Time to rein in the wreckless

Former Labour minister turned thinktank chief Chris Leslie gives his reaction to Alistair Darling's

Alistair's speech to conference today may not be the talk of the bar at the Midland Hotel - most delegates wanted far more radicalism - but there's no doubt that it was the most significant contribution to the actual debates so far.

He didn't detail a raft of policy specifics, nor did he commit to new spending plans. But the Chancellor did signal that the normal market orthodoxies which have let rip in the city are at last facing the prospect of restraint and accountability.

This is seismic stuff and Labour's leadership would do well to capture the imagination of the vast majority of the British public by acting decisively to curb excessive speculation and the perverse bonus culture that has fuelled the recent financial turmoil.

It's not only morally right that Labour reins in those wrecklessly gambling with the livelihoods of others, it is essential if we are to rebuild an efficient and successful economy.

Short-selling stocks and talking down the prospects of companies can become a cancer that deters long term investment and destabilises rationale investment choices.

We are witnessing the dawning realisation that markets have their limits, that at the edges of economics there are vital political interests, and that those advocating sturdy regulation and transparency have been right all along.

Britain now has an opportunity to lead the world in the design of a fairer and more open system of international checks and balances. And Labour should highlight the reliance of the Tories on the old laissez faire paradigms now wholly defunct.

Gordon will need to maintain early momentum and strike while the iron is hot. In the new circumstances we find ourselves in there is a real chance to put Cameron on the back foot, especially if hypothecating some tax revenues from the very richest and giving a tax break to the vast majority.

The Tories like to talk about "sharing the proceeds of growth". Those whose wealth has ballooned unfairly during the boom times should be asked to share some of the proceeds of their privileged growth with ordinary working people.

The Tories cannot afford to oppose any reasonable moves to tax and regulate the super-rich. There is a new licence to act boldly in the air and Labour must capitalise on that new mood.

Hinting at changes and chiming with some of the instincts of Labour's delegates is sufficient for this week, but the real test will be on policy activism in Alistair's pre budget report.