Any Questions

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I will be on Radio 4’s Any Questions tonight at 8.15 with
SADIQ KHAN MP: Communities Cohesion Minister, Dept Communities and Local Government
Rt Hon THERESA MAY MP: Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
BARONESS JANE BONHAM-CARTER: Liberal Democrats’ spokesperson on Culture, media and sport

6 thoughts on “Any Questions

  1. Nick, I’m concerned about your current ‘focus’, as your recent writings and Any Questions suggests. You seem to be focusing on the root cause of this financial crisis (light touch regulation by Brown), moreso than the bad behaviour of bankers (which needs to be regulated). Whilst I understand Brown’s policies have betrayed some traditional Labour values, I think the greater social problem here comes from the behaviour of individuals in banking. Perhaps this is unfair, as I know you chastise sub-prime mortgage brokers, tax havens etc. in your new book and elsewhere. Perhaps you have a practical rationale for focusing on Brown right now, to do with ‘influencing’ a leadership debate, which could be useful, of course (though that would be a risky strategy, given how close we are to an election, as well as the credentials of alternatives to Brown).

    As an analogy with the ‘war on terror’, you focus on the terrorists’ appalling ideology and behaviour moreso than root causes (where it seems that for you, the behaviour of people in the West as any sort of ‘root cause’ is far less relevant). Here it seems to me that we should focus on the dreadful behaviour of the bankers firstly, and Brown’s failure to regulate secondly. Exposing the extent of the bankers’ avarice etc. would also serve to highlight the extent to which we are just about to vote in the class who have been substantially responsible for it (rather like the way US economist Dean Baker recently quipped about Obama appointing Larry Summers and Robert Rubin as economic advisers: “This would be a bit like turning to Osama Bin Laden for aid in the war on terrorism..”)

    You can write what you like, of course. I would just wonder: isn’t this the perfect time for left-wing journalists to focus on, investigate and expose the anti-social practices and attitudes of so many of those involved in financial services (and to some extent the anti-social infrastructure of this business)? I mean, whatever happened to the noble socialist pursuit of fuelling class-based popular indignation (rather than leaving it to the red tops to witch-hunt the odd Fred Goodwin here and there, according to their whim)?

    Apologies for banging on in a rather vague way.

  2. Fair enough Hugh and I did get some inside information from RBS a couple of weeks back, but the fact remains that a Labour rather than a Tory, Government allowed finance capital to run riot and bring the roof in on the rest of society.

  3. Nick, would you give me some of your choice authors for books about the British Empire; politics; and various histories. Please?
    I haven’t long left in the current book and when it closes, opening up will be my spanking new Waiting for the Etonians. Who says 2009 will be a bad year – it’s got off to a great start with a new book.


  4. Brown’s story (on R4 You and Yours today) is that this ‘recession’ is essentially just a ‘credit freeze’ which is affecting all banks, even good ones that are/were functioning well. He says his light-touch regulation was justified for these good banks, and that the fact that they are suffering too, shows you the extent to which this is not a problem of his making, which can be explained awayn by his light-touch regulation.

    Well, that’s his story. I’m not in a position to judge whether this is a good excuse or not, frankly.

  5. Not a very good one Peter because you and every other taxpayer is shelling out a fortune for the bad banks he did not regulate.

  6. I found reading the comments on Robert Peston’s recent blog about Northern Rock enlightening. In the first 60, there are many calling for Gordon Brown’s head (a few blaming his failure to regulate); none apparently shocked at the behaviour of bankers at Northern Rock still selling 125% mortgages after the BoE bail-out last year. It was a similar story listening to a radio Five Live phone-in last week.

    It genuinely seems quite obvious to me what is the relative share of ‘blame’ that is merited for this banking crisis. If I was the editor of the Observer, for example; I think I would have a journalist investigating who in Northern Rock was still selling 125% mortgages after Sept ’07, and asking them why.

    Or perhaps this would be condoning a spirit of vigilante justice? I guess that in terms of practically dealing with the crisis, commentators are right to put pressure on the government. But I just fear that this crisis will be historically viewed as one in which the ‘real’ perpetrators were subjected to relatively little scrutiny.

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