RBS shows left must think for itself

rbsRoyal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is a publicly-owned bank. The overwhelming majority of its shares are in state hands, 73% of the equity. Yet it was the only major bank to fail outright the recent ‘stress test’ of its balance sheet conducted by the Bank of England. The bank is a basket-case. It is costing all of us money, and yet it could be a key contributor to economic recovery.

For many years the left has called for the nationalisation of the banks. This happened as a result of the financial crisis. But with very few exceptions the left had very little to say about what the public sector could do with its newly-acquired and deeply damaged assets. That was an error. Now that the left leads the Labour party and could be in position to lead the next government, it should use every lever at its disposal to produce an investment-led recovery. RBS should be seen as one of those levers. Continue reading

Britain’s problem: Philip Green is the archetype British capitalist

Philip GreenOn global capitalism in Lenin’s day, the Bolshevik leader had this to say: “Imperialism is an immense accumulation of money capital in a few countries … hence the extraordinary growth of a class, or rather, of a stratum of rentiers, i.e., people who live by “clipping coupons”, who take no part in any enterprise whatever, whose profession is idleness …” If only the money men of 21st century Britain remained excrescences on the economy, of directing their stooges to invest capital and growing fat off the labour and talent of others. At the risk of being wistful, this ideal-typical view of your average capitalist is long buried and have gone beyond mere uselessness. Drunk on their parasitism, they are oblivious to how their appetites are not just imperiling the health of the enterprises they gorge upon, but threaten to kill them outright. Continue reading

Labour, John McDonnell and the New Economics

John-McDonnell-red-flagOnce the surprise and the shock of Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader had sunk in, many (including me) became impatient for policy initiatives and membership involvement in policy formation to come to the fore. Clearly cutting through media hostility is a major task but I find it difficult to see that more could not be done. For a start, direct communication through Labour Party channels has so far, to my knowledge, not been much used – as far as I can see, looking at things from a branch and CLP point of view. A case in point is Emily Thornberry’s excellent defence discussion paper. This does not seem to have been promoted throughout the Party with a request that the issues be debated. I cannot understand why not. And where is Seamus Milne’s communications team in all this? Labour’s communications effort to be ramped up a notch or two. Continue reading

Numb and number: where the Big Short falls short

big-short-the-2015-002-christian-bale-lying-on-floor-ORIGINAL

Christian Bale as perspicacious hedge-fund manager Michael Barry in The Big Short

As this goes to press, global capital markets appear to be stabilizing after another period of intense, and scary stock market volatility. This set the context for the arrival in Britain of Adam McKay’s The Big Short – a film about the American sub-prime mortgage meltdown, based on the book by Michael Lewis.

It could be argued that the movie is late, and even outdated. But it is not in fact. It ends with the systemic failure of the system in 2007-9 – a crisis that has not gone away. On the contrary, it has rolled around from the US sub-prime housing market and Wall St. and on to the Eurozone, where Greece, Cyprus and Portugal were at the eye of the storm. Today financial volatility is centered on ‘emerging’ markets and in particular, China, and has unnerved financial markets around the globe. Continue reading

Bank regulation 8 years on, why has next to nothing been done?

The real root probleBanking trade screensm with regulating the banks is that the politicians are hand in glove with them. The Tories don’t even want to regulate the finance sector so long as it provides them with half their annual income year after year, not just the banks themselves, but the hedge fund billionaires as well. Worse still, no attempt whatever has been made to deal with the fundamental point of corruption – that whatever the big 5 banks do, they will be protected by the ‘implicit guarantee’ that the government will save them from themselves and bail them out because they’re ‘too big to fail’, too valuable an asset to lose, too crucial a part of running the State, etc. Risk-taking at a bank that will always be saved is like playing Russian roulette, but with someone else’s head. Continue reading