Westminster needs to learn from the City

by Alex Glasner

Banking is, perhaps, one of the few careers that is less popular than politics. However, having made the leap from political researcher to the world of investment banking, what has become clear is that, far from being the seat of easy money and privilege, investment banking is hardworking, innovative, and meritocratic.

Can the Westminster village boast that it shares these characteristics?

I have no doubt that the world of banking needs to be better regulated, that banks should make clear their social value, and that banking needs to be more open, more accessible.

However, while issues such as excessive pay do need to be addressed, there are equally pressing problems in politics: – not least the fundamental ignorance of many politicians I have met to who struggle to discern the difference between investment and retail banking.

Politics has a lot to learn from and about the City.

Firstly, politics should imitate many of the practices of banking.

My last week in Parliament involved as much intrigue, drinking, and the use opinion not fact to mould speeches as my first week in banking required long hours, little sleep and using facts to write reports and inform opinion.

And yet politicians, especially in our party, like to use the City as a punch-bag. It is now with unadulterated irony that I view Westminster’s view of banking: they see it as privileged, avaricious, and socially barren.

To progress in banking, image is secondary to performance. People progress not so much through whom they know, so much as what they know and how they practice it.

In politics, I am sorry to say that I was struck by how the conviviality and friendship struck between MPs underpinned business and how insincere it could be.

Behind closed doors, true but unbelievable horror stories abound of frightened Labour researchers, kowtowing to their bosses’ wishes of picking up laundry, buying orange juices, staying at work on their birthdays until 9pm to give tours around parliament to family friends.

In banking, staff understand their place (and get paid for it). Value comes from the work they produce, and those not up to scratch, understand the redundancy they face.

For the first time in a very long time, power in this country is a consequence of privilege. The economy is run by a gentleman who used to fold towels in Selfridges and a man who PR manager for a national park. Each have succeeded working their way up their party’s greasy pole and with little thought for actual policy. This would not be permitted at my bank.

Our shadow cabinet does fare considerably better – Chuka Umunna worked for a top law firm and Liam Byrne for a top bank. Yet the party’s position on banking is formed by people with little experience of the City and with a regard for economics worthy of Zinoviev.

Relaying a story to a Labour friend about one particular shadow cabinet member’s speech in which they try to explain how the Laffer curve doesn’t exist, I was met with disbelief. But such is the disconnect between many of the decision-makers in our party from the global economy.

Our financial centre, generating 10% of the UK’s GDP, is now facing a barrage of attacks from Westminster. A colleague said to me, “can you imagine if Germany decided to put as much pressure on its manufacturing sector as Britain does on its financial sector?”

Unpopular as it may be, banking is important and misunderstood, despite being much less opaque then our current political system and its politicians.

Until we reform Westminster and allow it to reconnect with real people – which include bankers – it will be unable to truly understand many of this country’s problems, politicians’ solutions will continue to be simplistic and the modernization that areas such the City need will remain a distant hope.

Alex Glasner is a former Labour researcher who now works in investment banking

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6 Responses to “Westminster needs to learn from the City”

  1. aragon says:


    I have the misfortune to understand how the city works, and it is at best amoral and effectively crooked.

    It was the banks that destroyed the economy and 375Bn of QE later (benefiting bankers) the economy is still flat on it’s back and banks are still paying large bonuses.

    Hardworking to extract more rents, innovative in ponzi schemes, and meritocratic in it’s own interests (the more moral bankruptcy the better). Financial innovation has proved to be fraudulent and only serves the interests of the banks and their staff.

    Everything from laundering drug money, to fixing critical global interest rates – LIBOR, to mis-selling interest-rate swaps and PPI, facilitating the busting of sanctions against Iran, speculating (increasing) food prices, the list goes on, a ‘Vampire Squid’ on .

    Good corporate citizens or a cess-pit. An important part of the economy or just parasites on the productive economy…”a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money” – Rolling Stone Magazine 2009

    I am outside the Westminister bubble.

  2. aragon says:

    From the horses mouth: Greg Smith; Goldman Sachs.


    Hard Working:
    “And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.”

    “Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.”

    “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the junior analyst sitting quietly in the corner of the room hearing about “muppets,” “ripping eyeballs out” and “getting paid” doesn’t exactly turn into a model citizen.”

  3. Parliamentary Researcher says:

    Just because you sat around being useless, Alex, doesn’t mean that’s what everyone in Parliament or politics does. I hope you can still find the time in your busy new schedule to continue writing self-aggrandising articles like this telling us how society needs to be more like the city.

  4. Parliamentary Researcher says:

    Also, did you father not get you your first placement in a bank? How meritocratic.

  5. Trixy Rider says:

    If you were behaving in the manner you describe, no wonder each MP you worked for couldn’t get rid of you fast enough.

  6. GA says:

    You/Parliamentary Researcher/Nick Q sound like sour grapes, bit nasty to spread lies, isn’t it? get a job (have you managed to leave yet?).

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