Banks

Jim Pickard

Lord Mandelson has just described the manifesto as “Blair plus”. But how radical is it? We have trawled through the document (70 pages of it) and have found a few new policies and a few old ones dressed up to look new. Read more

Jim Pickard

Unless you read the financial pages you may not be aware of Corporate Britain’s latest eye-catching payout: a £92m remuneration package for Bert Becht (not to be confused with Bertold Brecht). He is the chief executive of Reckitt Beneckiser, which makes products such as Vanish and Dettol.

To be fair, Becht has set up a charitable foundation to which he has given more than £100m. Even so; isn’t there an issue with this kind of payout just months after the credit crunch?

Vince Cable told me last night this was “extraordinary” and “unbelievable” and showed the often painful differential between the highest and lowest-paid workers. Read more

Jim Pickard

As I predicted this morning, the stamp duty holiday for first time buyers up to £250,000 has come with a major “sting” – an increase on the levy for people exchanging £1m-plus homes. Read more

Jim Pickard

Outright criticism of the prime minister is not really Alistair Darling’s style. He prefers the raised eyebrow, the flat understatement. But you don’t have to be a Kremlinologist to get the message in this exchange from today’s Andrew Marr Show: It’s pretty loud and clear. Read more

Jim Pickard

Cary Cooper, a patron of the National Bullying Helpline, resigned this morning at protest at the decision by Christine Pratt – its head – to go public on her allegations of bullying at 10 Downing Street.

I’ve just come off the phone from Mary O’Connor*, another patron, who has also just resigned within the last half an hour. Read more

Brooke Masters, chief regulation correspondent, talks about the future of regulation in the UK.

Jim Pickard

There has been an enormous amount of to-ing and fro-ing in recent weeks between the three parties and the three broadcasters hosting April’s pre-election TV debates; some of which I alluded to last week.*

Philip Webster has a good piece this morning on Brown taking soundings from Joel Benenson, who advised Obama and Biden ahead of their election debates. Read more

Jim Pickard

I read on the front page of the Telegraph that George Osborne will give savers a better deal – “restoring a savings culture to the heart of the economy”.

The shadow chancellor wants to help people save by enrolling workers into pensions, restoring the link between the state pension and average earnings and helping savers who have been hit by the abolition of the dividend tax credit for pension funds. Read more

Jim Pickard

It was all just a dream.

You may have thought that the Tories were the party of fiscal probity. You may have thought that they were the ones who were going to get a grip on Britain’s desperate public finances. They were the ones who would prevent the loss of the UK’s AAA credit rating and keep interest rates low. Etc, etc, etc. Read more

Jim Pickard

The former prime minister is not taking up an advisory post or directorship at Lansdowne Partners, as others are tweeting, or so the company insists.

However, he will give four “geopolitical” talks to staff at the hedge fund. At about £50-£100,000 per speech that still adds up to a generous payment. There are also well-placed suggestions that this could be extended in the future into a more permanent role. Read more

Jim Pickard

Nick Clegg attracted some mocking laughter from MPs – including Gordon Brown – during PMQs today for daring to question the Cadbury’s takeover. How come the government couldn’t stop RBS, which is state-owned, part-funding the Kraft takeover, he asked?

Last month, Lord Mandelson declared that the government would mount a huge opposition to the Kraft takeover of Cadbury’s, so why does the Royal Bank of Scotland, which is owned by this government, now want to lend vast amounts of our money to Kraft to fund that takeover? Read more

Jim Pickard

I’m not officially working today (am at home, in recovery from gastric flu). But I’ve just been passed something so fascinating I couldn’t help passing it on.

You may not remember but something called the “Homeowner Mortgage Support Scheme” was one of the flagship ideas in Gordon Brown’s Queen’s Speech in 2008. (Even Alex and I were quite excited at the time.) The idea was to help people defer mortgage interest for up to two years if they were struggling with payments. The scheme took ages to set up and – even when it was finally announced this spring – only half of lenders fully signed up to it. Even so, the government presented it as a major victory against repossession. Read more

There is some furious tax planning afoot at the Treasury. The goal: a one-off levy on bankers that will limit the political damage from that champaigne-guzzling, Porsche-buying, loads-a-money bonus pay-out moment.

It will attempt to placate the baying mob rather than pay down the deficit. But in order for this to work, bankers need to feel the pinch. Announcing a clampdown that includes a big loophole will be a PR disaster for Alistair Darling. Read more

Jim Pickard

If you haven’t seen today’s BBC interview with Lord Myners it’s worth a look.

The guidance I was getting yesterday from a Treasury source was that the government realised that banks needed to pay competitive salaries to their staff (a line echoed by Lord Mandelson today). And it would thus be wrong to crack down too hard on bonuses. Read more

Jim Pickard

An astonishing tale emerged this morning as Bank of England executives faced the Treasury select committee.

It transpired that the BoE extended secret emergency financing to RBS and what was then HBOS during the banking panic in October 2008, indicating the two banks were even closer to collapse than had been thought.

Jim Pickard

So many numbers are flying around that you might not have spotted today’s real news on RBS. Read more

Jim Pickard

Okay, it’s not the same Fred Goodwin. This one works as an analyst at Nomura, apparently.

But the Tories have seized upon Goodwin’s report which suggests “the prospect of a UK fiscal crisis is a clear and present danger”. The report suggests that a fiscal crisis is “far more likely” in the UK than in the US – because the dollar is a reserve currency. Read more

Jim Pickard

Expectations are for a Gordon Brown “recovery” speech on Tuesday when he faces the TUC Conference in Liverpool.

For all the (slightly) better economic/financial data out there, there is still an obvious dichotomy that Britain faces. Do you define the downturn by GDP figures (the formal definition of recession beging two quarters of contraction) or on unemployment figures? Read more

Jim Pickard

A brief passage in George Osborne’s last Andrew Marr interview stands out: In it, the shadow chancellor heaps praise at the feet of the world’s central banks for preventing financial meltdown.

“But we say the most effective form of stimulus is monetary policy, is the low interest rates, which both here and around the world I think have been the most effective tool at bringing the world back from the brink of depression.” Read more

Gordon Brown has pledged tough action to clamp down on excessive remuneration for bankers as part of an international effort to rectify the systemic weakness that led to the global financial crisis. Read the interview on ft.com