Blame The Bankers Ed – the public already do…

20th December, 2012 11:14 am

There has been a clamour in the Labour Party over the last couple of years for Labour to apologise for the global financial crisis.

I’ve written posts calling for Labour to apologise for weak financial sector regulation, and some have even gone as far as suggesting Labour should apologise for “spending too much” (as if somehow it was building schools and hospitals, paying pensions and tax credits that crashed Lehmann Brothers).

Much of the clamour from Labour people to get the party to apologise stems from the belief (borne out by polling) that Labour is seen as more to blame for the financial crisis than the Tories. Of course we are blamed more than the Tories. We had been in power for 11 years by then, and when the music stopped we were the ones sitting in the ministerial cars. The Tories – despite calling for weaker financial regulation and for Britain to be more like Ireland – can’t really be blamed, as they hadn’t been anywhere near the levers of power for over a decade.

Labour are blamed more for the financial crisis than the Tories, because we were more to blame, I’m afraid. But it doesn’t follow that either a) Labour must now follow the crazy Tory “remedy” of über-austerity, or b) that Labour is mostly to blame for the financial crisis. Because although Labour gets blamed more than the Tories, there’s another group who are seen as far more to blame than any bunch of politicians.


A poll from Survation/Progressive Polling released today shows that a whopping 61.7% of the British public blame the banking industry for the 2008 financial crisis and everything that has come afterwards – more than double the number who blame Labour most.

Ed Miliband can’t escape the fact that Labour was in power in 2008, and cannot undo the mistakes that were made by Labour in government. But he can turn the fire of the British people in a direction that most of them are already facing – and bash the bankers. A Banker bonus tax, stricter financial regulation and prison time for fraudulent banksters who damage the British economy in future with reckless illegality are all potentially populist policies which Miliband should pursue in the run up to 2015.

Blame the bankers Ed – because the British public already do…

Value our free and unique service?

LabourList has more readers than ever before - but we need your support. Our dedicated coverage of Labour's policies and personalities, internal debates, selections and elections relies on donations from our readers.

If you can support LabourList’s unique and free service then please click here.

To report anything from the comment section, please e-mail [email protected]
  • AlanGiles

    ” some have even gone as far as suggesting Labour should apologise for “spending too much”

    No need to apologise for building schools and hospitals BUT

    they certainly need to apologise for the billions of pounds wasted on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars

  • Charlie_Mansell

    30.8% of DE voters blame the last Labour Government, which is the highest figure from any occupational group. Also significant is that 40% of the traditionally marginal East and West Midlands also blame the last Labour Government….and this is before the Lynton Crosby advertising campaign to remind even more people on the issue of who to blame (ie the ‘don’t go back’ message). If the bankers figure was 75% across the board in a time when political campaigning/advertising is low it would be reassuring, but 61% strikes me as actually very low for any easy victory in 2015. Labour needs a narrative that does really show we have learned from 2008. We have made some progress with Ed’s speeches on ‘responsibility’ and the One Nation approach, but we need some cast iron ‘responsibility deals’ and a commitment to independent assessment of them to weather the Tory attack in 2014/15.

    • Hugh

      “61% strikes me as actually very low for any easy victory in 2015.”

      Yes, and particularly since the question was “Who do you blame most for the UK financial crash in 2008″.

      I’d have thought it’s rather hard not to blame the banks most for the financial crash in 2008. Also, I’m not sure where the author has got the “everything that has come afterwards”. It’s not in the survey he’s linked to.

  • IAS2011

    The reason why this story will forever carry weight is simply because those running these banks – the CEO’s – have been allowed to get away with failing the business and bringing the Country to its knees. Was the Labour government complicit in all of this? Yes! But, then again, so was the international community!

    In the previous decade that reflects the fact that ‘ordinary folk’ were sold a ‘pup’ – if we remember our Labour politicians constantly reassuring us all that ‘all is well’ with the economy. Let’s not also forget, the misselling of “Gordon Brown is the best Chancellor.”

    FRAUD was the name of the game. JAIL was never the option for these CEO bankers.

    When, in the previous month we see a trader a UBS Bank arrested, put on trial and jailed for his fraud, one has to ask the question ‘why isn’t this type of Justice been served on these CEO bankers?

    I mean, who is Fairness and Justice meant to be for?

  • aracataca

    I agree with everything said here Mark. However I would dispute the degree of culpability of the last government. How for instance does this narrative explain the international dimension of the crisis?

