Bank of England's King Plans to Waltz Into the Sunset

Simon Dawson | Bloomberg via Getty Images

Dance lessons are one of Bank of England Governor Mervyn King's few clear plans for his retirement when he steps down later this month after 20 years at the Bank of England.

In a rare personal interview to be broadcast later on Sunday, the 65-year-old, who was previously a professor at the London School of Economics, expressed sadness that his focus on work had damaged his private life.

"The career always came first. That was probably a mistake," he said when asked if he regretted not having children and only marrying in 2007.

King rarely speaks about his personal life, though his passion for cricket and soccer team Aston Villa is well-known.

However he opened up in an interview with BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, a British broadcasting institution in which public figures discuss their lives and the eight pieces of music they would wish to listen to if stranded on a desert island.

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King's top pick was "My Ship" from the 1941 musical Lady in the Dark by composer Kurt Weill and lyricist Ira Gershwin.

The song was played at his wedding to Barbara Melander, a university sweetheart who he lost touch with when she returned home to Finland, and then reconnected with later in life.

Ever the economist, King partly blamed the heavily regulated nature of the international telephony market in the 1970s for him and Melander drifting apart.

Most of King's musical choices were classical - though he also selected a song celebrating Aston Villa's 1982 European cup success - and he commented how he felt like dancing whenever he heard Beethoven's 7th Symphony in A major.

"I have promised my wife when I leave the Bank that I will take dance lessons," he said.

Talking about his work, King confirmed the widespread impression that he takes a rigorous, academic approach to central banking and has little sympathy with commercial bankers.

"My office tries very hard to protect me as much as possible each morning to have as much of the morning free as I can to sit and read and think and reflect," he said.

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King rebuffed in familiar terms criticisms that the Bank of England had failed to warn of the risk of a financial crisis.

But he expressed pleasure that fewer young people now wished to become bankers. "I don't think they want to earn money if it's being earned in a way that creates enormous damage to the rest of society," he said.

He also showed a soft spot for Britain's politicians, despite the fact that some - such as former Labour finance minister Alistair Darling - have been less flattering about him.

"Most of the politicians I have had the good fortune to work with are far more impressive people than the press would lead you to believe," he said.

"Perhaps we would do better to give politicians space to let them go away in private to think something through in depth, and then come back and talk about it at length, rather than expect ... an immediate solution to every problem."