The Barclays scandal is a chance for Miliband to show leadership

The Labour leader most move swiftly to articulate public anger.

The time for "remorse" is over, Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond told MPs in January 2011. It turns out it wasn't. The revelation that Barclays repeatedly manipulated interest rates in a bid to increase its profits means that there is much remorse to come. The latest corporate scandal, combined with the ongoing crisis at the RBS-owned Natwest, should make banker-bashing an Olympic sport among politicians.

Labour has rightly called for a criminal investigation into Barclays, with former city minister Paul Myners accurately observing on Newsnight: "This behaviour will only change if people face the prospect of criminal charges." The sense, however, is that most in Westminster are waiting to see how many others banks are implicated - Lloyds and RBS are both under investigation - before showing their hand. With the exception of the Lib Dems' Matthew Oakeshott, Vince Cable's representative on earth, no senior politician has called for Diamond to resign.

Soon, however, the voters will be demanding answers. On tonight's Question Time, you can expect the audience to ask two questions: "why has no one resigned?" and "why hasn't a single banker gone to jail?" The mere announcement that Diamond, presciently described by Peter Mandelson several years ago as the "unacceptable face of banking", and other top executives will not accept bonuses this year (while retaining handsome basic salaries) will do nothing to sate public outrage. And rightly so. As Labour's Chuka Umunna notes on Twitter, "LIBOR is used to calculate interest rates for SME loans, student loans, credit cards etc - manipulation of it would affect most people".

So here is another opportunity for Ed Miliband to show political leadership as he did during the phone-hacking scandal and the row over Stephen Hester's bonus. On such occasions, where Miliband has led, Cameron has followed. If he is to set the political pace again, Miliband should use his speech to Unite's conference to call for Diamond to resign and for a criminal investigation into Barclays. 

Update: As I predicted, Miliband used his speech at Unite's conference to call for "criminal prosecutions" against anyone at Barclays who broke the law, although he did not call for Diamond to consider his position. See my post here for the full quote.

Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond has resisted calls for his resignation. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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“It was like a religious ceremony”: What happened at Big Ben’s final bong?

Both inside and outside Parliament, people gathered to hear the clock’s final midday chime before undergoing repairs.

“It’s just hacks everywhere,” a photographer sighs, jamming his lens through a gap in Parliament’s railings to try and get a closer look.

New Palace Yard, Parliament’s courtyard directly below Big Ben, is filling with amused-looking journalists, waiting for the MPs who have promised to hold a “silent vigil”, heads bowed, to mark Big Ben’s final chime before four years of silence while the tower’s repaired.

About four of them turn up. Two by accident.

It’s five minutes to twelve. Tourists are gathering outside Westminster Tube, as tourists do best. A bigger crowd fills Parliament Square. More people than expected congregate outside, even if it’s the opposite within the Palace. The world and his phone are gazing up at the sad, resigned clock face.


“It’s quite controversial, isn’t it?” one elderly woman in an anorak asks her friend. They shrug and walk off. “Do you know what is this?” an Italian tourist politely asks the tiny press pack, gesturing to the courtyard. No one replies. It’s a good question.

“This is the last time,” says another tourist, elated, Instagram-poised.

“DING DONG DING DONG,” the old bell begins.

Heads down, phones up.


It finishes the on-the-hour tune for the last time, and then gives its much-anticipated resignation statement:

“BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG.”

Applause, cheers, and even some tears.


But while the silly-seasoned journalists snigger, the crowd is enthusiastic.

“It’s quite emotional,” says David Lear, a 52-year-old carer from Essex, who came up to London today with his work and waited 45 minutes beneath Big Ben to hear it chime.

He feels “very, very sad” that the bell is falling silent, and finds the MPs’ vigil respectful. “I think lots of people feel quite strongly about it. I don’t know why they’re doing it. During the war it carries on, and then they turn it off for a health and safety reason.”

“I don’t know why they can’t have some speakers half way down it and just play the chime,” he adds. “So many tourists come especially to listen to the chime, they gather round here, getting ready for it to go – and they’re going to switch it off. It’s crazy.”

Indeed, most of the surrounding crowd appears to be made up of tourists. “I think that it was gorgeous, because I’ve never heard him,” smiles Cora, an 18-year-old German tourist. “It was a great experience.”

An Australian couple in their sixties called Jane and Gary are visiting London for a week. “It was like a religious ceremony, everybody went quiet,” laughs Gary. “I hope they don’t forget where they put the keys to start it again in four years’ time.”

“When we first got here, the first thing we did was come to see it,” adds Jane, who is also positive about the MPs who turned up to watch. “I think it’s good they showed a bit of respect. Because they don’t usually show much respect, do they?”

And, as MPs mouthing off about Big Ben are challenged on their contrasting reactions to Grenfell, that is precisely the problem with an otherwise innocent show of sentimentality.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.