Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Masters or Servants?

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat party leader, unveiled five proposals to control "the bonus culture" in the City. Clegg said there should be "no rewards for failure" and called for a "top-to-toe" overhaul of the British banking system (including an end to "morally obscene" salaries and bonuses).

"The problem started with the banks so the solution must start with the banks too," he said at the party's daily news conference yesterday, and he said the public should feel that "never again are your everyday savings held "hostage" by people in the City.

The Liberal Democrats' five-point plan to reform the banking system would:

  1. Limit cash bonuses to £2,500 annually, with any bonuses in excess of this figure to be paid in shares which could not be sold for five years
  2. Ban board directors from receiving bonus payouts
  3. Extend the Financial Services Act so loss-making banks were not allowed to pay bonuses
  4. Ensure the names of all banking employees earning more than the prime minister were published
  5. Lead to directors of banks being fined if their institution broke the industry's code of practice
These five steps would "transform the culture of greed which continues to disfigure the banking industry in this country" and ensure the banking system became "the servant, not the master", Mr Clegg said.  

The party's Treasury spokesman, Vince Cable, said the UK was "still in a major economic disaster" and that "The country is now poorer than it was before the banking crash and what we need to be focusing on is how we prevent it happening again” (echoing many of the posts on this blog).

Mr Clegg said it would reveal a "new approach" to a financially-stable economy, based on equity not debt, "where we learn as a country to build things again, not just bet on things on computer screens in the City" … from a leader who may well yield significant influence/power in a few weeks time this is good to hear, but he will need to think more carefully about the steps needed to successfully transition from an outdated and flawed economy (Poweromics) to a 21st century value adding economy (Leanomics) … and just like President Obama made clear, we must ensure the banks pay taxpayers every penny back (and make sure investment banks are separated from commercial/high street banking too).

In my humble opinion, Vince Cable appears to be the closest to identifying what a successful 21st century economy needs, having also hosted sessions promoting the introduction of a Land Value Tax (to replace unjust/unfair taxes) for instance. The Liberal Democrats also want to completely overhaul the archaic (19th Century) voting system, so MP’s properly represent (and are held accountable to) the people they are supposed to serve. 

If you’re relying on others to help you – good luck – you’ll need it. Labour are relying on spin and clearly cannot be trusted e.g. this week Brown stood up to tell us there will be no more income tax rises … but he said that last time, and watch out for National Insurance everyone, which is just another name for the same thing (n.b. they’ve given no guarantees on this one and Brown has also raised it before) – why did the press (e.g. the BBC) not ‘press’ him on this…?  As for the Tories, Cameron has said he wants to give people ‘power’ (e.g. by letting parents set up their own schools – more of a gimmick than a practical solution), but at the same time has no desire/interest in changing how MP’s are given power or wield (e.g. profit from) power.  Instead the Tories want to slash public spending, change inheritance tax laws to favour the rich … and would vehemently oppose changing/removing unfair taxes and replacing them with a Land Value Tax (as the Tories represent, and are heavily backed by, all the rich land owners/bankers profiting heavily from land without adding any value at all). 

The election provides an opportunity to allow a little more common sense to filter into our Economic/Political System (e.g. values, fairness, justice) and if this happens our failing economy may actually start to turn around.  If it does not it will simply continue its downward spiral (don’t be fooled by any apparent ‘recovery’ – as the Government simply postponed all the ‘pain’ until after the election) until the situation gets so dire that people finally decide to do something about it – but at this stage it’ll probably be too late to successfully turn things around (NB I do not support any political party and like most people hold the vast majority of MP’s in contempt – however I do care about people’s future, the state of the economy and the level of democracy in the UK).

Let’s see what the next few weeks hold …