Don't blame Barclays alone

This is not a Barclays scandal, it's a banking scandal.

It’s always been easy to be angry with Barclays Bank. My campaigning goes back to the 1970s when Barclays were a target for the anti-apartheid movement (and rightly so). The past day has provided yet more ammunition for those who would like to single out this bank for attention, and I admit that I have been one of them since that has been what the media has demanded. And yet, we need to stand back and be calm (to misquote the famous poster).

Of course Barclays has admitted to a serious allegation. They helped rig markets. It is likely that ordinary people paid the cost of that manipulation. It is impossible that senior management did not know about this, but it is likely that they will walk away largely unscathed from the whole debacle, their bonuses apart.

It is however important to put this in context. Barclays was not alone in rigging this market. Indeed, they could not have done it alone. This failure was not, therefore, a failure of a particular bank. It was a failure of the banking system.

It is also very clear now that regulators knew about this failure by 2006, at least, and yet it has taken until 2012 for the first penalty to be imposed. There has, therefore, been a failure of the regulatory system as well, and a systemic one at that. The question is not therefore whether Bob Diamond should go (he should, very obviously) or whether Barclays  and other should be prosecuted (as seems possible to me under section 4 of the Fraud Act 2006); the real question should be what causes systemic failure, and what can we do about it. The answer to that question is to first of all change regulation and secondly to change the nature of banking.  In both cases the reason for change is a simple one, which is that the existing models of both banking and regulation are based on false hypotheses.

As Lord Turner reported in his 2009 report on the financial crash, regulation at the Financial Services Authority was based on the assumption that the efficient market hypothesis held true (page 39, here) He realised then that this was not true. Perhaps most importantly, two assumptions the FSA made, which were that market prices are good indicators of rationally evaluated economic value and that market discipline can be used as an effective tool in constraining harmful risk taking can now be seen to be not just wrong, but that they were fundamentally flouted  by banks rigging prices and manipulating markets to mitigate their risk at cost to others.

No wonder we had a crash: regulation assumed a bunch of innocent price taking banks all subservient to the market when nothing could have been further from the truth. It’s an unfortunate fact that regulation will have to be rebuilt on the basis that markets can’t be trusted and regulatory intervention will have to be the norm, not the exception. The era of "light touch regulation" has to be over.

That has implications for the structure of banking too. The assumption that they can be trusted is also implicit in the Vickers recommendations. Their suggestion that banks can be split under common ownership is dependent upon the belief that Chinese walls will be respected. It’s now clear that banks do not respect rules. More than that, manipulation between departments who were not meant to talk to each other was clearly commonplace at Barclays, and presumably elsewhere. On that basis Vickers has now to be consigned to history: the only way forward is to break banks up with high street and investment banking operations separated, for good.

So far we’ve wasted four years since the crash doing nothing to address the problems in our banking system. If this latest Barclays debacle does anything it suggests that the time for prevarication is over.

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

Richard Murphy is an adviser to the Tax Justice Network and the TUC on taxation and economic issues. He is also the director of Tax Research LLP.

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How the Lib Dems learned to love all-women shortlists

Yes, the sitting Lib Dem MPs are mostly white, middle-aged middle class men. But the party's not taking any chances. 

I can’t tell you who’ll be the Lib Dem candidate in Southport on 8 June, but I do know one thing about them. As they’re replacing a sitting Lib Dem (John Pugh is retiring) - they’ll be female.

The same is true in many of our top 20 target seats, including places like Lewes (Kelly-Marie Blundell), Yeovil (Daisy Benson), Thornbury and Yate (Clare Young), and Sutton and Cheam (Amna Ahmad). There was air punching in Lib Dem offices all over the country on Tuesday when it was announced Jo Swinson was standing again in East Dunbartonshire.

And while every current Lib Dem constituency MP will get showered with love and attention in the campaign, one will get rather more attention than most - it’s no coincidence that Tim Farron’s first stop of the campaign was in Richmond Park, standing side by side with Sarah Olney.

How so?

Because the party membership took a long look at itself after the 2015 election - and a rather longer look at the eight white, middle-aged middle class men (sorry chaps) who now formed the Parliamentary party and said - "we’ve really got to sort this out".

And so after decades of prevarication, we put a policy in place to deliberately increase the diversity of candidates.

Quietly, over the last two years, the Liberal Democrats have been putting candidates into place in key target constituencies . There were more than 300 in total before this week’s general election call, and many of them have been there for a year or more. And they’ve been selected under new procedures adopted at Lib Dem Spring Conference in 2016, designed to deliberately promote the diversity of candidates in winnable seats

This includes mandating all-women shortlists when selecting candidates who are replacing sitting MPs, similar rules in our strongest electoral regions. In our top 10 per cent of constituencies, there is a requirement that at least two candidates are shortlisted from underrepresented groups on every list. We became the first party to reserve spaces on the shortlists of winnable seats for underrepresented candidates including women, BAME, LGBT+ and disabled candidates

It’s not going to be perfect - the hugely welcome return of Lib Dem grandees like Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Julian Huppert to their old stomping grounds will strengthen the party but not our gender imbalance. But excluding those former MPs coming back to the fray, every top 20 target constituency bar one has to date selected a female candidate.

Equality (together with liberty and community) is one of the three key values framed in the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution. It’s a relief that after this election, the Liberal Democratic party in the Commons will reflect that aspiration rather better than it has done in the past.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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