The banking scandal is too important not to have an independent inquiry

The idea that an inquiry would "shut down" banks is nonsense.

One of the delights of Twitter is that you get to ask the great and the good what the hell they are talking about – and they occasionally answer. So when I asked Bernard Jenkin MP (C, Harwich and North Essex and according to Wikipedia, Parliament’s most famous nudist) why he thought it would be "absolutely bonkers" to hold a Leveson-style inquiry into the banks, he was good enough to reply. Here’s what he said:

Now I don’t want to have a go at Mr Jenkin, who was good enough to bother to reply and anyway it’s hard to get a nuanced argument over in 140 characters. But honestly… The idea that these Masters of the Universe are not so much "too big to fail" but rather "too important to bother" seems a bizarre one to me.

It’s also worth pointing out that newspapers appear to have been able to continue publishing comfortably throughout the Leveson inquiry, despite its all-seeing eye into the murkier depths of the world of journalism. The notion that financial companies generating billions of pounds in annual profits will grind to a halt for the period of an independent inquiry is ludicrous. Perhaps MPs are imagining dealing rooms around the City shutting up shop for the afternoon so they can enjoy the nuanced testimony of the third deputy assistant Governor of the Bank of England. If so, I can assure them that they are quite wrong on this score…

Nor does it seem to me that the "this is urgent, we need answers now" argument is going to fly. We’ve had a quarter of a century since "big bang" (God, they like their space orientated nicknames in the City don’t they?) to try and get our heads around what the hell is going on. The notion that a select group of parliamentarians will get it all sorted in a couple of months given the chance seems again, plain wrong…

Anyway, there’s a quicker way of conducting a parliamentary inquiry. Just ask this man. He seems to have got the answers right most times. He’s even got a plan. He’s just a phone call away…

But to answer Mr Jenkin’s main point - it is precisely because the banks are so important, because so much of our economy hangs on the success of the financial sector, that we need to have absolute faith in it.

The Libor scandal may or may not have been the financial sector’s “Milly Dowler’ moment (which occurred one year ago today) –  but that moment is still going to happen, sometime soon. And just as the real point of the Leveson inquiry is to restore faith in the press, the point of any inquiry into the financial sector is to restore faith in that.

Parliament may well resist the calls for a judicial inquiry this afternoon. But – and here’s an anology that both the space-obsessed City and Britain’s favourite parliamentary nudist can enjoy – they are howling at the moon.

They’d do better to just get on with it.

 

Barclays: can't be blamed on "banking culture". Photograph: Getty Images

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

Photo: Getty
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Jeremy Corbyn may be a Eurosceptic, but he still appeals to the values of many Remainers

He reassures Labour MPs defending majorities in heavily pro-EU areas that things will be OK.

There are two facts about Brexit that everyone seems to forget every few weeks: the first is that Jeremy Corbyn is a Eurosceptic. The second is that the first fact doesn't really matter.

The Labour leader's hostility to the European project is back in the news after he told Andrew Marr that the United Kingdom's membership of the single market was inextricably linked with its EU membership, and added for good measure that the “wholesale importation” of people from Eastern and Central Europe had been used to “destroy” the conditions of workers, particularly in the construction industry.

As George Eaton observes on Twitter, Corbyn voted against the creation of the single market in 1986 (and the Maastricht Treaty, and the Lisbon Treaty, and so on and so on). It would be a bigger shock if the Labour leader weren't advocating for a hard exit from the European Union.

Here's why it doesn't matter: most Labour MPs agree with him. There is not a large number of Labour votes in the House of Commons that would switch from opposing single market membership to supporting it if Corbyn changed his mind. (Perhaps five or so from the frontbenches and the same again on the backbenches.)

There is a way that Corbyn matters: in reassuring Labour MPs defending majorities in heavily pro-Remain areas that things will be OK. Imagine for a moment the reaction among the liberal left if, say, Yvette Cooper or Stephen Kinnock talked about the “wholesale importation” of people or claimed that single market membership and EU membership were one and the same. Labour MPs in big cities and university towns would be a lot more nervous about bleeding votes to the Greens or the Liberal Democrats were they not led by a man who for all his longstanding Euroscepticism appeals to the values of so many Remain voters.

Corbyn matters because he provides electoral insurance against a position that Labour MPs are minded to follow anyway. And that, far more than the Labour leader's view on the Lisbon Treaty, is why securing a parliamentary majority for a soft exit from the European Union is so hard. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.