Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Gordon Brown bossed around by bankers

Thus spake our heroic leader:

Gordon Brown has admitted mistakes in regulating the banks, accusing the City of lobbying against greater scrutiny before the financial crisis plunged Britain into recession.

Brown had previously blamed the scale of the recession mainly on the international financial crisis and the refusal of other countries to agree to tighter international surveillance of the banks.

In an ITV interview due to be broadcast tonight, Brown admits he had been influenced by bankers' lobbying.

"In the 1990s, the banks, they all came to us and said, 'Look, we don't want to be regulated, we want to be free of regulation.' ... And all the complaints I was getting from people was, 'Look you're regulating them too much.'

"The truth is that globally and nationally we should have been regulating them more. So I've learnt from that."

So, why did he listen to the bankers in the first place? What possessed him all those years? Has he no independent will of his own? Here's a possible explanation: opting to maintain a low-wage economy with a flexible labour market means you have to rely on debt and speculation to drive consumption and growth. The logic of this meant that all governments felt impelled to take down barriers to further speculation-driven profit, especially as the New York stock exchange was being freed from its Glass-Steagall shackles and threatening to leave the mighty City of London biting its dust. The government actually shows no signs of learning anything substantial from the recession. It remains committed to a modified version of the same growth model, as evidence by its planned spending cuts, refusal to strengthen labour's bargaining power, continued commitment to privatisation where possible, and - notably -efforts to maintain the property market as the major source of speculation-driven income and growth in the economy (hence, no big council house building programme, even if it costs them votes). Regulating the bankers, in this context, means coming up with some rules to protect that model from its immanent weaknesses, not abandoning the financialised neoliberal model that the Labour Party so avidly grasped once it had subdued its own left-wing.