breach. My goodness. Yeah. Really a breach in the wall. They try breaching the wall into a fence.

S4: I never identified with a billionaire before until I read that passage. I was thinking, because it’s expensive to get access to the F.T. you have a lot of access to all these powerful people, their sources. They’re helping you navigate the biggest stories of the time. It seems like the whole enterprise is skewed to the perspective of the powerful, sometimes the damned. I don’t know if you disagree, but do you think that that skews the journalism in a way like maybe you would have gotten down to Brexit faster if if it was a different kind of publication? Do you know what I mean?

S5: I think it’s really important. I mean, this book is a snapshot of my time as editor over the 14 years. And I met a lot of powerful people, you know, in that time. But I also visited and reported from the favela in Sao Paulo, Kibera in Kenya to Myanmar, Beijing. And, you know, I was in Kazakhstan, for goodness sake. I mean, I did do on the ground reporting. And I don’t think it’s true to say to cast the F.T. as some kind of elitist publication that’s totally out of touch with what’s going on among small investors or whatever. Now, I’ll come to Brexit in a minute, but we are at the same time a niche publication. I mean, we are a premium product, right? We’re read by people who make decisions and influence decisions in business, finance and politics and economics around the world. That’s our audience.

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S3: Yeah, but you can’t serve that audience if you’re just sitting in the salons. I mean, you need to get out. You need to be able to tell people what’s forces that are coming up, the revolutions from below, if you like.

S5: There is one example, and I do talk about this in the book that I think we did miss Brexit because we took an economically rational view of the world and the British people would vote for their pocketbooks and they didn’t. They voted for identity politics and we miss that. But it’s important to say that afterwards, you know, we had an inquest and I made certain decisions with the team to shift the way we were reporting on Britain and to become less metropolitan. So in that case, in that narrow sense, I think you’re correct.

S2: Let me ask you about this thing where you said that you didn’t want to be the editor of the laws making F.T. And put that into contrast with humble Sunda picture at Google who just came out and revealed that he spent five point six billion dollars last year alone and fourteen point six billion dollars over the past three years, deliberately making these enormous multibillion dollar losses on Google Cloud. Because, you know, he wants to invest in growth in the standard thing to do in the markets these days and certainly in Silicon Valley is invest in growth, invest in growth. And when you are saying you didn’t want to be the editor of the loss making F.T., basically what that means is you didn’t want to invest in growth, but you didn’t want to have any losses on the way to your money. No, that’s true, too.

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S5: However, many know Felix with the greatest respect, of course, is that is a complete distortion, a kind of a hundred and eighty six, maybe make it three hundred and sixty degree of distortion.

S4: I can’t believe you said that.

S5: I mean, first of all, we were owned by a public company. We were a subsidiary of Pearson, which was a conglomerate. We didn’t have a licence to lose money. I mean, we had to meet budgets. I didn’t choose this. We had to meet a budget set by the owners of the company now. So we didn’t have some chance of being Amazon and running up the Nifty lost 40 million, 32 million pounds in 2003. And then it made another loss in 2004 and it ran up 60 million. Before I took over, the editor got removed. That’s why I took over, so guess what, why I didn’t want to lose money, but you’re assuming that we didn’t invest and I’m going to knock you out of the park in terms of the number. When I come up with the number, the magic number, it’s really important. We we know at the end of the show arrested every year in our journalism. So you got to take that back. That’s a complete distortion.

S2: I will agree that with three hundred and sixty degrees apart, I think if you will work that one out and wind up basically pointing in the same direction.

S5: Yeah. I mean, honestly, you know, when I said I’m going to lose money, it’s because we had a budget to meet and I didn’t control that. You know, nobody influenced my words or the words of colleagues. Anybody works. The effort is important.

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S2: So I guess let me let me just stay on that one, then. When you say you don’t want to be the editor of a loss making F.T., was that because you personally didn’t want to be losing money? You personally didn’t think it would grow faster, would be better if you invested more? Is it because Pearson told you that they you had this mandate from Pearson and they were like, we need our dividend come hell or high water. So you’re just going to have to run this at a profit. And then when you change the ownership and you were owned by Nick, did that pressure change at all? And did they start thinking, well, maybe what we want is a little bit more investment and growth and we don’t care so much about the dividend now.

