ECB President Draghi speaks during the monthly news conference in Frankfurt. Reuters

There's a great scene in the classic Cold War drama, The Hunt for Red October, in which a defecting Russian submarine captain (played by Sean Connery) has teamed-up with a CIA analyst (Alec Baldwin).

While waiting for the expected explosion of a torpedo fired only seconds earlier, Captain Ramius turns to Agent Ryan and asks, rather too casually, what sort work he does for the CIA before going on to criticise the conclusions of his academic work.

In the throes of a kill-or-be-killed standoff with the still-loyal commander of the class of the Soviet fleet, it seemed an odd time to get so pedantic, which, of course, made the scene even more memorable.

I'm just as perplexed now by the reaction of so many of my media colleagues to the European Central Bank's programme of unlimited bond purchases - Outright Monetary Transactions - and the political mandate is supposedly breaches.

Amidst a financial crisis that, according to the Bank's own economists, will be "bigger than Lehman" and has already claimed the economies (and some would say sovereignty) of Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Cyprus and ousted governments in France, the Netherlands and Italy, it seems an odd time to get so pedantic about the remit of an opaque institution that hasn't had a democratic mandate for at least a decade.

Surely the time for concern was when the ECB blatantly tossed aside its single needle "price stability" mandate and entered the Eurozone rescue arena in the first place? Or perhaps before, when money supply dried-up, credit markets collapsed, the financial crisis killed trillions in value and the ECB refused to lower its key lending rate?

Let's be honest: a central bank that has no taxpayer indemnification, no democratic oversight and sits on at least €3 trillion in assets that it won't disclose is hardly the place to start arguing about the rules on the back of its Monopoly box.

It's already made arbitrary decisions on the kinds of private collateral it accepts from barely-solvent organisations in exchange for lending taxpayers' money.

It's already erased previous rules on the quality of government bonds it will use to provide liquidity to other institutions.

And it's already big-footed public institutions by demanding seniority on Greek loans while taxpayer-rescued banks were press-ganged into billions of euros of losses in the biggest bond restructuring in history.

And it's done all of this with the classic academic arrogance that can only truly be pulled-off by the unelected elite that so often rule the Mandarin roost.


In truth, this makes the ECB little different to the various "pillars" of the European Union's construction - a project that has been forged and crafted for at least 50 years in the face of democratic opposition that has been time and time ignored by those who claimed to know better.

To complain *now* - after the democratic fiascos that include everything from Maastricht, Lisbon and Greece's single currency entry to Herman van Rompuy - seems to miss the point entirely.

The European Union has never been about mandates - democratic or otherwise. It's been about economic practicality and political cohesion.

Both, at this stage of the crisis, are teetering.

Unemployment sits at record highs - shamefully so for the young - and the new German-led drive for constitutionally mandated austerity (again, without much consultation from the folks who, you know, kind of pay for it) will likely ensure flat-line growth for years to come. Spain's benchmark borrowing costs were speeding towards 8 percent before Mario Draghi's verbal intervention in London, and Italy's weren't that far behind.

Meanwhile, disaffected youth around the region - and at the fringes - are joining far right political groups who are all too eager to take full advantage of the democratic deficit that's left tensions simmering from Brussels to Budapest.

So, for me, worrying about the semantic meaning of the ECB's mandate while the true pillars of the European Union are collapsing all around us seems, well, rather odd.

Thankfully, Captain Ramius' maverick combat skills saved his submarine, the eponymous Red October, and foiled the dastardly Soviet baddie, Captain Viktor Tupolev, whose by-the-book tactics end up destroying his own ship with a misfired torpedo.

I'll leave it to the reader to decide for themselves which character to assign to Mario Draghi.

But at this stage in the battle, I could care less whether he's really playing by the rules.