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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Who will win in Stoke-on-Trent?

Labour are the favourites, but they could fall victim to a shock in the Midlands constituency.  

The resignation of Tristram Hunt as MP for Stoke-on-Central has triggered a by-election in the safe Labour seat of Stoke on Trent Central. That had Westminster speculating about the possibility of a victory for Ukip, which only intensified once Paul Nuttall, the party’s leader, was installed as the candidate.

If Nuttall’s message that the Labour Party has lost touch with its small-town and post-industrial heartlands is going to pay dividends at the ballot box, there can hardly be a better set of circumstances than this: the sitting MP has quit to take up a well-paid job in London, and although  the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs voted to block Brexit, the well-advertised divisions in that party over the vote should help Ukip.

But Labour started with a solid lead – it is always more useful to talk about percentages, not raw vote totals – of 16 points in 2015, with the two parties of the right effectively tied in second and third place. Just 33 votes separated Ukip in second from the third-placed Conservatives.

There was a possible – but narrow – path to victory for Ukip that involved swallowing up the Conservative vote, while Labour shed votes in three directions: to the Liberal Democrats, to Ukip, and to abstention.

But as I wrote at the start of the contest, Ukip were, in my view, overwritten in their chances of winning the seat. We talk a lot about Labour’s problem appealing to “aspirational” voters in Westminster, but less covered, and equally important, is Ukip’s aspiration problem.

For some people, a vote for Ukip is effectively a declaration that you live in a dump. You can have an interesting debate about whether it was particularly sympathetic of Ken Clarke to brand that party’s voters as “elderly male people who have had disappointing lives”, but that view is not just confined to pro-European Conservatives. A great number of people, in Stoke and elsewhere, who are sympathetic to Ukip’s positions on immigration, international development and the European Union also think that voting Ukip is for losers.

That always made making inroads into the Conservative vote harder than it looks. At the risk of looking very, very foolish in six days time, I found it difficult to imagine why Tory voters in Hanley would take the risk of voting Ukip. As I wrote when Nuttall announced his candidacy, the Conservatives were, in my view, a bigger threat to Labour than Ukip.

Under Theresa May, almost every move the party has made has been designed around making inroads into the Ukip vote and that part of the Labour vote that is sympathetic to Ukip. If the polls are to be believed, she’s succeeding nationally, though even on current polling, the Conservatives wouldn’t have enough to take Stoke on Trent Central.

Now Theresa May has made a visit to the constituency. Well, seeing as the government has a comfortable majority in the House of Commons, it’s not as if the Prime Minister needs to find time to visit the seat, particularly when there is another, easier battle down the road in the shape of the West Midlands mayoral election.

But one thing is certain: the Conservatives wouldn’t be sending May down if they thought that they were going to do worse than they did in 2015.

Parties can be wrong of course. The Conservatives knew that they had found a vulnerable spot in the last election as far as a Labour deal with the SNP was concerned. They thought that vulnerable spot was worth 15 to 20 seats. They gained 27 from the Liberal Democrats and a further eight from Labour.  Labour knew they would underperform public expectations and thought they’d end up with around 260 to 280 seats. They ended up with 232.

Nevertheless, Theresa May wouldn’t be coming down to Stoke if CCHQ thought that four days later, her party was going to finish fourth. And if the Conservatives don’t collapse, anyone betting on Ukip is liable to lose their shirt. 

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