Thursday, October 12, 2006

Balls to Britain's bankers

Even after New Labour’s decade-plus love-in with big business, remarks from treasury minister Ed Balls (pictured left) in a speech to the British Bankers’ Association – reported in the Financial Times today [subscription required], under the headline ‘Brown ally backs record bank profits’ – are noteworthy for the degree of absolute subservience they eloquently express:

‘"My starting point as a Treasury minister is this: what more can I do - can we do together - to support and enhance the critical role that the banking industry plays in our economy?"’

Just how out of touch with the public mood can you get? As the mid-market tabloids never cease to point out, banks are already making record profits, mostly by ripping off customers with outrageous charges. Imagine the uproar if a Labour minister expressed similar sentiments to a trade union audience. The FT wryly points out:

‘The Treasury's backing for the banks contrasts with the attacks on "big business" mounted by David Cameron, the Conservative leader, suggesting the attitude to large corporates could become a political dividing line.'

I long ago got my head around the idea of Labour as a party of business, just as the Conservatives have traditionally been. But these days it seems to be pitching its stall to the right of the Cameroonies.

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