Will we see our bankers banged up?

Do not pass GO or collect £200,000.

After five years here it is: a parliamentary report recommending bad bankers go to jail. No more bonus restrictions, enforced regulation or deferred pay; its straight to jail for senior executives who let their banks fail. Do not pass GO or collect your £200 (thousand) bonus, etc...

But how realistic is this idea put forward by the optimistically entitled report, “Changing Banking for Good”?

After one year, hundreds of interviews and 161 hours of evidence heard by an Archbishop (Justin Welby), head of the Treasury select committee (Andrew Tyrie), five MPs and four peers, The Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards has made a number of ethical, rather than financial, conclusions. Here are some highlights:  

Too many bankers, especially at the most senor levels, have operated in an environment with insufficient personal responsibility

 One of the most dismal features of the banking industry to emerge from our evidence was the striking limitation on the sense of personal responsibility and accountability of the leaders within the industry for the widespread failings and abuses over which they presided.

"Dismal", 2responsibility" and "accountability" are all words we want to hear, but how practical are they, really?

Firstly, Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the parliamentary review, said that a prison sentence would only occur if there was “has been taxpayer support for a bank.” With pressure building on the government to sell its shares of RBS and other bailed out banks, there will probably be no "taxpayer support" by the time this becomes policy (if at all).

Then there is Tyrie’s comparison of the banking failures to Murder on the Orient Express where “everyone had some small contribution on the deaths and nobody was responsible”. Basically, with or without Miss Marple, how will you ever prove who is responsible for a bank’s failure without putting the whole management away? Building legislation to castigate one individual for a whole bank’s malpractice is going to be very hard, if not almost impossible.    

Lastly, the Treasury will not want to throw bankers in the slammer. Simply, it’s bad for our image. As Philip Augar reminds us in today’s FT, London is a global-sized financial centre in a medium-sized economy poised between recovery and recession. The City therefore needs to hold on to its competitiveness and putting bankers away is not going to look good.

While all this is gloomy pessimism for banker bashers and the likes, all hope is not lost. Even if we don’t see bankers behind bars any time soon, the threat should suffice.

Photograph: Getty Images

Oliver Williams is an analyst at WealthInsight and writes for VRL Financial News

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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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