The LIBOR scandal is being commented on as the scandal that will break the camel’s back. The one that will change the culture of the so-called “master’s of the universe” with their casino banking and the devastation they have wreaked on the whole world.
I’m sorry, but I don’t believe a word of it.
Bankers doing something incredibly corrupt seems to be a bit of a dog-bites-man sort of a story these days. What’s new? Why do we think they’ll learn this time, when essentially bankrupting the whole world doesn’t seem to have taught them a thing?
The money Barclays have been fined will go back into the FSA’s pot to be redistributed in savings to other banks who may well have been doing the same thing. Presumably, if they get caught and fined, the money from their fines will go back in savings to Barclays. The merry-go-round isn’t stopping. It’s not even slowing down. The bankers are just barely attempting to conceal their arrogant contempt for anyone who isn’t them with the very thin veil of a dropped bonus here or there.
There’ll be no real consequences for those involved. Not one’s they will actually feel. Bob Diamond might lose his job, but that will hardly dent his spending power. He’s already rinsed the country plenty – now he’ll get to retire on the spoils. Oh and he might have to personally answer some “serious questions” from the PM. Whoop-de-doo.
These are the people whose short-termism and greed have led to cuts that are making the hardest of lives even harder. But more importantly, this is the system that enabled them. It’s probably important to go after the individuals for their avarice and mendacity. But they will be replaced, and probably by people with even shorter memories and even fewer scruples.
It is only when there is genuine change to the system that we will be able to stop the greedy gambling with the lives of the needy. It is only through using a strong system of regulation, with real teeth, real sanctions and consequences both for individuals and institutions that anyone can hope to believe that things can and will change. That we can have a banking system that works for the many and not the few.
People are – at the same time – increasingly angry and increasingly resigned. Every new indignity that comes out of this financial crisis piles on the last, but eventually, what was once shocking is now the new normal. We’re used to being taken for a ride and we’re used to the Government being unwilling to stop it. Change needs to come soon or change may not come. If it’s not the Tories now (and it won’t be) it will have to be at the very top of Labour’s agenda. The first piece of legislation brought by a new Labour Government in 2015. To change not just the players but the game of banking.
People are right to direct some of their anger at Labour. Our hands are not clean. We need to convince people that lessons have not just been learned, but have been internalised and will be acted on.
There are real predators out there. Ed’s conference speech may have been criticised for its stark language, but there is nothing about the crisis we face and the utter inability of the people we once trusted implicitly to look after the money we earn to squander our money, our trust, our goodwill and our faith until there is nothing left but their mockery that is not stark.
Our solutions, that first piece of legislation will have to be truly bold. Not just politically daring, but a piece of legislation that will challenge a system that works internationally and stop abuses of our people in such a way that allows our citizens to continue to live productive lives in a global economy. That’s not a simple ask. It’s not a simple as nationalising this or regulating that. It will possibly be the most difficult and challenging task a modern Government can take up. I hope Labour have the guts for the fight. I think if we don’t we will be simply riding the fin de siècle wave as it comes crashing down.
But the fact that I think it will be worse if we don’t act does not mean I yet believe that we will. Action will take extreme bravery in the face of a virulent and incredibly powerful and well resourced opposition. Facing that down will take a strength and singularity of purpose. Do Labour have that? Are we ready for this fight? I don’t yet know.
Make me believe it, make the country believe it, I dare you Labour.