The Wincott Foundation has been fortunate over the years in attracting the interest and support of some of the country’s outstanding financial journalists. One such supporter was Paul Bareau, who, like Harold Wincott, was a strong and articulate advocate for free trade and open markets. He was a trustee of the Foundation for several years and served briefly as chairman. He also delivered the annual Wincott memorial lecture in 1980; his subject was “The disorder in world money”. Bareau’s long and remarkable career is the subject of a fascinating memoir by his son Peter.
Born in Belgium in 1901, Paul Bareau fled with his family to London in September 1914, just after the German invasion of the country. In 1925, after education at Dulwich College and the London School of Economics, he obtained his first journalistic job at The Statist, a long-established economic weekly that competed with the Economist. In 1935 he became deputy city editor of the News Chronicle, working under another distinguished City journalist, Oscar Hobson,, while also serving as assistant editor of the Economist and associate editor of the Banker
Bareau continued to work for that newspaper for the next 24 years, broken only by an 18-month secondment to the Treasury at the end of the war. That appointment came about in 1945 when Bareau was invited to serve as press officer for the Treasury delegation that was about to start negotiations with the US over a new loan that was to succeed the Lend-Lease Agreement. This experience, which brought Bareau into close contact with Lord Keynes, leader of the British delegation, and with senior American officials, gave him an insight into international monetary affairs which he was to put to good use when he returned to London.
He took up his old job at the News Chronicle. Following the demise of the News Chronicle in 1960, he was appointed editor of The Statist. This journal had been struggling for several years, and its owner, International Publishing Corporation, saw Bareau as someone who could supervise a relaunch and “give the Economist something to worry about”. With the help of some able colleagues, including Jock Bruce-Gardyne as foreign editor, Margot Naylor as investment editor and Colin Jones as industrial editor, Bareau raised the quality of the Statist to the point where it was indeed a credible alternative to the Economist. However, its circulation and advertising revenue were never sufficient to make an adequate profit and it was closed down in 1967.
Over the next few years Bareau continued writing and lecturing on financial themes, as well as amassing a number of advisory jobs with a range of companies, banks, and other organisations. He wrote letters to The Times on issues he felt strongly about; one of his targets was the Common Agricultural Policy, “the one element of nonsense in the affairs of the EEC”. In 1971 he received the OBE for services to financial journalism.
In describing Paul Bareau’s long life – he died in 2000 at the age of 98 – his son Peter has written what is in part a charming family memoir, but the book contains much interesting detail about the events which Paul Bareau observed and wrote about. In some of these events he was also a participant. These included the Bank Rate Tribunal which was set up in 1957 to investigate an apparent leak of the government’s decision to raise Bank Rate from 5 per cent to 7 per cent. Bareau was one of several journalists questioned about whether they had been given inside information about the Bank Rate announcement. Allegations about Bareau were found to be without foundation.
For anyone interested in the evolution of Britain’s post war economic policy, this book contains a mine of information, written in an engaging style alongside a rounded picture of a man who made a notable contribution to British financial journalism.
Sir Geoffrey Owen
Paul Bareau (1901-2000), A Life, by Peter Bareau. The book is privately published, but a pdf version of the book can be obtained from Peter Bareau at email@example.com.