Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Sorry Isn't Good Enough...

Well, that's not worked has it? No one, from any part of the mainstream political spectrum, seems very impressed with the 'sorry'.

The political question that now arises is to what extent the 'bankers' - an elastic term, which now commonly means all overpaid people in the financial sector - get identified with one or other of the two main political parties. Labour and Conservative have competed over the last 10 years to be one most identified with bankers', ahem, 'enterprise, innovation and wealth creation'. They both now need to go into reverse gear on this, very rapidly. So we get this from the right, blaming Brown and Darling, and this from the Labour side, basically sneering at Cameron's populism on the bonuses question and adopting a pose of Being All Grown Up & Aware Of The Real World Issues.

There is anger out there. But also, I suspect, widespread incomprehension. Few of us really understand what bankers do or why things have gone so horribly wrong. So the anger is available for turning in several directions: against the 'bad' bankers and their 'weak', New Labour driven regulators or against the obvious class basis of the City (& hence the old Etonian Opposition Front bench).

What isn't emerging - at least not yet - is any clearly articulated version of what I consider to be the fundamental question. Whatever happens during this crisis, the City of London is undoubtedly far, far too powerful a part of our overall economy. We need to decrease its importance. Indeed, if the Jeremiahs are correct we won't have any choice about this as the hot money will flee anyway. But - and I've asked this before - if one in five of us work in the financial sector and that's going to shrink - what else are people going to do for a living? All the key manufacturing has gone, never to return. As a country, we can't live on thin air and designing computer games...The political faction that can project an answer to these questions will 'win' this crisis - and the intellectual hegemony of the decade that follows it

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