Bankers' access to No. 10 helps them get away with it
Opinion digest: banking culture, government U-turns and Beckham's Olympic snub
EVERY weekday morning from The Week online - a daily wrap-up of the best comment and opinion articles from the morning papers and the top political bloggers. If you think we've missed a good one, please let us know. Contact us via Twitter @TheWeekUK.
BANKS WILL KEEP GETTING AWAY WITH IT
SIMON JENKINS ON THE BANKING SCANDAL
There seems no end to the immunity claimed by the present masters of the universe, the bankers, says Simon Jenkins in The Guardian. Banks too big to fail, and now bankers too big to jail? Banking gets away with all this because "it enjoys the same unaccounted access to power that trade unions enjoyed in the bad old days". From the credit crisis to the present day, banking is now "the one profession with open access to Downing Street". It lobbies successfully on everything from bailouts to bonuses, non-doms to Tobin taxes, euro regulation to "quantitative easing". It is given money for loans, then hides it. At Barclays, public decency demands that heads will roll for the Libor scandal, "but this crisis won't end until the profession's link with politicians is severed". As we seek out the guilty men, "we should know that as long as banking retains its stranglehold on policy, the disaster will continue".
BANKS NEED A NEW CULTURE OF PRUDENCE
NIGEL LAWSON ON THE BANKING SCANDAL
Prosecutions must be considered in the Barclays Libor scandal, says Nigel Lawson in The Times. But the question also arises of how to prevent this sort of thing happening again. The Banking Bill, shortly to come before Parliament, will implement recommendations from the recent Vickers banking commission, including the so-called "ring-fence" between retail and investment bank operations to ensure high-risk investment banking won't jeopardise taxpayer-guaranteed retail banking. But mere ring-fencing isn't enough. Bankers are clever people, and "the risk that they will find ways around the ring-fence is too great". What we need in our retail and high street banks is a culture of prudence. The culture of investment banking is a culture of risk-taking that has become "a culture of greed". These two separate and diametrically opposed cultures cannot coexist in the same financial institution. They need to be clearly separated.
U-TURNS SUGGEST A LACK OF MISSION
FRASER NELSON ON GOVERNMENT STRATEGY
The series of U-turns in government policy can be put down to the Prime Minister's strategist, says Fraser Nelson in The Daily Telegraph. Andrew Cooper, one of Britain's foremost opinion pollsters, has convinced David Cameron to drop policies deemed unpopular by the polls, even if he is ribbed by the media. There is an obvious downside to this. "To hire an opinion pollster as a strategist is to put a spinning weathervane where a compass needle ought to be". What we need is direction. Even Cameron has reportedly started to wonder where his government is going, and what his legacy will be. "More ominously, many of the political appointees at the heart of the government are beginning to jump ship." Each U-turn may be trivial in itself, but there is a cumulative effect. "They serve to devalue the word of the Prime Minister and, worse, the credibility of the Chancellor."
SAD BUT RIGHT: NO PLACE FOR GOLDENBALLS
STEVEN BAXTER ON BECKHAM'S EXCLUSION
David Beckham's dream is over, blogs Steven Baxter for the New Statesman. "There will be no gold medal for the golden-haired Goldenballs of English football". The towering presence of the past 15 years was hoping for one last hurrah. Alas, it wasn't to be. The new coach of the Great Britain Olympic football team has opted for pragmatism rather than pride, and left Becks out of the final squad. It's a little sad that someone who has achieved so much should be left out in favour of players who have achieved much less, yet who can run faster. "But in a purely competitive sense, Pearce has made the right choice for everyone – probably including Beckham himself." Imagine Beckham hopelessly outpaced as he attempted to keep up with the under-23s haring up and down the wing, waiting for one dead-ball situation to rescue the team. That's no way for the man to bow out. "He deserves better, a knighthood maybe." Beckham will probably respect this decision in time, "no matter how much it hurts right now".