S5: But you’re assuming that person didn’t invest in the 50 over the years, which they did. I mean, I was given money to invest. I might have like 30 million dollars in 2008, but I might have well, I might have liked more money. That’s another that that’s an argument to have I might have liked to have invested in. You thought we had money to invest. My view, the reason I didn’t want to be the editor of the loss making fee was because I thought we were a premium brand. And I thought if we could grow to be a subscription business, we ought to be able to make some money. Not a lot of money. You can argue I don’t write this in the book, but I actually said to Pearson at one point, you know what, that’s too I imagine we’re not going to make that. And it’s ridiculous. So I’m not going to do that. I just didn’t write that in the book because I’m too diplomatic. We actually should be able as a premium product to make money. Now, you talk about the Japanese. The Japanese did take a longer view of investment cycles and the growth that we did have budget. We do have budgets. I don’t want to talk about it now because I’ve left. But I think you could say that they were less short term than Pearson. But Pearson protected the editorial independence. My killer point here, Felix, is one of the reasons I didn’t want to be the editor of the loss making effort was because I could say, fuck you to any commercial people who are trying to tell me what to do because we were making money. We weren’t lust making the moment. Your loss making. That’s when commercial people can start pushing you around, even if they say they believe in the editorial independence of the left. There’s a risk there. And the fact is it never happened.

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S1: I would say the fact that we’re having an argument about whether or not a company should make a profit, like perhaps speaks to the fact that we are in a very different economic environment than, say, the kind of heyday of newspapers and now newspapers are having to compete with industries to a certain extent that frankly don’t necessarily have half to make money that can throw a lot more money. And I guess that was one thing that kind of was jumping out at me as I was reading the book, the role of newspapers and the significance of newspapers in kind of this environment, because, you know, you talk about kind of whether the left is going to endorse one party or another. And there’s this part of me that’s like, does that really matter in the way I just you know, I don’t think it does, actually.

S5: And I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about that at all. I think in some ways we could have just stayed out of it because I vote, you know. Didn’t you think of 1992 when the left, I think, mistakenly backed Neil Kinnock and the Labour Party in a rather mealy mouthed endorsement, which I mentioned in the book? I was conscious of that. I think it really did matter because readers were offended. They couldn’t understand why the F.T. the sort of newspaper the city did that. I think it mattered a bit in 2010 when we switched from Labour, Blair to the Conservatives. But overall, doesn’t matter at all is much more important to understand that, you know, it’s not a newspaper. It’s a news organization. It’s digital. Now, it’s all about the brand for the F.T. As a paper that writes about business and finance, I felt and I’m still going to come back on this, that when you go in and say. Hello to some CEO on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley, Lionel Barber here, editor of The Loss Making.

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S2: F.T. what do you think those people think this little if you’re worth nine hundred million dollars or whatever Nikkei paid for you?

S5: We’re not we didn’t make very much money, but we didn’t we didn’t lose money.

S4: That’s the key. Felix, you can only lose money if you have a lot of money. If you’re like the editor of a newspaper in the during the decline of newspaper industry, it’s cool to make the money. Exactly. That is the distinction, right, between Jeff Bezos and Lionel.

S2: Let me actually move back to your friend Mario Draghi and Europe, and I want to ask you about this, because you are now the co proprietor of the loss making the Europe here.

S6: Its not loss making, you understand, is not loss making. You need to do your own research. It’s not losing money.

S2: It made a small profit so tiny you’re not going to invest or you’re going to it will lose money in the next year or two.

S5: Felix, why do you think we raise money if we’re not going to invest so that it can make losses? No, it’s it’s actually to invest.

S6: What are you doing with the money and keep fighting to people with a new European background?

