Tom is on top form:
Imagine if the economic crisis had been caused by trade unions, by constantly pushing for higher wages and using industrial action in support of short-term objectives, regardless of the long-term consequences. Imagine if at every stage in the run-up to the crisis when government or regulators or the public had tried to curb their behaviour, or urged restraint, they had simply responded with threats to withdraw their labour (in the traditional sense, not by relocating overseas…). Imagine if that behaviour had left the country saddled with debt that would take years to pay back, with related cuts in public services.
Do we really believe legal curbs on their behaviour wouldn’t be introduced? Do we have any doubt that legislation would be enacted to hamper their ability to do such damage again in future? Do we seriously think society would be satisfied with voluntary codes of conduct which they could choose to comply with, or explain why not?
To be Candide about it, perhaps it is time we should shoot some of them to encourage the others. Failing that, if it is status they’re worried about, can we organise a national laugh-in at these overgrown Pru salesmen? Can we just make it seem ridiculous that people who ensure a continual supply of water, and guard against the risk of water failure, get normal wages whilst bankers get paid fortunes?
Where has the all the outrage gone? Has the chnace for fundamental reform been missed? Isn’t this more important than the question of whether the FSA or the Bank should be the lead regulator?
Under the Tory plans, however, an unchecked and unchallenged Bank may fall into groupthink about financial stability – as it did during the decade before the crisis. The Conservatives propose recruiting a handful of outsiders to sit on a financial policy committee to inject intellectual competition into the monetary authority. But it is unrealistic to expect these few people to spot and counter biases across the Bank’s domain.
All in all – and taking into account the disruption they will cause – these plans are unwise.
Meanwhile, on the comment pages of today’s edition Philip Stevens turns back to Cameron’s speech of last week on Quangos.
Mr Cameron’s mistake was to single out Ofcom as a candidate for radical surgery. The communications regulator no doubt could tighten its belt. But it so happens that Ofcom does a vital job rather well.
Unless Mr Cameron tears up the rules of independent regulation – or breaks up the organisation into the several quangos from which it was originally created – Ofcom will indeed survive in something much like its present form. It is curious that someone who once worked in broadcasting could miss this point.
As has been said before in this column, Britain has a governing party brought down by the hubris and exhaustion that come with being too long in office. What the country lacks is a credible government-in-waiting seriously preparing itself for the day when it expects to be making the decisions.
As one of the regulars in the comments section of this blog, Will M, has been arguing for a while, what is really terrifying about the Tories at the moment is not that they are ‘do nothing party’ but they are a ‘do the wrong thing party’. Whenever we get a concrete policy announcement it invariably suggests doing the wrong thing.