Nik Darlington & Alexander Pannett 10.09am
In a speech in London on Friday, Ed Miliband did something quite curious. He tried to emulate Tony Blair.
Mr Miliband’s latest tactic is to call for a “One Nation” approach to banking.
The Labour party leader wants banks to spend less time concentrating on bonuses and more time lending to small businesses and families. He has also called for more transparency and responsibility.
This is a sly attempt to steal the One Nation clothes of conservatism. It is exactly what Tony Blair set out to do when he positioned New Labour as the political “Third Way”, as noted by Nik on these pages last year.
Following a small spate of Blairite defections (see Paul’s cheeky overture), his own brother’s critical epistle, and *that* moment of booing at party conference, it is hard to know what to make of Mr Miliband’s reversion to the Blair political playbook.
If Miliband is going to adopt a truly One Nation approach to banking then he needs to do more than just devise gimmick headlines and populist rhetoric.
His only policy of substance - putting employees on to the remuneration committees of banks - is already in practice in Germany, where they still hand out large bonuses. It is not clear either how he will force banks to lend more to small businesses.
Mr Miliband also fails to understand that One Nation politics is about opening up opportunities and social mobility for the more disadvantaged in society rather than rabble rousing about excessive pay. To this end, the coalition has already stolen a march on him by implementing an innovative new approach to banking - the launch of Big Society Capital.
The Big Society Capital, formerly known as the Big Society Bank, was recently approved by the European Commission and it is hoping to be operational by the end of the first quarter of 2012.
This new bank will use assets in dormant bank accounts to invest in enterprises that provide social value. It will develop an investment market on the basis of positive social impact as well as financial returns. In so doing, the Big Society Capital will boost the ability of social enterprises, voluntary and community organisations to deal with social issues.
Such policies that concentrate on generating real social value, such as the Big Society Capital, are genuinely One Nation approaches to banking. Populist attacks on bonuses may earn some headline kudos but, considering the globalised market that banks operate in, it is not realistic to believe that British banks could compete with uncompetitive remuneration.
Mr Miliband would do better to have a constructive dialogue with banks about increasing opportunities for small businesses and families rather than slinging invective. But that would require some well-considered policies.
While we thank Mr Miliband for the free publicity, we note that his Tory Reform Group membership fee has not yet been paid. We would kindly ask that he ceases from borrowing our ideas until he has properly been accepted as a member of the group.
And if he asks nicely, we may even lower his joining fee.