S5: Now, what if what if the new European the new European was a pop up newspaper that appeared in the supermarkets after Brexit in 2016, and it’s grown to a circulation of just under 20000. It’s got a small digital presence. It turns a very small profit, but it’s basically it was an anti Brexit news sheet and forty eight pages weekly. And now, look, the was over Brexit has been settled. So the new European, which appealed very much to that 48 percent of Brits who voted for remain against Brexit. What’s he going to do. And I was approached to invest that magic word and help them. And I’ve decided because I’m very pro-European, I think, you know, it’s a shame about Brexit. But that settles. If I can help and grow this thing a bit, then all good.

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S2: You still it seems to have some kind of hope and faith in the European project. What chances do you give Mario Draghi in Italy as the new prime minister? Do you think he’s going to be able to succeed? By what? And how should we measure whether he succeeds or not?

S5: He has an enormously difficult task because he doesn’t come out of the political arena. He has no party following. It doesn’t run a party. So he’s essentially been appointed because of his moral authority and his record as a central banker, his task and how we measure his success. And I think, frankly, I don’t know whether he’ll last longer than maybe 18 months or something. That’s pretty par for the course in Italian politics. But it’ll be by two things. The first is how he tackles the public health crisis, which endures. So vaccinations, you know, can he get a bit of British luck the way we in Britain accelerated on vaccinations? We’ve got the vaccines in, got a programme out that will be the first thing. So you see the tide of covid infections declining and sort of restoration of normality. That’s number one. Number two, Italy has four hundred billion or so euros to spend under the European Union’s one point nine trillion or so euro recovery package, which included a very important commitment by the Germans, unprecedented to borrow common borrowing on the financial markets. Mario Draghi needs to be able to tap that money in order to do so, do need to be some economic reforms, labour market reform, whatever, pension reform, things like that, that are sort of the conditions for disbursement of that money. If he can do sixty or 70 percent of that, he will be here out of Italy. And I would give him evens chances.

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S1: And I would say hasn’t that the ability of politicians to push through, quote unquote, structural reforms, especially in this era of kind of heightened populism in Italy, in particular because of how fractured it seems like he’s going to have a very, very large challenge ahead of him.

S5: It’s huge. It’s huge. But I spoke to a senior Italian official today, said he dropping yet another name and he said, look, in the end, this is the right choice for Italy. It might not be the right choice for Mario Draghi. But we’re fortunate that we can call on him and he is almost the last card standing on the deck. He didn’t want to do this. I know that he stayed away. He was dreading the call. But in the end, things had got so serious. There’s such deadlock. He’s taken the challenge and I wouldn’t write him off. It’s really difficult. And the bar of expectations needs to be set. Low troop maybe.

S1: Doesn’t it also say something that the most famous person, the person that everyone is turning to is a central banker? And, you know, I guess perhaps what that also says about where the global economy is right now or has been for the past?

S5: Well, I think that’s very important because Janet Yellen, obviously, as Treasury secretary, Draghi now is prime minister.

S2: So this is true that there was talk about Mark Carney becoming the leader of the Liberal Party in Canada. You remember that like he always had rumored political ambitions, like do you think that’s a new thing that we’re going to start seeing central bankers becoming politicians?

S5: No, I don’t. I think Draghi is the exception that that rule. I think yes, Mark Carney was may have been interested, but then Chrystia Freeland, that left journalist. Snuck in under the tent flap and, you know, she’s proving very good. So in general, I think it tells you it’s what was said earlier. It says something about the moral authority of our politicians that, you know, the technocrats, the central bankers are seen as the sort of potential saviors.

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S4: They’re the only ones left that are effective.

S1: They’re also unelected when their central bankers and their unelected.

S3: But it’s also dangerous the way we’ve become. And, you know, we haven’t really talked about this, but this is a theme in the book about QE and the power of the central bankers, that it’s almost that the fiscal policy that’s tied in the bargain has really been downplayed, ignored. And we’ve just got addicted to this easy money and quantitative easing monetary policy to keep everything afloat.

