So should the inquiry into what has gone so badly wrong with our banks be led by Parliament, as David Cameron wants, or by a Judge, as Ed Miliband wants? On the basis that Parliamentary Inquiries and Royal Commissions are time honoured devices ritually deployed in Britain to kick a huge problem into the long grass for as long as possible and until people forget what the inquiry was all about, I back Ed Miliband’s demand for a powerful judicial inquiry. Afterall, remember the Chilcott Inquiry into the Iraq War? Whatever happened to that?
It remains a fact that on both sides of the Atlantic not a single banker has yet to be put in the dock and faced justice. This despite the fact that corrupt and fraudulent activities in Wall Street and London led to the banking crisis, exacerbated a crisis in the Euro zone and have conspired to give us a World wide recession, now in its fifth year. If it is right to send looters to prison for stealing during last summer’s riots, then surely it is right to send fraudulent bankers to prison too.
It has cost each adult in the land over £20,000 to bail out the banks, and yet these same banks seem just as incapable of investing in the productive base of the economy as they were a few years ago. The bosses of those banks also continue to award themselves grotesque bonuses, and as a reward for failure. It is not just the banking culture that needs to be revisited; it is the whole manner in which the financial sector was given carte blanche following Margaret Thatcher’s ‘big bang’ of the 1980s, to do as it pleased. The case for a state investment bank grows stronger by the day.
Tower Hamlets is one of the poorest boroughs in the land. The juxtaposition between the wealth of the City and Canary Wharf on one hand and our crowded borough is not only an immensely powerful image, it is a reality, and for many of our residents who work for the banks on very ordinary wages.
I have never known people as angry as they are now at the arrogant and flagrant behaviour of a minority of people in the financial sector who clearly believe that they are above the law. They are not. Now we need to see those clearly guilty of massive fraud sent to jail.