Is the banking inquiry now a "total joke"?

Inquiry criticised after outspoken MPs are left off its membership.

The parliamentary inquiry into banking hasn't even begun but it's already being dismissed as a "whitewash". The reason? The two most combative MPs on the Treasury select committee, Labour MP John Mann and Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom, have been left off its membership.

Mann has already responded on Twitter, angrily denouncing the commission as a "total joke" and vowing to set up his own inquiry into the rate-rigging scandal. Here's his statement:

Both Andrea and I were available for the Inquiry and because we are too outspoken we have been blocked

This exposes the Inquiry as a total whitewash with Andrew Tyrie reaching his conclusions in advance of the meetings.

We need to get to the bottom of this scandal and I’m therefore setting up my own inquiry into this dreadful mess.

It was Mann who said of Bob Diamond at last week's hearing: "Either you were complicit in what was going on, or you were grossly negligent, or you were grossly incompetent. That is the only conclusion".

We haven't heard from Leadsom yet, but her 25-year career in the banking sector, including 10 years at Barclays, was widely thought to have made her the most effective inquisitor. In addition, she demonstrated her independent-mindedness earlier this week with her call for George Osborne to apologise to Ed Balls for suggesting that he had "questions to answer" over the Libor scandal. (A fact that some are suggesting may lie behind her absence.)

Those who have made the cut, other than inquiry chair Andrew Tyrie, are Conservative MP Mark Garnier, Labour MPs Pat McFadden and Andy Love, and Lib Dem MP John Thurso, all of whom were reportedly selected on the advice of their parties. They may yet prove an effective line-up (and QCs will question witnesses on the inquiry's behalf) but given their "useless" performance against Diamond (in the words of Leadsom) they begin from a position of weakness. The hand of those who argue that only a judge-led inquiry will do has been considerably strengthened by the exclusion of Leadsom and Mann.

The Canary Wharf headquarters of Barclays Bank. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Jeremy Corbyn's Labour conference speech shows how he's grown

The leader's confident address will have impressed even his fiercest foes. 

It is not just Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate that has been improved by his re-election. The Labour leader’s conference speech was, by some distance, the best he has delivered. He spoke with far greater confidence, clarity and energy than previously. From its self-deprecating opening onwards ("Virgin Trains assure me there are 800 empty seats") we saw a leader improved in almost every respect. 

Even Corbyn’s firecest foes will have found less to take issue with than they may have anticipated. He avoided picking a fight on Trident (unlike last year), delivered his most forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism (“an evil”) and, with the exception of the Iraq war, avoided attacks on New Labour’s record. The video which preceded his arrival, and highlighted achievements from the Blair-Brown years, was another olive branch. But deselection, which Corbyn again refused to denounce, will remain a running sore (MPs alleged that Hillsborough campaigner Sheila Coleman, who introduced Corbyn, is seeking to deselect Louise Ellman and backed the rival TUSC last May).

Corbyn is frequently charged with lacking policies. But his lengthy address contained several new ones: the removal of the cap on council borrowing (allowing an extra 60,000 houses to be built), a ban on arms sales to abusive regimes and an arts pupil premium in every primary school.

On policy, Corbyn frequently resembles Ed Miliband in his more radical moments, unrestrained by Ed Balls and other shadow cabinet members. He promised £500bn of infrastructure investment (spread over a decade with £150bn from the private sector), “a real living wage”, the renationalisation of the railways, rent controls and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

Labour’s greatest divisions are not over policy but rules, strategy and culture. Corbyn’s opponents will charge him with doing far too little to appeal to the unconverted - Conservative voters most of all. But he spoke with greater conviction than before of preparing for a general election (acknowledging that Labour faced an arithmetical “mountain”) and successfully delivered the attack lines he has often shunned.

“Even Theresa May gets it, that people want change,” he said. “That’s why she stood on the steps of Downing Street and talked about the inequalities and burning injustices in today’s Britain. She promised a country: ‘that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us’. But even if she manages to talk the talk, she can’t walk the walk. This isn’t a new government, it’s David Cameron’s government repackaged with progressive slogans but with a new harsh right-wing edge, taking the country backwards and dithering before the historic challenges of Brexit.”

After a second landslide victory, Corbyn is, for now, unassailable. Many MPs, having voted no confidence in him, will never serve on the frontbench. But an increasing number, recognising Corbyn’s immovability, speak once again of seeking to “make it work”. For all the ructions of this summer, Corbyn’s speech will have helped to persuade them that they can.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.