S2: Although that conversation is changing since, you know, we can be a little bit topical here. The the big noise in Washington this week is Larry Summers, his op ed in The Washington Post, another central banker turned politician who has been basically on the side of don’t do too much fiscal policy, one point nine trillion dollars is too much and warning of some vague parade of horribles. He’s definitely left the Democratic Party reservation at this point. What’s your opinion of Larry?

S3: He’s brilliant, intellectually brilliant. Wrote for the funny. I wouldn’t ever challenge him on an economics argument. I’ll tell you that. His voice counts. That’s my opinion. He’s a player because of his intellect.

S4: So Larry Summers was an FTA is I don’t know if he still is an economist, but he was one of when you started up the online commentary, he was one of the first, I think you mentioned. And then in twenty eighteen, there was this letter to the editor published in the FTC that you tweeted, and the letter was, you know, the FTA is mostly white guys and there there just isn’t very much diversity and that’s bad. And all this and you tweeted the letter and said it’s time for a revolution. And then also in the book, you kind of here and there and we alluded to this before, talked about like the alpha male problem at the FTA. And I mean, it’s been recent years there’s been Mutu in in the US especially. We had this whole racial reckoning, the summer. And a lot of media outlets are sort of grappling now with race and gender and all this stuff. When you said it was time for a revolution, like what happened? Has there been one?

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S3: Well, my successor besides your successor, anough. Yeah, that’s quite important. But she didn’t get the job because she’s a woman, right? You got it because she’s an outstanding manager and. Yes, but it’s quite important when you say we’ve got an alpha male problem. The successor is a woman. And by the way, the other thing is I made a commitment just around that time of saying revolution that the top leadership of the F.T. would be 50 50 on gender balance by 2022. And I said we’ll do it before that. And we have and now there’s actually more amies, the system managers, as it is with women than men. So that has been tackled and it’s been to tackle, though crucially on merit, which is what I believe in now when it comes to diversity in general. It’s a big word. It’s used a lot these days. I don’t think that diversity should be the organizing principle in a news organization. That’s not the way to go. It is a very important priority. You need to have a diverse set of views around the table, people from different backgrounds. If you look at the footage of people from New Zealand, is Asia editor, the American managing editor in New York, you’ve got the editor that Janine Gibson was one of my big hires in the last year and came from BuzzFeed. So you got quite a lot of diversity now. Was there a problem when I began?

S4: Yes. Did I tackle it? Yes. So you feel that now? The coverage in the afternoon and among the comments reflects a diversity in terms of race, gender, income, all that stuff. You really feel like it’s done?

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S3: No, I don’t want to speak about the F.T. today because it’s real as a news organization. It’s not mine. The crucial point is direction. And I set a direction and I put my foot on the accelerator. And no, we didn’t. We’re not completely diverse. No. Well, we still are limited in certain areas. Yes. But did we seriously diversify and did we actually crack the gender gap? You bet. And did we also show that through our coverage on me to where we were? You know, very big stories were broken by the F.T., which I referred to in the book, both in terms of Zelda Perkins breaking her window with Harvey Weinstein, his personal assistant who was abused by him, the president’s club, which was a world scoop on that all male ridiculous club that was abusing young women that closed down within 24 hours of us passing the story. And then the big software baron who nobody would touch in Manchester, who’s basically just been, you know, is going to have to go to trial because of the way he treated women. So, you know, we were very robust, both in terms of our organization and our coverage.

S4: Why did you want to push for diversity? What were the flaws in the journalism that you saw?

S3: Well, because otherwise you’re looking at the world through a narrow prism and you’re basically it’s a conversation between a small group, whereas the best news organizations are going to be alive and alert to different points of view. And also, frankly, I mean, sitting around and I describe this in the book at one point where just men are interrupting, the time gets pretty damn boring. So I think it’s really important. I mean, I took I’m not going to name the women, but I took a particular interest in certain younger people, not just women, but also who are less fortunate than I been in my career in order to make them believe they could become big stars and they could really do things that they hadn’t imagined they could. And it’s an enormous amount of satisfaction that I gained as a manager that some of those people are now in executive positions because I’ve encouraged and guided and mentor, and I believe in that profoundly.

