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! 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 provide the "competitor" bank the high street needs, and by attracting customers away from the established banks, 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.
As Martin Kettle tells us, the economy may not be the deciding factor in the next election anyway, but "fairness" could well be.All the more reason, then, for Labour to share Toynbee`s "outrage", to pledge policies which benefit society as a whole, not just the top 2%. Labour 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!