July 3, 2024
The recent decision by the Bank of England (BoE) to maintain its interest rate at 5.25% for the seventh consecutive time has significant implications, particularly in the context of the upcoming UK elections. This “finely balanced” decision, as described by BoE Governor Andrew Bailey, comes at a crucial juncture where economic policy and political strategy intersect. This article aims to dissect the reasons behind this decision, its current and future impacts, and its relevance in the political landscape of the UK.

Historical Context: From Inflation Peaks to Stabilisation

In October 2022, when Rishi Sunak assumed office, inflation was at a staggering 11.1%, marking a 41-year high. This period of economic turbulence necessitated a series of aggressive rate hikes by the BoE to curb inflation.

By August 2023, interest rates had peaked at 5.25%, and since then, the BoE has maintained this rate. The concerted efforts seem to have borne fruit as the inflation rate fell to the BoE’s target of 2% in May 2024.

The Current Situation: A Delicate Balance

Despite the positive news of inflation reaching the 2% target, the BoE decided to keep the interest rate steady as it has been doing for the past few months. Governor Andrew Bailey pressed on the need for certainty that inflation would remain low before any rate cuts could be justified.

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) was divided, with a 7-2 vote in favour of maintaining the rate. Swati Dhingra and Dave Ramsden, the dissenters, advocated for a 0.25% cut, citing improving economic indicators.

Economic Indicators and Market Reactions

The decision was anticipated by financial markets, which are now betting on a possible rate cut in August or later in the year. This cautious stance by the BoE contrasts with other central banks, such as the European Central Bank and the Bank of Canada, which have already started to lower rates.

The BoE’s caution is partly due to concerns about wage growth and services inflation, which have not moderated as expected.

Impact on Borrowers and Savers

The decision to hold interest rates has mixed implications for different economic actors. For savers, the continuation of high-interest rates is beneficial, offering better returns on savings accounts. However, for borrowers, particularly homeowners with mortgages and small businesses reliant on loans, the prolonged period of high rates is burdensome. The Resolution Foundation estimates that mortgage refinancing at these rates could collectively cost homeowners an additional £12 billion by the end of the year.

David Bharier from the British Chambers of Commerce highlighted that high borrowing costs have deterred business investments, which could be a drag on overall economic growth. The business community is keenly awaiting rate cuts that could provide the much-needed relief and stimulate investment.

Political Implications: Pre-Election Strategies

The timing of the BoE’s decision is particularly significant given the upcoming UK election on July 4. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose Conservative Party is trailing in the polls, has been hoping for economic indicators that would allow for a pre-election rate cut to boost personal finances. However, the BoE’s decision dashed these hopes, potentially impacting the Conservative Party’s election strategy.

While Sunak has claimed credit for the reduction in inflation since his tenure began, the opposition Labour Party attributes high mortgage rates and economic challenges to the mismanagement by previous Conservative leadership. The BoE, maintaining its apolitical stance, stated that the upcoming election had no impact on its decision.


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Future Forecast: Rate Cuts on the Horizon?

Looking ahead, the BoE’s minutes suggest a possible rate cut in the near future. Ruth Gregory from Capital Economics interprets the MPC’s language as indicative of a willingness to cut rates in August if the data aligns with their expectations. Similarly, James Smith from ING expects a rate cut in August, provided the next inflation report does not present any “nasty surprises”.

The BoE anticipates inflation to rise slightly above the 2% target later in the year due to base effects from past energy price falls. Nonetheless, a significant portion of the MPC feels that the disinflationary trajectory remains intact, setting the stage for potential rate reductions.

Critical Analysis: The Broader Implications

The BoE’s cautious approach underscores the complexity of balancing economic stability with growth. While maintaining high interest rates has successfully curbed inflation, it has also stifled business investment and strained personal finances. The political dimension adds another layer of complexity, as economic policies are often scrutinised through the lens of electoral outcomes.

As the UK heads towards the election, the interplay between economic policy and political strategy will be pivotal. The BoE’s independence in making decisions based purely on economic indicators, rather than political pressure, is crucial for maintaining market confidence and long-term stability.


The Bank of England’s decision to hold interest rates at 5.25% reflects a nuanced and cautious approach to economic management. While this decision has immediate implications for borrowers, savers, and businesses, its political ramifications are also significant ahead of the UK elections.

The future trajectory of interest rates will depend on forthcoming economic data, particularly inflation reports. For now, the BoE remains vigilant, prioritising economic stability over short-term gains, a stance that will undoubtedly influence both economics and politics in the country over the coming months.

Words by Mallika Singhal


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