Where is our patriotism for British financial services?

The City could do with some of our Olympic spirit.

Whilst Team GB excels and its athletes epitomise the best of Britain and continue to be a shining example of the rewards achievable through dedication, honest hard work and, passion; many aspects of the City continue to shame us.  Having said this, the recent Standard Chartered furore appears unlike many of the recent financial scandals.  It can be construed as an opportunistic, badly concealed political attack by a New York financial regulator trying to profit from discrediting a bank run from London to the benefit of Wall Street institutions.

Whilst the Governor of the Bank of England has recently said as much, the reality is that the New York regulators are reaping the rewards of poor regulation in the UK. Had the Bank of England and the FSA not managed to be so totally inept in the Barclays et al LIBOR scandal, it would not now be open season on attacking any London based institution, whether they deserve it or not.  The Bank of England chose to ignore the eminent advice of the US Federal Reserve which could have been an early alert to the Libor scandal in the first place.

The only way forward has to be to put aside self-interest, look at the longer term picture and resurrect the reputation of the City to reflect the values and ethos central to the Olympic spirit.  We need to fundamentally improve standards here in London to regain the reputation for integrity and quality which we have recently lost. It's not just the other banks that suffer from guilt by association from these scandals but any financial services institution. To the man in the street we are all the same, they do not differentiate. 

The families, trainers, medics and their full support teams have all rallied in support of British Sport but where is the rallying in support of our financial services industry which contributes 10 per cent of our GDP? We are in serious danger of losing our place on the podium when it comes to the world’s winning financial centres.  

I implore those in positions of power and government to step in and ensure that the codes and regulations that govern our financial services industry are fit for purpose and adhered to in word and spirit and that they provide a robust framework to end the shoddy practises eroding the industry’s reputation on the national as well as international stage.  The trade bodies, be they the bankers, insurers, pension providers or fund managers, need to be 'dope' tested and I don't mean dope as in drugs but dope as idiotic! To have professional standards and regulations overseen, as they are in many cases, by trade bodies from the financial services industry is the equivalent to putting the supplier of enhancing drugs in charge of the doping tests. No longer can the regulator be allowed to delegate their responsibilities to self-serving trade bodies.

What is needed is not more regulation but more effective regulation – regulation that is based on fundamental over-riding principles applied consistently, simply and overseen by independent bodies, not self-interested trade groups.  London needs to restore its position in the global league table of financial centres.

Photograph: Getty Images

Gina Miller is the founding partner of SCM Direct and spearhead of the True and Fair Campaign. www.trueandfaircampaign.com

Photo: Getty
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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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