Leaders: Banking scandal needs full public scrutiny
DAVID Cameron may think a parliamentary inquiry into the Libor rate-fixing scandal rather than a full public investigation will find out what went wrong and who were the wrong-doers. It may unearth malpractices and point fingers at the blameworthy, but it is unlikely to get to the heart of the problem.
The Prime Minister may have been deterred from setting up a full public inquiry because of the experience he and his ministers have had at Mr Justice Leveson’s inquiry into the phone-hacking outrage. That inquiry broadened out into an examination of how his ministers handled the bid by Rupert Murdoch’s News International to buy all of BSkyB. Both Mr Cameron and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt emerged with severely tarnished reputations.
The clear potential for that to happen again with a Libor-fixing inquiry is all too evident from the political blame game now going on. Conservatives are keen to point fingers at what Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, was doing while he was a Treasury minister responsible for the City when the manipulation was going on. Mr Balls thinks the inquiry should stretch all the way back to when the Conservatives deregulated the City.
From the sidelines, the SNP is demanding that Alistair Darling account for what he did to ensure City probity while he was chancellor. This call has absolutely nothing to do with serving the public interest and everything to do with trying to discredit Mr Darling, who is now their main opponent in the independence referendum campaign.
To even a casual observer, it is plain that politicians from all parties are complicit in permitting an environment in which Barclays and other City traders thought they could subvert any rule they liked in pursuit of enrichment and corporate profit.
Mr Balls quite reasonably points out that Tories in opposition constantly urged him to be less heavy-handed and criticised him for being too tough and undermining City competitiveness. SNP leader Alex Salmond, infamously it now turns out, promised light-touch regulation, while Labour sought to curry favour with financial moguls all the way up to the financial crisis.
A parliamentary inquiry is a sure-fire way of permitting narrow party political agendas aimed at blame-shifting to dominate proceedings. It will not get at the most serious issue at stake – how to restore public faith in financial institutions and to ensure that regulators and elected politicians do their job, which is to ensure that financial services actually serve public and business interests rather than their self-interest.
The Leveson Inquiry has been deeply uncomfortable for the media, but the media in turn recognises that it is a necessary process of cleansing. A key element has been the exposé of the corruption of power where media and political interests meet head on. The same searchlight needs to be turned on the nexus where financial and political power meet and how that has affected the scrutiny that should be applied by regulators and politicians.
Fair play for Team GB footballers
TRUE to his playing days’ reputation for uncompromising toughness, Stuart Pearce, manager of the Team GB football squad for the Olympics, has picked a team for one purpose only – winning. Any thought that he might appease national sensitivities by selecting at least one representative from the four home nations has turned out to be empty-headed nonsense – the team will come from 13 Englishmen and five Welshmen.
Should we cheer or complain? It’s hard to know. The Scottish Football Association has long thought that participation by them in any British team would result in international footballing authorities depriving Scotland of the right to compete internationally. So perhaps a cheer for Mr Pearce in making that less likely.
But then his reason for not picking any Scots is that he thinks they are not good enough. So a boo as well? Not really. Mr Pearce, in resisting the calls to include David Beckham has shown that he really does have no other motive than putting the best players possible on the park.
Mr Beckham had three claims to inclusion – experience, as a thank-you for all the work he put in to bring the Olympics to London and to put bums on seats. Quite rightly, Mr Pearce thinks that is all absurd. Imagine the outcry if his athletics counterparts had selected competitors because of the number of tickets they might sell rather than the medals they might collect.
That just leaves one little problem – the football tickets are selling poorly, worst of all at Hampden, despite the fact that Spain’s young pretenders to their seniors’ world and European crowns will be on show. Surely, if Scotland can’t produce world class talent, Scots can at least appreciate it.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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