Tue Dec 16th, 2008 at 11:55:05 AM EST
Polly Toynbee laments that Cameron is sounding like he understands the problems, while Brown remains silent in his lair. I imagine Brown still fondly sees himself as a caring individual; however his entire worldview is still so poisoned by the idea that the economic growth of the country depends on the City that he cannot bring himself to criticise those aspects of the City's behaviour that do most damage to the economy, especially as he himself encouraged them.
Guardian - Polly Toynbee - The winds are growing bitter. Labour has to bare its teeth
Yesterday David Cameron made the speech Gordon Brown should have made months ago...
Speaking amid Canary Wharf's glass banking towers, Cameron laid into the irresponsibility of those in the City who caused the crisis, calling for a "day of reckoning". He compared Britain's soft approach to the US where the Enron fraudsters and Wall Street cheats get long sentences: the FSA has prosecuted only four people in the last year, only one connected to this crisis. Accusing Gordon Brown of "a failure of moral leadership", he called for a bigger levy on the City to better fund FSA investigations, and for irresponsible bankers to face professional consequences, just as bad doctors get struck off.
"Some people working in the financial services industry paid themselves vast financial rewards - salaries and bonuses beyond the comprehension of most of us." Well, not actually beyond his comprehension at all. Or this: "On behalf of the cleaner on the minimum wage, on behalf of working families worrying this Christmas like never before about what next year will bring, I say it is fair and reasonable that those responsible are held to account for their behaviour and that we show clearly that in this country there is not one rule for the rich and a different rule for everybody else."
Of course there are different rules for the rich and the poor - and everyone knows it.
Why else has the Department for Work and Pensions paid a small fortune for a massive television, newspaper and poster campaign with "We're closing in" on benefit thieves plastered all over bus shelters in poor areas? There are no such posters in the City, Canary Wharf, Notting Hill or Mayfair suggesting "We're closing in" on insider traders, bonus-fuelled reckless risk-takers or those purloining monstrous pay and private jets from the shares of everyone else's pension funds. The DWP's blurb for the campaign says sanctimoniously, "Stealing from the benefit system takes money from the pockets of hard working taxpayers." It certainly does - but not a fraction of the sums stolen, squandered, tax-avoided in tax havens or pilfered in unjustified perks by the directors and CEOs of public companies, now paying themselves 75 times the pay of their average worker. Each HM Revenue and Customs tax fraud investigator brings in a great deal more than each benefit fraud investigator. That's just one example of one law for the rich and another for the poor.
But does Labour have any recognition that the City is the source of our problems, or have they allowed the Tony Crosland dream to blind them into thinking that the country is so absolutely dependent on keeping the City happy that they are willing to collude with the population's impoverishment ?
Guardian - George Monbiot - Even in this crisis, the government still offers refuge to pinstriped pirates
There is a standard British procedure for dealing with problems like this (tax havens) - by which I mean problems that generate bad publicity but which you don't want to address. You commission a review and you choose the right man to conduct it. Confronted with a vocal international campaign and a new US president determined to tackle this issue, the government has selected a man called Michael Foot (not the former Labour leader).
Until last year, Foot was the inspector of banks and trust companies for the Central Bank of the Bahamas in Bermuda, a British tax haven. Though the review was launched only a fortnight ago, he already seems to have decided what it will say. Speaking about tax havens to the magazine Accountancy Age, he claimed that they had been given a clean bill of health by the IMF, and observed, "I can't see where the regulation failure is supposed to be." The Tax Justice Network maintains that throughout his long career in Bermuda, at the Financial Services Authority and elsewhere, he has never raised any public concerns about systemic problems in the financial sector. The identity of the person the government appoints is an index to the outcome it desires. Foot sounds like just the man for the job.
Even as it was commissioning this review, Brown's government tried to undermine international efforts to address the problem. Teaming up with that revolting little monarchy Liechtenstein, the UK sought to strike out a paragraph from the Doha trade agreement that aimed to eradicate tax evasion. Thanks in part to British lobbying, the draft commitment was substantially weakened.
Were Britain to release its remaining colonies, they would quickly succumb to pressure from the Obama government and the European countries trying to stamp out international evasion and organised crime. We hold on to the Falkland Islands for their oil and fish. We hold on to the other territories for something far more valuable: secrecy