I was intrigued last week by the selective memory of the Labour Party as it announced a new policy shift towards increasing competition in the banking system by dividing up banks headquartered in the UK.
It was, after all, Alistair Darling of the Labour Party – and the head of the anti-independence No campaign Better Together – who, as chancellor of the Exchequer, effectively waived competition rules and then defended in court the dreadful merger of Lloyds and HBOS in 2008.
Of course, Labour’s trade and industry secretary, Peter Mandelson, took the formal decision.
However, the Scottish public will remember a “Merger Action Group” formed by concerned financiers in Scotland, of which I was a member, which went to judicial and independent authorities, on the basis that Darling’s public statements had in effect left Mandelson with no choice.
Furthermore, it was argued that the taxpayer bailout arrangements for RBS and HBOS should be used in part to protect customer rights and competition, not least in Scotland.
Darling’s argument is essentially that because the “world banking system was collapsing” almost any action was justified. But that was no less true then as it is after the test of time.
There were other solutions to the problems at HBOS. These type of judgments under pressure define the wheat from the chaff. The Merger Action Group has been clearly proven right.
Moreover, Darling could and should have put in place proper arrangements in the public interest on the likes of banker bonuses, lending to small business and protecting the unlikely-to-be-seen-again £45 billion taxpayer investment in Royal Bank of Scotland. He was warned but demonstrably failed in his duty to Britain.
As a result, many thousands of jobs were lost and much less competition exists despite European Union interventions, as highlighted last week by Labour leader Ed Miliband.
One of the benefits of the long referendum campaign is that Scotland is getting to the bottom of many aspects of our country’s past, present and future, including the truth about the banking crisis and the hapless Alistair Darling’s role therein.
Peter J F deVinK
Edinburgh Financial & General Holdings
It is unlikely that taking lessons from Alistair Darling in the “science” of economics will appeal to the SNP but that would be foolish.
When a former chancellor contends that there is “more financial detail on a National Lottery ticket” than in the Nationalists’ blueprint for independence (your report, 17 January), First Minister Alex Salmond and his advisers should ’umbly acknowledge the profound critique and rush back to the drawing board.
A casual stroll through the economic achievements bestowed on us by 13 years of Labour rule would soon reveal the merits of the ex-chancellor’s critique.
Where in the white paper, for example, is there any mention of how to regulate the banks and the City? How can the SNP compete with Labour’s record of regulating the banks by adulating their chairmen and burdening them with knighthoods?
To date, the SNP has failed to produce the weight of intellect that persuaded former Labour chancellors to rigorously regulate the spivs in the City by worshipping them as demi-gods – a strategy that kneecapped the economy, sent millions to the dole queue and forced the taxpayer to bail out (but not control) our appallingly run banks.
A close scrutiny of the blueprint reveals an abject failure to appreciate the merits of private finance initiative – an economic mechanism (as refined by former chancellors) that fleeces the taxpayer to facilitate the vast enrichment of incredulous, but ecstatic “developers” of public projects.
As yet, there is no indication the SNP can produce the kind of “blue-sky thinking” that inspired our former rulers to pave the way for the privatisation of the health service in England – a New Labour project which the coalition is rapidly finalising.
In opportunity Britain, we have more bankers earning in excess of £800,000 than in the entire European Union.
According to the diligent High Pay Centre, 100 FTSE chief executives earned as much in their first two and a half days back at work than the average earner gets in a year.
New Labour and its former chancellors cannot take all the credit for this scenario, but they did more than enough to ensure that few obstacles would get in the way of rewarding the rich at the expense of the poor.
Mr Darling opined that the SNP’s economic plans “do not bear interrogation”.
The gentlest “interrogation” of the New Labour project reveals a history of numptitude economics, inspired by shallow careerists.
Beside that level of achievement, it is arguable that the SNP’s white paper reflects the optimum blueprint for perfecting the art of government.