    The uber-austerity of the current government is entirely unnecessary and anyone who takes issue with this stance should read Paul Krugnman’s book ‘End this austerity now.’

    Indeed the case for any austerity at all in the UK can IMHO be challenged. In the case of the peripheral Eurozone countries austerity has been imposed by our inflation phobic German friends. In the case of the UK austerity has been chosen as a path to redemption and history suggests that austerity at a time of recession does not work. It is also perhaps worth noting here that unlike Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Ireland etc we do have our own currency and our own central bank and that 10 year UK government Gilt yields are currently at 1.95% p.a. and there are routinely sold out when offered for sale. The markets therefore seem to be willing to accept a low rate of interest to buy UK government debt.
    This is the case with all government debts around the world where that country has its own currency and its own central bank ( See Sweden for instance where the debt to GDP ratio is 55.2%)
    I would therefore suggest that the No 1 crisis facing the country is growth and IMHO it is to this area that Labour’s eyes should be turned in the run up to 2015.

    • Jeremy_Preece

      Don’t forget that this austerity is not just unnecessary, it is in fact the perfect smoke screen for vile Tory hatred to be vented. Cutting the consultation period before redundancies to make it harder for the little person and better for the big corporation, tax cuts for the top income group and benefit cuts for the poorest. Tax credit cuts and cuts in public services. A £30 billion “reorganisation” (aka privitisation) of the NHS and so on and so on.
      Rather than turn the guns in ourselves, we should concentrate on fighting the Tories.

      • aracataca

        Right on all counts. IMHO implementing austerity and hardship also appeals to authorities of all kinds and in the example of the UK it reflects a certain propensity towards cruelty, hard-nosedness and so-called ‘strength’ that is both extolled and experienced by certain politicians.

        • Jeremy_Preece

          Yes. I am really concerned that if the Coalition continues with its attack on all who are benefits, then we will have a group that has the same status as the Jews had in Nazi Germany. In other words a group who are particularly easy to identify, to blame unjustly and who are not empowered enough to fight back.

          • aracataca

            Steady on Jeremy. Even this lot don’t look as if they’re going to institute a holocaust- not yet anyway.

          • Jeremy_Preece

            Instituting a “blame poeple on benefits for everything” and identifying people on benefits as choosing to go out of their way to suck the life-blood out of the “hard working” others (including the non-taxpaying corporate chairman etc. is in fact very much like the beginning of the road which Germany went down. i.e. let’s find a group for everyone to hate and to blame.
            If IDS is ready to see child no 3 and 4 etc starve because the family had overused it Chairman Mao quoter of allowed children, then we really are seeing the thin end of the wedge of some very very nasty and worrying developments.

    • Gabrielle

      Agree – though Krugman’s book is ‘End this Depression Now’.

  • “Blame the bankers”

    Well said, Mark. It’s the PLP’s careerists addiction to getting lovey-dovey with corporate interests* that has preventing this from happening so far.

    If it helps I’d happily bung in a few quid towards treatment at the Priory for the PLP’s non-executive directorship addiction – now that the Tories are completing New Labour’s NHS privatision project the Priory is probably the best option.


    • aracataca

      Shocking content on the link Dave. Therein lies the road to disaster. 2 caveats. 1. Does anyone listen to her any more? 2. it’s nearly a year old.

      • There has been no retraction, she still has a weekly ‘column’ and the piece referenced fits in well with the rest of the squawking on the host site.

        What Labour doesn’t seem to get is the dislike for the banks exists across the political spectrum (outside the London elite). And there is good reason for the dislike – it is not an irrational reflex.

        As a person who used to run a small business (twelve employees) my perception is that both Labour and the Tories are friends of big corporations – small businesses aren’t able to fund lobbyists so lavishly nor scatter non-executive directorships like confetti. Speaking from experience I’d say that the banks’ contempt for small businesses often exceeds that of Labour’s elite for the Labour Party membership…

        But there is a well of potential support waiting to be given political voice – and as Smith shows, those on Labour’s right aren’t the ones to do it.

        • aracataca

          Like yourself she’s not a ‘retracting’ sort. The question is does she have any real influence. I suspect not, otherwise she wouldn’t be hawking herself around the BBC for ‘This Week’ and the like.

          • ” not a ‘retracting’ sort”

            Moi? I’ve retracted my membership of the L.P. because of New Labour clowns like Smith.