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S4: Did you learn that over time, through your career? I mean, you started out at a time when no one talked about that stuff or cared about it at all. What made you start caring about it?

S3: I was lucky that I became editor when I was 50, so I’d done certain things. So you learn a certain humility. And the most important of all, you actually listen, you know, when you’re younger and in a hurry and everything and it’s all about you as a reporter, I became a manager and to be a good manager, I did try and learn from other people and I sought advice. And if you look at the three deputies that I had as editor and latterly it was ruler, you know, I listened. And when you do that, you actually understand what people are saying, how to get make things happen and how to encourage people or for law is about confidence, not arrogance, but confidence, you know, bringing people along.

S2: I think we should have a numbers round, Lionel, you’ve brought a number and I’m going to I suspect it’s going to be F.T. related from the hints that you have dropped. Is this true? What is your number?

S5: You should join Mensa nine number is 550 because when I took over.

S2: Is that the cover? No, no, no.

S3: The number of journalists was there around 550. And the first thing I did was say we’re going to cut 50 jobs as part of the reorganization in the newsroom and making it digital first. And it was painful, but we could do that. We made changes. Then when I left, it was around five eighty five, but it oscillated between five fifty and five eighty five. So when I left, I could say, despite all the challenges, all the times we were trying to have to economize, but also Felix invest the number of journalists was more, if not exactly the same or slightly more than when I started. And also we had 10 percent or more foreign correspondents on staff. So that’s why the magic number is five fifty. I don’t think many other newsrooms were able to do that. And we didn’t have Jeff Bezos deep pockets either.

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S2: And what’s your number?

S1: My number is seven point five million. That is the number of subscriptions the Times reported in their earnings this week in the same way that the kind of Trump and covid seem to have helped them a bit in terms of people subscribing, which I guess is not overly overly surprising. But it will be interesting to see what happens. I would say in perhaps a more, maybe more normal political environment.

S2: Maybe we can, but hope my number is actually no. Emily, what’s your number? Because I worry that you are going to we’re going to duplicate. So I have to get you out of the way first.

S4: Oh, interesting. Yes. Let us get me out of the way. My number is my number. I think we need a little bit more diversity on this show. My number is three hundred and fifty dollars. This is the amount of money that one flaming radical Senator Mitt Romney would like to send out to children, to the parents of children in this country. He floated this proposal this week whereby he would send out payments to parents per child. So it’s three fifty per child under age six. And I just thought it was interesting because while Republicans never want to just give anyone money, though, that’s changed recently with covid. And in the US especially, these stimulus checks are extremely popular. And to I think it shows there’s this new energy behind just giving parents money, because in the United States especially and this is different from other developed countries, having a child often puts people into poverty. We have one of the highest rates of child poverty in the developed world anyway. So Romney put out this radical proposal and it’s not like totally a great proposal. He wants to get rid of some other things to make it happen. That would not be great. And it’s just one of many some Democratic senators have a similar kind of thing where they’re sending out monthly payments to parents. And it’ll be interesting to watch if any of these come to fruition.

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S2: We are in a world where fiscal policy has fewer constraints on it than I can ever remember. So I think I’m vaguely optimistic that it might happen. My number is one hundred and fifty nine billion dollars, which is the market capitalization of Quie Shoe, which is the latest social media company that just went public in Hong Kong, raised more than five billion dollars at the end of last week, which you can be forgiven for not even ever having heard of. We’ve had abidance because they probably but the absolute phenomenon that is Chinese social media and the valuations that are being put on it is a story which I think people aren’t paying quite you know, it’s easy to miss amidst all of the noise, but little you are actually exactly correct. I feel this is a good point to mention this when you say that we need a bit more diversity on this hit show, Slate Money, and how are we going to get this diversity?

