'In 1997 Gordon Brown decided to consider disposing of part of this nation's Gold reserves. With Gold in a prolonged bear phase, happily the treasury consulted the advice of key figures in the financial markets, commodities and gold analysts not to mention their friends at the Bank of EnglandThat's Jonathan Bracey-Gibbon from an article in The Commentator.
To a man they said, by all metrics and technical analyses, Gold was coming to the end of a bear phase, and to sell, especially at a time when the coffers were relatively healthy would be folly. So Brown, the man who said to parliament and the nation that he knew better than the market, ignored them.
Treasury documents released under a freedom of information request in 2010 showed that Ed Balls and Ed Miliband were both copied into correspondence on the gold sale, while working as Special Advisers to Gordon Brown at the time. Ed Balls is cc-ed in to the correspondence on pages 5, 12, 13, 14, 16, and 17 of the documents released by the Treasury. Ed Miliband is also cc-ed on p. 14 of the releases.
As the Times reported at the time, ‘Key Treasury advisers including Ed Balls and Ed Miliband, were copied in to the correspondence', as were David Miliband and Shriti (now Baroness) Vadera, for whose green shoots of 2009 the nation still waits.
It has been argued that there was something about Gold - the fact that it remains a sedentary instrument, producing nothing, acquiring value for its own sake - that offended Brown and Balls' political sensibilities. At the time, the Treasury said it wanted to "achieve a better balance in the portfolio" by increasing the proportion of reserves held in foreign currency. With nearly 50 percent of the net foreign currency reserves invested in Gold, the exposure to a single asset was too great, it said.
So the idea was to sell Gold and to put the money to 'better use'. To this end one is minded of the child who, finding a tin of paint, is minded to make Daddy's Jag look nicer. Gordon decided to invest in interest-bearing Bonds by dint of the fact that they would produce an income. Work for the nation or some such nonsense. You can hear the crash of endowment investors' heads smashing against desks across the land. As one wag put it, "Brown seemed to only have one eye on the market, and it wasn't the good one."
Defenders of Brown, and therefore the two Eds, posit the bizarre argument that it was done with the best of intentions, that there was sound fiscal reasoning behind wanting a more secure diversified portfolio etc etc. Furthermore, that at the time the price was realistic and that no-one can tell the future, and so on.
But woeful ignorance of the markets and incompetence is not the real sin here. What is, and remains forever unforgivable, is the breathtaking arrogance with which Brown and Balls completely ignored expert advice not only that Gold could well be at the bottom of a bear cycle, but also as to how NOT to conduct a sale of that size.
And let's not be politically partisan about this. This from the lefties at Liberal Conspiracy: "When it comes to the matter of how the Gold was sold, it really does seem that Brown didn’t know how to best sell gold – and more damningly – didn’t try to find out the best way either. By announcing the sale in advance it is reckoned that he depressed the market by around 10%. Record numbers of investors took up “short” positions on Gold in anticipation of the sale."
That arrogance alone cost the nation something in the region of £350m and it really does beg the question why Brown behaved in such a fashion. Ed Balls still hasn't explained that one away.
According to the BBC's Robert Peston, the sale was 'the least well-timed investment decisions of this or any age. Gordon Brown’s sale of 395 tonnes of our gold in 17 auctions between July 1999 and March 2002 achieved in those disposals, $275.6/oz.
At the time Peston revealed, "The $3.5bn of revenue raised in the sales was invested in interest-bearing assets denominated in dollars, euros and yen to the extent of 40%, 40% and 20% respectively. So to calculate the true net loss to the taxpayer, I would have to adjust for the yield on these assets and movements in the value of those currencies. And I don’t have enough information on precisely what was bought and when to make that calculation." Indeed.
However, since then, estimates put the net proceeds of Brown's trading efforts on the plus side at £3bn, so at today's price, around $1600/oz, the nation is still nursing a net loss of just under £10bn and climbing.'
The failure of the 'Conservative' Prime Minister and his 'Conservative' Chancellor to try and hold the last Labour government to account for the stupidity or wilfully destructive nature of many of their decisions appals me. The Labour government were blaming the 1979-1997 for all the ills of the country for most of the 1997-2010 period. The Labour government were aided in this by the BBC who were happy to blame the Conservatives for everything that was wrong. Since 2010 the BBC have happily reset the clocks to zero and all problems are due entirely to Torry toffs being out of touch.