          • aracataca

            Oh I see. In those circumstances then you have no influence whatsoever on internal party debate.

          • aracataca

            Oh I see. In those circumstances then you have no influence whatsoever on internal party debate.

          • aracataca

            Oh I see. In those circumstances then you have no influence whatsoever on internal party debate.

          • I don’t now, nor did I when I was a member. It’s a sad reflection on the internal dynamics of the Labour Party.

            It’ll depend on location/circumstances but if influence is your aim then L.P. membership may not be helpful.

          • reformist lickspittle

            Claiming that Smith has any influence these days *is* dishonest, I’m afraid. She is an utterly discredited figure who nobody, save a tiny handful on the extreme right of the party, take seriously.

            File alongside “Labour Uncut” in terms of irrelevance.

  • billbat

    Read the brilliant New York Times item to get a better idea of how Osborne is damaging our economy not saving it!!!

  • I’ve written a blog in reply:

    We need to stop with this New Labour mode of thinking where ‘the truth’ is dictated by opinion poll. 61% think the bankers caused the crisis… this doesn’t change the fact that the true cause of the crisis runs much deeper, and banker bashing is just not enough. We need to be honest with the electorate and come up with some ideas that address the true problem, not the public perception of it.

  • Martinay

    If Miliband is to win the argument for ‘responsible’ capitalism, then he has to accept that the Labour government gave too soft a ride to ‘irresponsible’ capitalism.

    Ed – and the other Ed – have to accept that they too are Thatcher’s monetarist children… they absorbed the short-termism and the belief in ‘light touch’ regulation… almost as much as Cameron and Osborne. We all came under the baleful influence of the Iron Lady’s ideology one way or another to a greater or lesser extent throughout the 80s and 90s. She was a gifted politician after all.

    The difference is that Ed – and the Labour Party – have learnt from experience (think how Darling and Brown led the charge to save the whole global system in 2008) while Cameron and Osborne have learnt very little indeed (Plan A is pure monetarism. Vickers has been diluted away).

    Hence blaming the bankers is only part of the story. We have to blame irresponsible capitalism. And we have to blame ourselves for not seeing through all the smooth sales talk until the crash.

    • Jeremy_Preece

      In some ways the political map has changed. The privitisation in the 1980’s caught the public imagination, with the notion that everyone could buy in to a bit of the action and that even if you are a lceaner you can still be a shareholder in utility companies. It was presented as blue skies all the way. And many who bought a few shares felt that they had entered the new “classless society” and becoem part of the dream.
      The truth was that is was asset stripping the UK, and raising money for a shrt term tax cut for the really well off (sound familiar?).
      Now at the end of 2012 I think that it becomes clear to a lot of people that the big-boys who have bought up Britain (for example the investment wing of the Chinees government who now own 9% of Thames Water) and that the ordinary person has not done very well. The price rises for ordinary families while the companies make huger profits each quarter, the basic costs of business that are passed on to the customer and so on. Then there is the rail transport system, where huge sums of money are extroted out of the commuters who have no choice but to use the most expensive transport system in the civilised world, run by companies who give huge returns to their shareholders and get tax payer’s money to run assets which they aquired at knock down prices.
      Suddenly it doesn’t look so rosy anymore. I beleive that the public as a whole are getting fed up with ths type of rip-off. So yes there is a lot to blame irresponsible capitalism for.
      So given where we are now, what can the Labour party do if it isn’t already too late?

      • aracataca

        The worst thing that that complete incompetent John Major along with the shower of incompetents that constituted his government was to privatise British Rail. I was reminded today of how that whole era (1991-1996) was awash with smug complacent incompetence when I heard that byword for idiocy on the Radio today- namely Chris Patten.