S1: So Sleep Money will be looking for a new co-host because I’m starting a new job soon and so will no longer be doing the show. My last day will be in a few weeks. This is the worst news. It’s been a wonderful few years and I’m really going to miss everyone here, including the listeners. But I am sure that you guys will find someone amazing. And as Felix mentioned, this is an opportunity to increase diversity on the show.

S2: So, yeah, distally money, folks. I’m still basically in denial. But if you have any bright ideas, let us know. Lionel is a manager and Hiura of awesome journalists. Do you have any recommendations for who should replace Anthony immensely on this issue.

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S5: Anna is irreplaceable and I will keep my counsel on this, not least because who knows, they might come to the new European.

S2: Would you allow a new European employee to be a co-host of Slate Money or would that be a conflict?

S5: Well, I’m not the boss, so in all humility, we will we will leave that to the bosses of the new European.

S2: Lionel, thanks for coming on this show. It was lively, thanks to Jessamine Molly, for producing.

S7: Thanks to all of you guys for listening. And we will come back next week on sleep money.

S2: I know for Sleepless, I want to ask you about Nick Clegg, he was this very full of hope and potential UK politician who had a terrible time in coalition with the Tories, left, like most political careers do in failure and is now extremely high up in Facebook. You said in your diaries that he would wind up getting eaten alive, basically by Sheryl Sandberg. Do you think that’s what has ended up happening now?

S3: I said that there was a risk that he would be eaten alive. But then in the next paragraph I said, but actually Facebook is in such a hole that actually even Sheryl and Mark may have to listen to Nick because he does have a political touch and they desperately need that. And they were, frankly, tone deaf as they grew at an astronomical rate, you know, in the last decade or so. So has he got some influence? I think he’s had some influence, yes. In the sort of wise persons panel. We’ll have to see what the judgments are. And I think he’s just acted as a bit of a kind of shield, just a voice in the room that says, hang on, wait a minute. If we do that, he assured me at the time that he would never take the job if he was just going to be a doormat. So I would I would say, you know, on a scale of one to 10, in terms of influence, I’d give him a seven plus. How’s that?

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S2: That’s impressive.

S4: It sounds impressive, but could you expand on what influence he’s had? Because the last few months, I think Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg have just been as to borrow your term as tone deaf as ever, especially with the violence we had here in the United States. And Sambor coming out and saying, well, they didn’t organize on Facebook and then, like a steady trickle of stories came out saying, well, now that these people did organize actually on Facebook, I mean, I don’t think they look any better lately than prior to Nick Clegg’s arrival. But I I don’t know, maybe, you know, something that you can share.

S5: No, I only said seven plus. I think the crucial point is to distinguish between signal and noise. And I think that signal as opposed to noise is what they say and where Cheryl, you know, she can be a bit defensive, certainly in tone and manner, and they don’t like admitting that they ever got anything wrong. But actually, the creation to me, the creation of this panel examining decisions is very important. And look, right now, the most the hottest topic. You guys know this better than I do. The hottest topic right now is censorship.

S3: And the tech companies and the fact they were allowing a panel to review some of these decisions I think is very important. And then they also, you know, they took down they did act in the run up after the election when, again, this was an extraordinary period. And I think they took the right decision.

S4: I mean, it came very late after years and years and years. I mean, it’s just seems like a Band-Aid on the giant gash.

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S5: Six plus.

S6: I can keep going down. No personal.

S3: No, I’m afraid that’s my last offer from personal anecdote.

S2: I can tell you that my entire family in Germany, after many years of just communicating solely by WhatsApp, has finally in the past few weeks just decided they can’t even anymore with this Facebook stuff. And they’ve moved everyone over to signal know.

S3: I do notice a lot of signal people coming up that. That’s correct. You know, we still got to see how the whole Facebook integration of what’s happened. Instagram actually works and it is a juggernaut. I’m just saying, without Nick Clegg, I think you could sort of magnify times five that they’re sort of their problems in the political space.

S2: If you think Facebook is bad now, just imagine how much worse it would be if Nick Clegg wasn’t there. Thank you, Lionel, for that little sleep extra.