So Labour`s plan to "undertake long-term structural reforms", to show they can be trusted with the economy, involve a "cap of some sort" on the size of banks, and "introduce greater banking competition".Brilliant! After months of discussion and planning , the new policy Labour has devised for the economy is the same as the "increasing competition on the high street" one adopted by the Tories! As if the new so-called "challenger" banks would offer higher rates of interest for savers, or cheaper loans; privately owned banks have one aim, and one aim only, to maximise profits for shareholders, and it doesn`t matter whether they are achieved by avoiding tax or screwing the customer! Does anyone really believe Richard Branson has set up Virgin Money banks so that customers can get a fair deal? Will new banks change the culture of banking so that "ethics come before profits", as the CEO of Barclays laughingly said, back in February,2012, before his bank started interfering with exchange rates?
Labour strategists still don`t appear to get it, unlike the majority of the rest of the country, who are keen to make the financial sector pay for the economic problems caused by the 2008 crash.This is the one aspect of populism which Labour should support, and leave the others, immigration caps and welfare cuts, to the right-wing parties.
Do Labour leaders think the electorate is ignorant of the £375bn of quantitative easing given to the banks, of the fact that this money was not loaned to businesses to kickstart the economy, ignorant too of all the scams, from mis-selling PPI and laundering Mexican drug money to fixing interest rates and manipulating exchange rates, of the huge profits banks make and the huge bonuses paid for "socially useless" work, and for increasing their "efficiency" by sacking staff and paying counter staff little? A far better response from Labour would be to pledge to increase the bank levy, to impose a massive bonus tax, and to propose RBS be transformed into a proper nationalised bank, in which people can actually trust; profit would not be the sole motive, but any excess profits could be earmarked for spending on the NHS, for example. This would have the additional electoral benefit for Labour of dissociating itself from the City, and would make the necessary statement that Labour is fundamentally different from the Tories. It would even not only provide a real "competitor" bank the high street needs,but also the regional banks so admired by Labour leaders. Also, by attracting customers away from the established banks, it would force them to mend their ways and to start employing people to run their businesses and investments with decent values and principles, rather than with appetites for obscene wealth.
Opposition to the sale of any fraction of RBS should begin immediately; failure to do so will inevitably lead to a similar fiasco as the one witnessed recently over the under-selling of Royal Mail and a £2bn loss to the taxpayer.
Labour should be cashing in on the public`s outrage, and pledging policies which benefit society as a whole, not just the top 2%. It needs to remind voters that "tax is the price paid for civilisation", and that if the rich have to pay their fair share, so be it!