  • Jeremy_Preece

    This Mark, is the first article that you have written that makes me feel so angry that I can feel the blood vessles rising on the back of my neck.
    What a great plan.
    Why not add, “The Labour Party would like to take full responsibility for the world’s economic crisis and say that we are far too crap to have ever been in power as we have no economic ability whatsoever. We know that the Tories wanted no Banking controls when ours were too waek, and we know that Cameron said that he would match Labour’s spending crisis. In spite of that we would like to add our voice to Rupert Murdock and the Tory press and say that you should vote for the Conservatives even though it would have been worse under them. Of course it right that above all else the Labour Party would like to support the view that the born to rule Bullingdon club and their hangers on, must not be held accountable for their actions or their line when in opposition, and we should help to fabricate the Tory lie that somehow none of this would have happened had only the Tories been in power. Sorry – Thank you -Sorry”
    The banking crisis was worldwide and has affected the credibility of all in government at the time across the globe, in the USA it was the Republicans who got singed. None of the political parties saw this coming.
    Yet you seem now to want the Labour Party to commit political suicide and die, and let the Tories say “Look it really was all Labour’s fault – even they say that they are rubbish”.
    As for Iraq that line is even more stupid. The war in Iraq split the Labour Party but on the whole was very strongly supported by the Tories. Without the Tory’s votes then Tony Balir would never have been able to pull it off. But again you seem to think that there is something clever wanting to deflect all criticism of the Tories and blame everything on Labour.
    The natural logical conclusion of your argument would be to wind the Labour Party up altogether and campaign for the Tories.
    Stupid. Damaging. Dangerous. And above all not the whole truth but simply signing up to the Tory lie machine. The main reason that we have got such a lot of the blame for world wide recession is that Ed has been really weak in speaking up and seemed to give the impression that we could win an election while telling everyone that we are unfit to run the economy and therefore un fit to rule.
    The national debt was at it lowest since WW2 duing the Labour administration. The Tories performance and grasp of the situation leading up to and particularly after the banking crash was pathetic. Cameron then and now continues to snake his way in U-Turns opportunism and blame everyone else. For God’s sake get a grip!
    With all due respect this is the most stupid article that I have yet seen on Labour List.

    • reformist lickspittle

      I *do* think you are a bit harsh on Mark, tbh……

      And calling Ed “weak” is just soooo 2011 😉

  • Amber_Star

    The fans of mea culpas have no understanding of the 40% of voters who are already choosing Labour. Were Labour to apologise & accept the Tory narrative we’d be down to 25% within a week! Labour have the best approach already: “We blame the bankers & we blame ourselves for not doing more to regulate their activities; unlike Osborne, we are not going to make things worse by having the poorest & weakest pay for it.”

    • Jeremy_Preece

      Amber_Star – I think that we are basically saying the same thing here.

    • aracataca

      Correct Amber.

    • IAS2011


      “We blame the bankers and we blame ourselves for not doing more to regulate their activities….” Your quote is welcome. However, there is very little, if any, emphasis on
      why these CEO Bankers have still not been arrested, placed on trial and, hopefully, Jailed for these fraudulent activities. If the Public are going to build on this trust, surely you have to ensure that the ‘chain of events’ that lead to jail time are put in motion – as it would if such actions were carried out by an ‘ordinary’ member of our community. Unless there is this action by politicians, we will continue to believe that YOU ALL are committed to ensuring that there is one rule for US and another for THEM!

      Finally, the UBS employee was quickly arrested for his fraudulent activities, then placed on trial and now jailed. It was said that this was the highest amount of fraud ever achieved in the UK! But, how can that be when Eric Daniel’s (former CEO of Lloyds), Bob Diamond (former CEO of Barclays) and the massive goings-on at RBS under the watch of their former CEO, have yet to be addressed and each individual held to account??

      I put it to you that these former CEO’s have much more to answer for than this UBS former employee. Where they are equal is that they are ALL criminals. Where it is UNFAIR is that only the UBS employee has faced JAIL!

      Labour has to do more to put sweat under the collar of the Tories. The Labour Party has to emphasis how different they are than the Tories by making examples of these former CEO bankers, and sending the message out that JAIL is FAIR for those who commit FRAUD!

    • JoeDM

      You cannot airbrush Crash Gordon and his failures out of history.

  • Dave Postles

    UBS – activities in Japan, and now Hong Kong it is now suggested, for fixing interest rates. It is now considered that, far from benign for third parties, the manipulation of the interest rates has had secondary consequences (esp. mortgage interest rates). Of course it was the f***king banks. Whatever regulations were in place in some parts of the world, the bankers would have exploited and did exploit weaknesses in other places. The answer is: they promised to regulate themselves; we trusted them; they broke their promise and are not honourable ‘professionals’.

  • Slaphead O’Riley

    Time and again I hear comments from the right wing saying that this is “Labours mess”, yet only a simpleton would believe that Labour caused the credit crunch. Yes, Brown could have reigned the U.K. banks in more, but the right wing can hardly claim that they would have done better. Cameron was lobbying for less regulation of banks right up until the crunch. Actively cheering on the mad gambling.


LabourList Daily Email

Everything Labour. Every weekday morning

Share with your friends