Ban on swimming in Thames stinks, says Mayor Boris

Comment

Opinion digest: the swimming edict and why we must decide – are we in or out of Europe?

LAST UPDATED AT 11:56 ON Tue 3 Jul 2012

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.
 
RIVER THAMES EDICT: THINK AGAIN!
BORIS JOHNSON ON THE SWIMMING BAN
The Port Authority of London's ban on swimming in the River Thames, which came into force yesterday, is a piece of bureaucratic bossiness that should be lifted immediately, writes Boris Johnson in The Daily Telegraph. There has been no democratic consultation whatsoever, and one can only wonder at the reasoning behind this ban. For millennia people on the banks of the river have "communed in all kinds of ways": kings and queens have rowed upon it, we have "drunk it, skated on it . . . drawn its waters to boil hides and brew beer", and not once has there been a "body so tyrannical” that it told the people they could not swim in it. "Even during the Great Stink of 1858" people were left to make up their own minds. And isn’t it odd that "so far no one has had their collar felt in the Libor scam" but if you bathe in the river then "wham, you’re nicked."

SMALL CASH PENALTIES NOT ENOUGH
DAVID DAVIES ON THE BARCLAYS SCANDAL
Corrupt banks must face proper punishment and a swift, searching inquiry, writes David Davies in The Times. Huge bonuses have proved to be a "perverse incentive" for bankers to act in ways that are "borderline immoral", if not illegal. Markets have now been distorted so that bankers can simply extract wealth for themselves, and we should have seen the Libor-fixing scandal coming: the first complaints were made in 2007 and reported by the Wall Street Journal in 2008, but nothing was done. Financial penalties imposed by the Financial Services Authority are a "tiny fraction" of Barclay’s profits: we need to see criminal charges and fines that reflect the seriousness of the offence. Last year Barclays made £3 billion after tax. They should be fined "at least £1 billion". Beyond that, we should increase competition by breaking up the bigger banks, and we should separate investment and retail banking.
 
FIDDLING FIGURES GOES WAY BEYOND BANKING
DOMINIC LAWSON ON THE BARCLAYS SCANDAL
The Government itself pulls stunts that would put bankers in jail, writes Dominic Lawson in The Independent. We now know that bankers responsible for supplying information to those setting the Libor Rate were lying by claiming that the bank was borrowing money at a lower rate than it was actually able to do. Conservatives and Labour have been trying to out-do each other in their condemnation of the bank, but "the truth is that both had wanted to be their best friends on the financial dance floor when the party was in full swing". Futhermore, when it comes to "finagling figures, or deceiving the public", governments allow themselves "to pull stunts that would put bankers in jail". Quantitative easing and National Insurance are just two examples of the government manipulating figures to their own ends; only they do it not for financial gain, like the bankers, but for votes.
 
ARE WE 'IN' OR ARE WE 'OUT' OF EUROPE?
PHILIP JOHNSON ON THE REFERENDUM QUESTION
Any effort to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s membership of the European Union is a smokescreen masking the real question: are we in or are we out, writes Philip Johnson in The Daily Telegraph. It is worth looking at the last time Britain contemplated a referendum on Europe, in 1975. Then, Labour urged voters to continue membership of what was then the Common Market. Harold Wilson set out seven objectives to changing the terms set by Ted Heath, including tighter controls on budgets, a Common Agricultural Policy and an "acceptance that the UK would never be put under pressure to join a common currency". Looking back, few goals were achieved, but Wilson got his way and we remained in the EEC. Today, as then, the details of membership are not the issue. The real question that has to be answered is "Do we want to stay in or not? That is the issue that the referendum — should we ever get one — must resolve once and for all". · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.