Monthly Archives: June 2012

The morality of bankers

A couple of new stories about the financial sector caught our attention this week. The first was the LIBOR scandal – Barclays and other banks deliberately fixing the inter-bank lending rate for profit. Then there was the scandal that banks were forcing them to take out Interest rate protection insurance with crippingly high repayments. Proving yet again, that banking is the business of cowboys.

As is understandable, the public reaction has been one of outrage. While millions of people are struggling with the austerity measures and recession, here are the people who caused the crash cheating their way to wealth and celebrating with bottles of Champagne. Ed Miliband has called for a public inquiry into the corrupt practices of the banks, Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian called for the bankers involved to be punished just like last summer’s rioters (the difference between rioters and bankers is the latter have stolen a lot more). Meanwhile, the chief of Barclays, Bob Diamond, called it “inappropriate behaviour” carried out by “a small number of people”, as he tried to deflect the blame from himself and his company.

What is obvious to most people – even, I suspect the Time and Telegraph readers – is that the banking sector have basically been allowed to do what they want for far too long. Not enough regulation has meant they have been free to bully small businesses and individuals, and not enough control has allowed them to get away with activities that are blatantly criminal. A footballer found guilty of match fixing would be banned from the game and jailed. A public sector worker caught stealing from work would be sacked and prosecuted. Why not punish the bankers responsible as well?

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Rio +20: Give us 20 more years to talk about it

So, the International Hot Air bandwagon returned to Rio for a twentieth anniversary talking shop about the environment. In the end the produced a document called The Future We Want which has been attacked by pretty much everyone with an interest in looking after the planet as not actually doing anything.

While politicians from Ban Ki-moon to Hilary Clinton patted themselves on the back and said, “isn’t this document wonderful” (well, not exactly in those words, but along those lines), environment activists such as Greenpeace and Tearfund said it didn’t actually set out what they are going to do.

Greenpeace were scathing in their criticism of the document;

“We didn’t get the Future We Want in Rio, because we do not have the leaders we need. The leaders of the most powerful countries supported business as usual, shamefully putting private profit before people and the planet.”

It’s like they want to be seen to be paying attention to the fact that the world’s finite resources aren’t going to last forever, but don’t actually want to do anything to change their lifestyles. It’s easy to see why Greenpeace have come to this conclusion – it takes ten pages for the document to start a bullet point with something other than a recognition or affirmation, and half-heartedly “encourage” countries to develop green policies. Yes, encourage green policies and job creation – while most of Europe imposes job cuts and austerity on the poor. I can’t really see any of them keeping to that point in the document.

Reading through the document, it’s obvious that the discussions were little more than an academic exercise for the delegates, rather than a serious attempt to actually formulate policies for sustainable development. And it makes me despair for the future that we actually want.

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Why Cameron can’t sack Hunt

Baroness Warsi: Takes family member on official trip, and fails to disclose business interest.
Jeremy Hunt: Responsible for overseeing the BskyB takeover (which would have required impartial judgement). Sends texts and makes phone calls to James Murdoch, congratulating him whenever the bid made some progress.

Now, who did David Cameron refer to the Ministerial Code Advisor? Only Baroness Warsi. Hunt, who was clearly too close to The Murdochs to judge the BskyB bid impartially – something that we all knew then, and was confirmed with his appearance at the Leveson Inquiry – survives for now. Both have done wrong but the Prime Minister protects one of them, and it’s very obvious why.

1. Andy Coulson – Ex News of the Screws editor, Ex communications chief at Number 10 and just this week charged with Perjury by a Scottish court for lying under oath during the perjury trial of Tommy Sheridan. Coulson resigned from NOTW, remarkably claims to know nothing about phone-hacking and later resigned from his job at Number 10. Cameron refused to send Coulson away with his P45. You could argue that Coulson might not have known about phone hacking, but that would just make him an incompetent boss. Incompetent or criminal – neither justify keeping him at Number 10 for so long.

2. Rebekah and Charlie Brooks – Close friends of David Cameron who were recently charged with perverting the course of justice. Rebekah Brooks was the editor of another Murdoch tabloid The Sun, has been described as like a daughter to Murdoch and last year resigned from her News International position as the Phone Hacking story really blew up.

So, you might say. Cameron’s surrounded by ex-Murdoch employees, doesn’t mean he’s close to Murdoch. Well, a quick Google search for “Cameron and Murdoch” reveals,

The PM met a News Corp board member secretly in November 2009. If there was nothing untoward in this meeting, why did he not disclose it sooner?

Rebekah Brooks mentioned in her evidence to the Leveson Inquiry that Cameron had met her and the Murdochs at social occasions. Also, James Murdoch discussed the BskyB deal with Cameron over dinner.

It’s worth remembering that Hunt was handed the responsibility for judging the BskyB deal after Vince Cable had been recorded saying he had “declared war on Murdoch”, and was deemed to be too partisan. Interesting then that they should choose someone partisan towards Murdoch. They couldn’t have Murdoch’s bid for domination of the sky halted by some old man who hated Murdoch.

So it’s obvious that Cameron is so deeply involved in the Murdoch family, that he can’t possibly refer Hunt to Ministerial Codeman or remove him from the cabinet. In this case, they really are all in it together.

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