The new regulator is already caving in to the banks

Charging for current accounts in credit would be an attack on citizens and insult to savers.


First the taxpayer has to bail out the banks. Now it seems that the unsuspecting current account customer could be taken for a ride, as the bankers scour around for ways to rebuild their balance sheets. 

How disappointing, therefore, that the new head of the Prudential Regulation Authority – the Treasury’s new super-regulator – should give a speech suggesting that “free banking” needs to end as the only way to protect high charges for overdrafts and other bank products.

At a time when bonuses and executive pay remain firmly stuck on a different planet, the public will be aghast at any attempt to squeeze their current accounts with a new fee. We need to have fair play on fees and charges and continue charge-free bank accounts for those who rely on these services. Arguing against exorbitant overdraft charges doesn’t mean we need to hit those customers who stay in the black - modest savers or the working population balancing their accounts each month.

The banks should look be more concerned with changing their remuneration practices and putting their customers first. There are over 47 million current accounts in the UK. If their holders are now to be charged for the privilege of using a debit card, or for basic chequing services, it would be a major blow to the entire population. Many people will have already been approached by their banks to pay a £15 or £20 per month charge for “additional” services, such as mobile phone insurance. Expect this to become the norm if the banks get their way.

Just when the banks are poised to hit consumers with these new fees, the last thing we need is a financial regulator who is actively encouraging charges for current accounts. It is simply unacceptable to erode free banking and free in-credit deposit accounts - especially when millions are giving the banks their money, which can then generate profits while being held centrally. A current account is today an essential part of daily life, a utility that is essential for getting by in the modern world. We need to defend this basic right and fight for free in-credit banking. We must not give way to these false pressures from the banks.

Chris Leslie is Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury and MP for Nottingham East
There are over 47 million current accounts in the UK. Photo: Getty Images

Chris Leslie is chair of Labour’s backbench Treasury Committee and was shadow Chancellor in 2015. 

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Why Nigel Farage is hoovering up all the women I know

Beware young fogeys.

I can’t remember where I was when I first worked out that I was older than Nigel Farage. You’d think after that bombshell went off, you’d still be able to locate the crater. Anyway, there it is: the cut-price little Oswald Mosley is about a year younger than me.

I mention this not because I want to dwell on the nasty piece of shit, but because I’ve been having to face, at one remove, so to speak, the problem of young fogeyism. It seems to be all around. And not only that, it’s hoovering up women I know.

The first time it happened was with B——. She was going to come round last weekend, but then emailed to cancel the day before, because she was going to watch rugby – apparently there’s some kind of tournament on, but it never seems to end – with her boyfriend. How ghastly, I said, or words to that effect; I’d rather die.

She then made the Category One mistake of saying, “Rugby, cricket, all the same to me,” with a cheeky little “x” at the end of it.

I replied thus: Rugby is a violent and brutal game (the coy term is “contact sport”, which means you get to – indeed, are encouraged to – injure the opposing team as often as you can, in the absence of any other tactic) loved by fascists, or, at best, those with suspicious ideas about the order of society with which I doubt you, B——, would wish to be aligned. Also, only people of immense bulk and limited intelligence can play it. Cricket is a game of deep and subtle strategy, capable of extraordinary variation, which is appreciated across the class spectrum, and is also so democratically designed that even the less athletic – such as I – can play it. [I delete here, for your comfort, a rant of 800 or so words in which I develop my theory that cricket is a bulwark against racism, and rugby, er, isn’t.] Both are dismayingly over-represented at the national level by ex-public-school boys; cricket as a matter of historical accident (the selling-off of school playing fields under Thatcher and Major), rugby as a matter of policy. Have a lovely day watching it.

Two things to note. 1) This woman is not, by either birth or ancestry, from a part of the world where rugby is played. 2) You wouldn’t have thought she was one of nature’s rugby fans, as she considers that Jeremy Corbyn is a good person to be leading the Labour Party. (True, thousands of Tories think the same thing, but for completely different reasons.)

That’s Exhibit A. Exhibit B is my old friend C——, whom I haven’t seen for about five years or so but suddenly pops up from the past to say hello, how about a drink? I always liked C—— very much, largely because she’s very funny and, let’s be frank about this, something of a sexpot. She seems keen to bring someone over with her who, reading between the lines like a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, I deduce to be her latest partner. The thing is, she says, she’s not sure he can come, because he might be going beagling.


Well, she does come round (alone, thank goodness) and she’s looking even better than I remember, and is even funnier, too, and she shows me some of the pictures she has put up on her profile page on some dating site, and they’re not the kind of photographs this magazine will ever publish, let’s leave it at that. (One of them even moves.) And, as it turns out – and it doesn’t really surprise me that much – the young beagler she is seeing is a good thirty years-plus younger than she, and his photograph shows him to be all ears and curls, like a transporter mix-up between Prince Charles and the young David Gower. Like B——’s young man, he is not called Gervaise or Peregrine but may as well be.

What on Earth is going on here? Can we blame Farage? I can understand the pull of the void, but this is getting ridiculous. Do they not quite understand what they’re doing? Actually, C—— does, because she’s had her eyes open all her life, and B——, her youth and political idealism notwithstanding, didn’t exactly come down in the last shower, either.

So what is it with these young wannabe toffs – one of whom isn’t even rich? “You’d like him,” C—— says, but I’m not so sure. People who go beagling sure as hell don’t like me, and I see no reason not to return the favour.

Well, I can’t thrash this out here. C—— leaves, but not before giving me the kind of kiss that makes me wish Binkie Beagley, or whatever his name is, would just wink out of existence.

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times