Posts Tagged ‘bankers’

The real scandal of the tube strike is that we’ve stopped defending the right to strike

06/02/2014, 03:43:50 PM

by Sam Fowles

In my attempts to subvert the south west London blogger stereotype I’ve abandoned my usual method of writing these things (MacBook in Starbucks). Unfortunately I haven’t found anywhere I like quite as much as Starbucks (I know they don’t pay any tax but I just really really love those blueberry muffins) so I’m typing this on my iPhone on Putney Station platform. Essentially I’ve just reduced the size of the Apple device and got colder. Today I am eternally grateful to Bob Crow and the RMT for giving me the extra time to write as, thanks to the tube strike, every train has been full to bursting and I’ve now been sat here for 45 minutes. I’d also like to pass on my sincere thanks for finally providing me with the opportunity to quote The Amateur Transplants in a post. So here goes: “I’m standing here in the pouring rain…” (If you don’t know the rest go listen to the actual song)

Apparently I’m not the only one inconvenienced. David Cameron is calling on everyone from Ed Miliband to the Pope (probably) to condemn the “Union Barons” (TM) who are “holding the capital to ransom”. Boris Johnson apparently refuses to negotiate  with a “gun to his head” and everyone agrees that the Tube is vital to the London economy and thus stopping it working is a terribly bad thing. This argument might seem a little less hollow had the government itself not cut funding for this supposedly vital service by 8.5%.

This isn’t actually going to be a post about the tube strike. Even though it’s vying with the Mutiny on the Bounty and the Spartacus Uprising for title of “Worst Handled Industrial Dispute in History”.The only thing more amateur than the industrial relations of this dispute is the reporting. A strike represents a failure in negotiation of both labour and management. If Johnson and co really think that keeping the tube running is that important then they should have made more effort to negotiate a settlement. I’m just an (increasingly damp) observer but if Bob Crow won’t negotiate until Johnson agrees to postpone the order his proposed changes and Johnson won’t negotiate until Crow postpones the strike can’t they just postpone them both and stop bitching at each other on LBC?

But there’s a wider point to be made here. The tube strike has thrown up all the classic arguments about “holding the country to ransom”, whether the unions control the Labour party and why strikes should be banned. Of course, none of these would pass scrutiny in a sixth form debating society but apparently they’re good enough to be trotted out by the leaders of the land.

That said, for the less analytic minds out there:

1. Accusing Unions of “holding the country to ransom” when they go on strike for two days is incredibly hypocritical when bankers threaten to flee the country permanently and en mass whenever anyone suggests they should pay a fair share of taxes.


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Why do athletes break the rules? The same reason the MPs and bankers do. It’s the incentives, stupid

07/08/2012, 07:00:50 AM

by Anthony Bonneville

It’s been an eventful Olympics. Joyous victory, heartbreaking defeat and, in a couple of notable instances, newsworthy disqualifications.

First, the Chinese badminton team was disqualified for not trying hard enough to win a game. On the face of it, a sound decision, not least because their opponents were trying to lose as well, resulting quite literally in a race to the bottom, in which the spectators were the real losers.

In that instance, all the teams involved (eight players in total, actually) were disqualified for having breached the rules which state that one must, having shown up for a game, at least try to win.

So far, so depressing for all concerned.

Then Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria was also thrown out of the games, despite having qualified for the 1500 metres final.  His crime? His team failed to withdraw him from the 800 metres, so he was forced to compete. Presumably keen to avoid exhaustion and/or injury and thereby risking his chances in the 1500, he dawdled around the track before giving up and wandering across the infield, possibly in an ingenious attempt at a short cut to the finish, but more likely because he simply didn’t want to be running that race.

He was disqualified from the games, including the medal hope he was trying to protect, for not giving a bona fide effort.

There are arguments to be had about the rights and wrongs of sporting conduct, but that is not what is most interesting here.

What is interesting is the clear lesson to be learned in the difference between rules and incentives. Specifically, that incentives are far more powerful than rules.


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Labour needs to back finance not attack it

08/02/2012, 07:00:29 AM

By Paul Crowe

Everyone hates a banker these days, right? Overpaid, greedy, venal poster boys (and girls) for the gross distortion of our economy and values.

As Dave Mathieson pointed out on Monday it’s not just British bankers who are busy corrupting their national standards of decency and fairness either. The Spanish bankers are also at it, with Santander and BBVA dishing out eye-watering bonuses that will have many City types wondering what exactly their overseas brethren did to end up with both the weather and the cash.

It’s hard not to recoil when looking at the sheer magnitude of some bonuses and then the gap between top and bottom.

But here’s the problem. Words are powerful, especially on a subject as emotive as this. Attacking injustice is fine, but “bankers” has become a term of abuse that is applied without distinction and as a result ends up tarring everyone working in financial services.

This is unhelpful for the debate and dangerous for Britain’s prospects for two reasons. First, it stigmatises a hard working section of society and second it sets a political context where mindless attacks on financial services are seen as a legitimate response to the crash of 2008.


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In defence of bankers and Fred the shred

02/02/2012, 08:00:09 AM

by Peter Watt

If you are the Tories then you know that in general voters are wary of what you might do with the NHS, given half-a-chance. It is a political weakness for them. No matter what they say many people assume that their instincts are anti that most beloved of national institutions.

It is why David Cameron invested so much time and effort in trying to persuade people that his intentions towards the NHS were honourable in the run up to the general election. It is why he pledged, ridiculously, to protect NHS budgets when all others were being cut. He knew he couldn’t win on the NHS, but he hoped he could stop it being a negative for him. Now of course all of this has been blown out of the water by Lansley’s ineptitude, and the NHS is once again an electoral vulnerability for the government. A degree of trust so hard fought for so easily lost.

In contrast, the Labour Party is trusted by voters on the NHS.  It means that they could get away with reforming the NHS, maybe even make mistakes, and would still on balance be trusted. (more…)

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Big business, bad bankers and hard times for Northern Ireland, by Peter Johnson

08/09/2010, 02:06:37 PM

When it comes to its relationship with private industry, Labour can’t seem to win. In the period before the New Labour adventure, the party was perceived as being anti-business, the big battalions of which wasted little love on us in return. To prove that we had changed our ways, Blair and Brown “wooed big business and acted as if they were in awe of it”, to slightly re-cast Andy Burnham’s phrase.  In this critical respect the Blair-Brown journey, with the party dutifully in tow, went too far. We should have stuck with our instincts about the barons of business.

In contrast to our tentative trust in it, big business – or specifically banks – repaid Labour’s new found faith and support by stabbing it in the guts. The blade was twisted to maximum effect and placed in the hands of Labour – who were caught red-handed by the electorate still holding on to the evidence.

Subsequently, everything Labour achieved and implemented in 13 years is being unravelled before our eyes by the policies of the corrosive Tory-Lib Dem government that replaced it.  From the scrapping of the child trust fund; the freezing of child benefit, cuts to the disability living allowance and the scrapping of the free primary school meals project, the list reads dramatic and seemingly endless. Even the winter fuel allowance is in the assassin’s sights.  Worryingly, the accuracy of the chancellor’s aim to date has been true and his trigger-finger pulled with the cold, ruthless efficiency of a professional hit-man.


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